Living in Harlem
Renting an apartment in Harlem sets you in one of Manhattan's most storied neighborhoods. It has been associated alternately with grand renaissance and urban plight. Now, Harlem is a source of culture, creativity, and community. Whether you'll find it the phoenix reborn depends on which part of this large neighborhood you walk, however. Harlem crosses the island of Manhattan from the East River to the Hudson River. It runs south of 155th Street to a ragged border that extends to 96th Street east of Central Park and to 110th Street on the west side.
The Dutch originally named the area "Haarlem," before it was annexed to the city in 1873. In 1904, black residents started arriving in large numbers, escaping from Jim Crow laws in the South. In the 1920's and 30's, the Harlem Renaissance produced an unprecedented boom of artistic and professional achievements. Then the Great Depression hit hard. Crime and despair in Harlem has given way to gradual gentrification over the past decades.
Harlem Lifestyle and Entertainment
Duke Ellington, Cab Calloway, and Billie Holiday are some of the names one associates with Harlem. Some of the clubs these legends put on the map remain open. You can hear music at the Apollo Theater, the Savoy Ballroom, or in the Lennox Lounge. The whites only Cotton Club, however, is long gone. More modern entertainment also prevails in Harlem. There's the Harlem Boys Choir, the Dance Theater of Harlem, and somewhere, probably, the next P. Diddy.
In Harlem, you'll do most of your shopping and eating in smaller places. Tiny kitchens here produce authentically ethnic meals. Sylvia's soul food is good enough to attract tour buses. There are also chain places, like Starbucks and Ben & Jerry's. You can get your groceries at the corner bodega or head to big box stores like Costco. You'll find plenty of bargains in Harlem, but its not where you'd go to get an overpriced import. The area's green spaces include Marcus Garvey Park and Riverbank State Park, with an Olympic sized pool.
Harlem Info and the Rental Market
Harlem has a family atmosphere to it. Here, people sit outside on stoops to chat and watch their children play. Many of the residents are African-American, but the percentage peaked in 1950. Now professionals choose Harlem for the easy commute downtown and its real estate bargains. Former president Bill Clinton, for example, has his office on 125th Street.
Property values in Central Harlem increased nearly 300% during the 1990s, but it is still cheaper here than elsewhere in Manhattan. A lack of development means that Harlem retains many fine original townhouses and elegant row houses. Prices will depend on which part of Harlem you choose. Central Harlem is gentrifying but East Harlem isn't. You can find larger apartments with big windows, hardwood floors, and high ceilings in Harlem. Crime has come down significantly but pick your block carefully. Two-bedrooms go for about $2,250.
Harlem is in Manhattan Community Districts 7, 10, and 11. It's home to over 400 churches, plus mosques and synagogues. Harlem is a driver of the charter schools movement in New York. About 1 out of every 5 kids here attends a charter school. The New York Public Library operates three branches in Harlem.
Harlem Zip Codes
Harlem is quite large and sections fall into a range of zip codes, including 10027, 10029, 10030, 10031, 10032, 10035, 10037, and 10039.