Home > Journalism, Life > There’s Always Harlem

There’s Always Harlem

January 19, 2014 Leave a comment Go to comments
The Upper West Side: the Majestic and the Dakota at center and right-center

The Upper West Side: the Majestic and the Dakota at center and right-center

In case you missed it, be sure to read the real estate article in today’s NYT on the couple who have been renting in the Upper East Side. When they’re ready to buy, they are unable to find a place in the neighborhood that fits their needs at the right price.

I understand their desire to stay. Who wouldn’t? My grandmother lived her final decades there (a long way from her childhood Odessa). During my childhood and young adulthood, I hung out there. Lincoln Center. The American Museum of Natural History. Fine and Schapiro.

Alas, our featured couple had to look elsewhere. Then they thought of Harlem.

They realized they simply couldn’t find a place on the Upper West Side suitable enough to justify the price, Mrs. Johnston said. “If we had a checklist of eight things and needed five, we would have only two or three.”

But they had always enjoyed exploring other neighborhoods, and Harlem was the obvious choice. There they could afford an entire brownstone.

“You have to totally change your perspective on what you want,” Mr. Johnston said. “It’s another world in terms of space, and our imagination ran wild.” He found that Harlem houses “had more square footage than the homes we grew up in.”

A paragraph later, on their visit to the house they would ultimately buy, a significant cultural difference comes to light.

The owner was in the kitchen when they visited.

In Harlem, “we saw more owners,” Mrs. Johnston said. “We would never see an owner on the Upper West Side.”

All ends well.

“I didn’t know I would love this neighborhood so much,” Mrs. Johnston said. “I thought, ‘You can’t beat the Upper West Side,’ which was the end-all, be-all, the best place on the planet.”

She has revised her opinion. The new neighborhood “feels like what New York used to be,” she said. “It is very diverse and multicultural. We are completely embraced by our neighbors.”

I can’t help but think that the story is focused a little narrowly, with an important detail omitted. What could it be?

Perhaps Harlem house prices of $1.8 million indicate something significant about life in Manhattan?

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Categories: Journalism, Life
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