Founded in the 17th century as a Dutch undefined military outpost, Harlem has been a farming village, revolutionary battlefield, industrial outpost, commuter suburb, symbol of urban decay, and world-renowned center of the Harlem Renaissance and African-American culture – home of Langston Hughes, Dizzie Gillespie and Jacob Lawrence. Its gorgeous housing stock—brownstone and limestone facades, mansard roofs, gables and gargoyles on tree-lined streets—has been revived from a decades-long slumber to become one of the most desirable neighborhoods in Manhattan, and Harlem is experiencing a second Renaissance!
Wide avenues and sidewalks, along with a height restrictions of twelve stories for new buildings, contribute to the sense of grace, making Harlem a neighborhood operating on a more human scale than other parts of Manhattan. The landmarked Mount Morris Park area is a vibrant neighborhood where most of the Brownstones have been restored to single-family homes, multifamily dwellings and condominiums. A substantial amount of new development over the past fifteen years has replaced empty lots and abandoned buildings. Those looking for a doorman building and amenities have many options to rent or purchase.
Central Harlem boasts access to three parks: Central Park, Morningside Park and Mount Morris Park. The first two were conceived by master landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmsted, and it shows: Upper Central Park features “The Weir,” a huge lake that is home to many migratory birds, resident turtles, and huge carp (catch and release is encouraged!). A pool/ice-skating rink is open to the public, and is about to undergo a multimillion-dollar renovation that will make it spectacular. Morningside Park features a recently restored waterfall and pond, as well as playing fields, basketball courts, playgrounds, a dog run, and beautiful gardens. Mount Morris Park has a public swimming pool and an amphitheater, and tickets for Shakespeare in the Park are available in the Summer. Weekly farmer’s markets and events for both kids and adults are run by local nonprofits, making all three parks magnificent green spaces of peace enjoyed by local residents and visitors alike.
Transportation is a snap in the neighborhood, with quick access to three major subway lines, including the legendary “A” train, which runs nonstop Express from 125th Street to 59th Street and Columbus Circle. An additional seven bus lines and many Citibike stations make it easy to connect to the rest of Manhattan, as well as both LaGuardia and Kennedy Airports. Access to the cultural resources of Columbia University – including the brand-new Arts Center on 126th St and Broadway – are just steps away, and several galleries have left Chelsea to make Harlem their new home.
Celebrity chef, Marcus Samuelson, started a food revolution in Harlem when he opened The Red Rooster in 2010 only a few blocks from the brand-new Whole Foods on 125th Street. Frederick Douglass Boulevard and Malcolm X Boulevard quickly became a foodie “destination,” with offerings in the neighborhood that run the gamut — from traditional chicken and waffle icons like Sylvia’s and Melba’s, to casual sports bars with live music like the Harlem Tavern and The Village Social, to chic but low-key, farm-to-table spots like Clay, Lido, and Vineteria, to outstanding ethnic options including French bistros like Harlem Bistro, the West African restaurants of 116th Street, and Sushi Inoue, an intimate, Michelin-starred oasis for Japanese omikase!
All-in-all, it is hard to find another Manhattan neighborhood with the diversity, energy, ease of transportation, abundant green spaces and blue-sky vistas of Harlem!