The New York Times had a piece a few weeks ago titled “How Many People Can Manhattan Hold” that keeps popping into my thoughts as I go about my day, exploring New York City rental apartments and, more specifically, Manhattan neighborhoods: shiny and new, tired and creaky, everything in between.
The launching point of the Times article–Manhattan neighborhoods are totally packed! and new buildings keep going up!–is nothing new; in fact you’ve probably thought it yourself a dozen times in the last month, in the Upper West Side Fairway on a Sunday afternoon, for example (or, heck, anywhere on Broadway on the 70s and 80s on a weekend), or on 14th Street near Union Square, or anywhere in Soho on the weekends, or on the 6 train at rush hour. Not to mention the fact that nearly 100 children just got wait-listed downtown at their catchment area kindergarten because there was no more room!
The city, she feels full (though as the Times piece points out, the current Manhattan population of 1.6 million is nowhere close to the island’s peak a hundred years ago, when some 2.3 million people called the various Manhattan neighborhoods their home, many of them crammed into windowless rooms of Lower East Side tenements), yet Manhattan rental apartments are more in demand than ever, forcing apartment seekers and developers to look for new neighborhoods in which to live… or in some cases, build from scratch, such as the upcoming Hudson Yards.
Take the Flatiron District, for instance, or “Lower Fifth Avenue”, which not so long ago, even in the early 1990s, was predominantly industrial, dreary, desolate. The retail (Paul Smith) and restaurants (Mesa Grill, City Bakery) came first to the Flatiron District, followed by creative types, followed by techies and families, and the last decade saw a 25% population increase in the area, and Flatiron rental apartments, condos and co-ops, either newly built or repurposed, are among the most coveted in town.
For families and young professionals seeking a less pricey and MUCH larger home, Inwood rental apartments have once again begun popping up on the radar. New York Magazine profiled the on-again, off-again neighborhood recently, summing up the Inwood vibe neatly (and, I can personally vouch, accurately) as “familiar to anyone who lived on the West Side in the seventies—in fact, you might think of this neighborhood as the Upper Upper Upper West Side.”
There are parks galore up here in northernmost Manhattan, including the almost shockingly wild Inwood Hill Park and the always-lovely Cloisters located in Fort Tryon Park. There are abundant services, an ever-increasing variety of restaurants and coffee shops, and it never fails to pleasantly surprise Inwood newcomers just how fast the A train gets you to Midtown. Is there a more satisfying stretch of subway travel than zooming by all those stops between 125th and 59th? No there is not.
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