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Top 10 Historic Neighborhoods in NYC
One of the core characteristics of New York City is constant change. In fact, as far back as the early 1600s, when the Dutch were still running things, people were bemoaning the tearing down of the old, and the putting up of the new.
That said, there remain many beautiful, remarkably well preserved sections of town, filled with gorgeous historic buildings and charming winding streets, that feel all the more special for being tucked away amid all the bustle and energy.
While all of these neighborhoods contain areas officially designated as Historic Districts by the Landmarks Preservation Commission, they were chosen for this list based on the appeal of the overall neighborhood.
Here then, are ten great NYC Historic Neighborhoods, in all five boroughs.
Greenwich Village, and the West Village
Almost the entire portions of Greenwich Village and the West Village are landmarked, and the historic district, comprising nearly 50 blocks, is the largest in Manhattan. The century-plus-old townhouses and brownstones provide much of the charm here; the seemingly haphazardly-arranged, tree-lined streets even more. Plus: excellent dining and shopping.
Sugar Hill / Hamilton Heights
Located in the heart of Harlem, Sugar Hill is a ten block stretch of majestic rowhouses that, indeed, remind one of the "sweet life" for which the historic district is named. One of the hottest spots in town during the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s—W. E. B. Du Bois, Duke Ellington, Thurgood Marshall, among many others, all lived there—Hamilton Heights, and especially the Sugar Hill section, remains an exclusive enclave today.
This wealthy downtown neighborhood contains four distinct historic districts, all dominated by the large-scale conversion of glorious old commercial spaces into gigantic lofts, artist studios and residential apartments. Bonus: Tribeca is sits nearby the Hudson River, Rockefeller Park and loads of great restaurants.
On Manhattan's Upper East Side, the historic district of Carnegie Hill is anchored by Andrew Carnegie's insanely huge mansion, which today houses the Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum. Other only slightly less majestic mansions, townhouses and elegant brick buildings round out the architectural treasures here. Plus, of course, Central Park is right nearby.
Picturesque rowhouses and the odd mansion or five in a dazzling array of classic architectural styles—Federal, Italianate, Greek and Gothic Revival, to name just a few—make Brooklyn Heights' historic district among the most coveted places to live in all of New York City. That, and the spectacular views of the Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan skyline.
New York magazine recently ranked Park Slope as a whole #1 in New York City—for its schools, dining, prices, safety, access to public transportation, the massive Prospect Park, shopping, etc.—and the historic district, filled with quiet, leafy streets lined with stunning townhouses and brownstones is even better.
The large, free-standing Victorian homes—often elaborately, and colorfully painted--make the historic district within Brooklyn's Ditmas Park unique among New York City communities. And in the past few years, the area has seen the opening of dozens of great little restaurants and food shops.
Within the wonderfully lively and diverse neighborhood of Jackson Heights lies the historic district filled with large and lovely garden apartment buildings—a term which was coined because of these very buildings!—and clusters of private homes. It's green, it's quiet, it's right next door to some of the best ethnic food in town.
Up in the northnermost section of the Bronx (and, therefore, of New York City proper), sits the well-off, suburban-feeling, completely privately owned community of Fieldston, with its big, beautiful houses and shady, hilly streets. Within walking distance—or, at a minimum, a quick drive—to three of the city's best private schools.
Century-old mansions and elaborate Victorian homes line the streets of this pretty Staten Island historic district. As an added bonus, residents of St. George are lucky to be right near the Staten Island Ferry, for free and easy transportation to lower Manhattan, Wall Street, and the Financial District.