NY Bits
Search · Buildings · Managers · Agents
Manhattan · Brooklyn · Queens · Bronx · SI · NJ


Population1,634,795 (2008)
Land Area22.8 sq miles
Density71701.54 ppsm

Although Manhattan is the smallest of the five boroughs in terms of land area and only the third on the list population-wise (well behind Brooklyn and Queens), it is undisputably the city's center and thus the site of New York's social, financial and political power. If only for this reason, many newcomers to the city aspire to live in Manhattan.

The borough of Manhattan can be roughly divided into four big areas: Downtown, Midtown, Uptown, and Upper Manhattan.

Manhattan: Downtown

Downtown refers to everything below 14th Street. It is comprised of about a dozen of irregular-shaped neighborhoods grouped into three "community districts" (1, 2, and 3).

Downtown tends to be younger (both in its residents' and the typical passerby age) and more "hip" than the rest of the city. Nightlife venues are more numerous here than in other areas of the city. It is also student-friendly: the heart of the area (the Central Village) is dominated by the campus of New York University.

Downtown offers almost every type of housing you'll find in New York (save for the detached suburban-style mansion type) – at least in theory. You can choose to live in a converted office or bank headquarters (especially in the Financial District), a former warehouse or industrial loft (SoHo and TriBeCa), a charming row house (the West Village and the Central Village), a modern skyscraper (the Financial District and Battery Park City), a luxury townhouse, a drab 1980s multi-apartment building, an early 20th century tenement housing building, or even a mid-20th century housing project (the East Village and the Lower East Side; although the wait period for available apartments in such housing can be substantial).

Partly due to the area's younger demographic, downtown apartments tend to be small: almost a third of all available apartments are studios.

Downtown buildings:

Manhattan: Midtown

For the purposes of our neighborhood classification, "Midtown" is everything between 14th Street and 59th streets / Central Park (the area corresponding to Manhattan community districts 4, 5 and 6). Midtown's lower-central part (14th through 34th Street) is sometimes referred to as "Midtown South." (It's worth noting that there are multiple definitions of "Midtown South", the above being the most conservative. Others go as high as 45th Street for the northern border). The area exhibits many features that are more characteristic of Downtown.

Overall, however, compared to Downtown, Midtown is more reserved, touristy (especially in the Times Square area), somewhat older and more architecturally homogeneous. The latter is due in part to Manhattan's geology, which allows building very tall buildings in the island's Midtown core, and in part to the history of development in Midtown.

Midtown is NYC's bona fide office district. Most skyscrapers, for example, were built to "house" daytime workers, not residents (although large residential buildings also exist here). Like pretty much everywhere in Manhattan, the dominant residential architecture form in Midtown is the multi-apartment building. While most midtown apartment buildings were constructed after the World War II, some are "pre-war" (an epithet whose presence in a real estate ad often implies that there will be a premium to pay for the somewhat more generous layout of the apartment). Other common building styles on offer are the (low-rise) "row house / brownstone" (especially on side streets in Gramercy Park and Midtown East), the (low-to-mid-rise) "tenement building" (particularly in Hell's Kitchen), and the "industrial / loft building" which can vary in size (mostly Chelsea, Garment District and Flatiron District).

Many large rental buildings constructed in Midtown during the boom years of the 1990s and 2000s were built in Midtown West – that is to say, in Chelsea, Garment District, Hudson Yards and Hell's Kitchen. This was was due to the ready availability of plots suitable for redevelopment. This trend of more new buildings being built on the western side of midtown Manhattan is likely to continue.

Midtown buildings:

Manhattan - Uptown

Uptown Manhattan Neighborhoods

Everything above 59th street below Harlem is Uptown.
Uptown proper is split in two large areas – the Upper East Side and the Upper West Side. In between those two lies Central Park. Both Upper East Side Upper West Side are mostly residential, with slightly different (but similarly upscale) demographic profiles. The Upper West Side is more "mixed", liberal and artsy. The Upper East Side close to the park is extremely wealthy, while the area east of Lexington Avenue is much more mixed. Both the Upper East Side and the Upper West Side are teeming with well-paid young professionals.

Just north of the Upper West Side, is the "island-neighborhood" (not in strict geographic terms but in ambiance), surrounding Columbia University.

Uptown streets and apartments are/were often larger than those in Downtown, the services more plentiful and Central Park is close by. Nevertheless, overall, rental prices tend to be somewhat lower Uptown (perhaps due to its more residential and less 'cool' image). In particular, some of Manhattan's best apartment deals can be found on the Eastern fringes of the Upper East Side rather than in Downtown neighborhoods.

Uptown buildings:

Upper Manhattan - Harlem and Northern Manhattan

For years, much of the land mass above 110th street was not considered to be a "prime" area. Part of the reason was the neglect of buildings and "urban blight", another was the legacy of an uncomfortably large number of housing projects built in Harlem in the 1950s and 1960s. Successive attempts to redevelop large parts of the area invariably failed (those interested in the reasons are advised to read Jane Jacobs' excellent "The Death and Life of Great American Cities", written at the height of such efforts).

Things started changing in the 1990s and change accelerated in the 2000s with multiple (mostly upscale) condo and rental projects attracting new residents in droves – principally to Central Harlem. These developments aside, older housing stock prevails in the area: most multi-apartment buildings in Harlem and Washington Heights were built in the decade preceding the Great Depression. Today, the neighborhoods here are still a relatively good deal compared with the rest of Manhattan, particularly if you are willing to "climb" higher, to Washington Heights and Inwood, but the gentrification process continues unabated and as it does, the prices rise. As a rule of thumb, the less gentrified the area is, the better the deals you can get.

Upper Manhattan buildings:

Roosevelt Island

Roosevelt Island, an actual island in the East River, is considered to be part of Manhattan. It is a largely residential area with many mid- and high-rise apartment buildings. While the social makeup is mixed, it is mostly a middle class neighborhood, with a noticeably high proportion of UN employees among its residents.