NY Bits » Manhattan
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.
Downtown Manhattan NeighborhoodsDowntown refers to the area south of 14th street.
Downtown offers almost every type of housing you'll find in New York (save for the detached suburban-style mansion) – 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).
Midtown Manhattan NeighborhoodsMidtown is everything from 14th street to 59th street.
Overall, however, compared to Downtown, Midtown is more reserved, touristy (especially around the Times Square area), somewhat older and architecturally homogeneous. The latter is thanks 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.
The dominant residential architecture form in Midtown is the multi-apartment building. While most midtown buildings were constructed after the World War II, many are "pre-war" (an epithet whose appearance in a real estate ad often implies that there'll be a premium to pay for the typically more generous layout of the apartment). Other common building styles on offer are the "row house"/"brownstone" (especially in Gramercy Park and Midtown East), and the "loft" (mostly Chelsea, Garment District and Flatiron District).
Many rental buildings constructed during the boom of the 1990s and 2000s were built in Midtown West -- that is to say, in Chelsea, Garment District and Hell's Kitchen (Clinton). This fact was due to the ready availability of plots suitable for redevelopment. This trend (i.e. more new buildings being built on the western side of midtown Manhattan) is likely to continue.
Manhattan - Uptown
Uptown Manhattan NeighborhoodsEverything above 59th street below Harlem is Uptown.
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.
Upper Manhattan - Harlem and Northern Manhattan
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: