|Land Area:||22.8 sq miles|
|Listing(s):||5554 (no-fee + fee)|
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 New York's undisputed center and the locus of the city's social, financial, and political power. If only for this reason, many newcomers to the city aspire to live in Manhattan.
Downtown neighborhoods, many of which were laid out in the pre-grid days of yore, are a varied bunch: from the skyscrapers of the Financial District to the quaint row houses of the West Village, the area runs the gamut of architectural styles from different eras. As a result, Downtown offers most types of housing you'll find elsewhere in New York – except the suburban-mansion type. One can choose to live in a converted office or even former bank headquarters (look the Financial District), an industrial loft (SoHo and TriBeCa), a charming row house (the West Village and the Central Village), a modern high-rise (the Financial District and Battery Park City), a luxury townhouse, a drab 1980s multi-apartment building (the Central Village and East Village have a few), a classic early-20th-century "tenement" building (especially on the Lower East Side), or even a mid-20th century housing project (the Alphabet City and the Lower East Side). That last one is included as only a theoretical possibility: the wait period for apartments in subsidized housing can be very long.
Demographically, Downtown tends to be younger and more trendy than the rest of the city. Nightlife venues are more numerous here. The area is also student-friendly: its heart (the Central Village) is dominated by the campus of New York University. As the area's demographic profile skews young, its apartments usually skew small, with (small-ish) studios making up almost a third of the available apartments and one-bedrooms another third.
Summary: 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).
Overall, compared to Downtown, Midtown is more reserved, touristy (especially in the Times Square area), somewhat older and more architecturally homogeneous.
While Midtown Manhattan – especially its central part – constitutes NYC's main office and entertainment district, the area also includes several residential neighborhoods. Like elsewhere in Manhattan, the dominant residential architecture form in those neighborhoods is the multi-apartment building.
Most midtown apartment buildings were constructed after World War II and contain apartments that are some advertised as "pre-war" (in addition to giving you an idea of the building's age, the presence of this epithet in real estate ads often implies a more generous layout of the apartment and other niceties, like higher ceilings – along with a commensurate price premium). Pre-war buildings are typically ten to fifteen stories high.
Other common building varieties on offer in the area are the low-rise "row house / brownstone" building (especially on side streets in Gramercy Park and Midtown East), the low-to-mid-rise "tenement building" (particularly in Hell's Kitchen), the typically high-rise modern apartment building (everywhere), and the "industrial / loft" building. The latter variety is mainly found in Chelsea, Garment District, and Flatiron District.
Most large rental buildings constructed in Midtown since 1990 were built in Midtown West – that is to say, in Chelsea, Garment District, Hell's Kitchen, and, especially, in Hudson Yards. This area is where redevelopment-ready plots have been readily available. The trend of building mostly on the western side of the island is likely to continue.
Summary: "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 is sometimes referred to as "Midtown South" (although its exact borders' definitions vary quite widely). This area exhibits many features that are more characteristic of Downtown.
Uptown proper is split into two large areas – the Upper East Side and the Upper West Side. In between the two lies Central Park. In addition, several smaller peripheral areas (Morningside Heights on the west side and Upper Carnegie Hill on the east side) are usually included.
All areas of Uptown are primarily urban residential (but extremely dense and with plenty of services and shopping), though their residents' demographic profiles differ. Reducing everything to simple caricature, one could say that the Upper East Side is more WASPy, preppy, and more business- and career-oriented, while the Upper West Side tends to be more mixed – racially, economically, and across professional lines – as well as more liberal and artsy (remember, we're talking generalizing to the point of caricature.) Morningside Heights, very popular with students, is a neighborhood surrounding Columbia University, and is often thought of the "Upper West Side North."
To complete the picture, Roosevelt Island is an actual island in the East River, which is also considered to be part of Uptown Manhattan. It is a largely middle-class residential area with a few mid- and high-rise apartment buildings. Because of its relative isolation it can feel almost like another city. The views of Manhattan are spectacular and the big island is only a subway (or an aerial tram) stop away.
Uptown apartments are often larger than those found Downtown, the amenities provided by the buildings are more plentiful and Central Park is within walking distance for almost the entire area (except Roosevelt Island). Nevertheless, Uptown rental prices (or at least the prices for studios and one-bedrooms) tend to be somewhat lower compared to Downtown, reflecting the area's relative lack of trendiness. This doesn't hold for larger units, though, which can be quite luxurious.
Yorkville, Museum Mile, Carnegie Hill, and Lenox Hill are all sub-neighborhoods of the Upper East Side. In addition, Upper Carnegie Hill lies just to the north, but can be considered part of it as well.
Summary: Uptown stretches from 59th to (approximately) 96th on the East Side, 125th on the West Side, and 110th in between.
For decades, much of the land mass above 110th street was considered to be outside of the "prime" area of Manhattan and consequently, of little interest to successful New Yorkers looking for a place to live. A big part of the reason was the neglect of buildings, also known as "urban blight". Another was the legacy of an uncomfortably high number of housing projects built in Harlem in the 1950s and 1960s, ostensibly to fight urban blight (the cure in this case was truly worse than the disease). Racial divisions also played a role: by the second part of the 20th century the area's residents were mostly black. Successive attempts to redevelop large parts of the area invariably failed… or made things worse (those interested in the reasons are advised to read Jane Jacobs's excellent "The Death and Life of Great American Cities," written at the height of such efforts).
Things finally started to change in the 1990s with change accelerating in the new century: multiple (overwhelmingly upscale) condo and rental projects were launched, attracting new, middle-class residents in droves – principally to Central Harlem. However, these developments aside, older housing stock still prevails: most apartment buildings in Harlem and Washington Heights were built in the decade preceding the Great Depression.
Today, most Upper Manhattan neighborhoods represent a relatively good deal, rent-wise, compared with the rest of Manhattan – particularly if you are willing to "climb" higher, to the neighborhoods of Washington Heights and Inwood. However, there as elsewhere, gentrification continues unabated, and as it does, the prices rise.