Exploring the Different Areas of Manhattan: A Guide for Apartment Hunters
Recommended Reading and Listening:
apartment hunt by map
Manhattan, one of the five boroughs of New York City, is known for its iconic landmarks, diverse neighborhoods and bustling atmosphere. Whether you're a first-time visitor or a long-time resident, understanding the different areas of Manhattan is crucial in order to navigate the city and find the perfect neighborhood for you. Note that Manhattan is made up of over 200 different neighborhoods; however, professional agents such as myself tend to break them down into 4 or 5 basic parts.
Upper West Side
Upper East Side
Here is an overview of the basic parts of Manhattan:
Midtown is the bustling center of Manhattan, known for its skyscrapers, world-famous department stores, and Times Square. Visitors to Midtown should start by taking in the views from the Empire State Building, and then head to Times Square to see the bright lights and billboards. Other must-see places in Midtown include the Rockefeller Center, the Museum of Modern Art, and the Grand Central Terminal, the Broadway theaters. Just about all of the subway lines run through Midtown, with major train stations including Times Square-42nd St, 34th St-Herald Square, and 59th St-Columbus Circle. Known more for tourism than residential living, one exception to note is Murray Hill on the East Side of the island.
Upper East Side (UES): The UES is is known for its luxury high-rise buildings and exclusive shopping and dining options. Park, Madison and 5th Avenue are the coveted addresses in the area; however, generally speaking, the further away from Central Park you go, the more affordable bargains you'll find with Lenox Hill and Yorkville having having their fair share of older pre-war buildings. Sites to visit in this area include the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Guggenheim, the Frick Collection and the Whitney Museum of American Art.
Upper West Side (UWS):
The Upper West Side (UWS) is best associated with a delicate mix of tree-lined streets and famous cultural landmarks such as Lincoln Center and the American Museum of Natural History, as well as prestigious schools like Juilliard. not to mention notable venues like The Beacon Theatre and Grant's Tomb to the North. Bordered by Central Park to the East and the Hudson River to the West, the UWS neighbors Hell's Kitchen and Columbus Circle to the South with Morningside Heights to the North. While known for upscale, doorman buildings, the area also has a significant number of charming Brownstone townhouses. Despite its reputation for high prices, the UWS offers its fair share of great deals available for those who look.
Lower Manhattan is home to the Financial District, the oldest part of the city and is known for its rich history and iconic landmarks. Neighborhoods in this area include Tribeca, Soho, Greenwich Village, Lower East Side, Chinatown and Battery Park City. Visitors might start by first taking in the views of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, then heading to Wall Street to see the New York Stock Exchange and the Federal Reserve Bank. The 9/11 Memorial and Museum, Trinity Church, and the One World Trade Center are additional must-see places. As you pass Union Square, you'll be passing by plenty of NYU students on the way to class. En route, be sure to stop by The Strand book store (you might catch me hanging out there!) Although Downtown is home to some of the city's trendiest areas, Chinatown alongside the East Village, Little Italy and the LowerEast Side often make the "Top 10" list when it comes to most affordable places to live in Manhattan.
This area of Manhattan is known for its rich history, charming brownstones and pre-war buildings. Neighborhoods in this area include Harlem, Washington Heights, Inwood, Hamilton Heights, Morningside and Sugar Hill. Famous places in this area include the Apollo Theater, Central Park, Morris-Jumel Mansion and the Hamilton Grange National Memorial. Thanks to the principle of conformity, older buildings often mean cheaper rents, even if most of the apartments are flipped and modernized(!) This is where the big deals are, in fact the general adage with rentals is that the further north you go, the better the deals. Again, be sure to keep an eye out for deals in Inwood, Fort George and Washington and Hamilton Heights.
Whether you're looking for upscale shopping and dining, world-class cultural institutions, or a fun friendly atmosphere, Manhattan has something to offer for everyone. By understanding the different areas and neighborhoods of the island, you'll be able to navigate the city like a pro and find the perfect place to call home. Keep in mind; however, that I strongly advise against fixating on particular neighborhoods unless you need to live there for specific purposes of transportation. Neighborhoods are often brand names, and with brand names come a price. I mentioned an incident that creeped me out earlier in the semester and had been avoiding Jason since. Last week's incident's were, unfortunately, ill timed as my 15 year old poodle who (adventurously) came over us with Japan died the week in my arms, and I had appetite issues during the morning which triggered a hypoglycemic episode the week after.
Note also that fair housing law requires agents to show you the neighborhoods that you ask for, not the ones that they feel are best for you, therefore, be careful about naming a very specific neighborhood if you're open to a much broader area.
If you're open and flexible, language like "within 20 minutes of..." or "Anywhere near not so far from..." can mean a world of difference on the search results as compared to the naming a handful of very specific neighborhoods.