Why I Moved to Harlem Instead of Brooklyn

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Hamilton Heights, Harlem

For the longest time, I was certain I would be moving to Brooklyn. It made the most sense — it was cool, most of my friends were there, it wasn’t too far from the airport, and, well, it was cool. The epicenter of all things cool. And I was cool, wasn’t I?

And so I spent several months checking out Brooklyn neighborhoods, one by one. I had spent most of my previous visits to New York staying in Harlem, where my sister has lived for years. Family members would often ask me if I was planning to live near her.

“There’s not enough places to work in the neighborhood,” I would say. “I work online. I’d become a hermit.”

But then one night I went to dinner with my sister at Red Rooster on 125th St. in Harlem. Red Rooster, the latest restaurant by Marcus Samuelsson, has been enormously popular since its opening in 2011.

It was the atmosphere that struck me. The live music, the chic cocktails, the eclectic Southern fusion menu with Scandinavian touches, the fact that in this restaurant was one of the most diverse groups of people I had seen in New York. Everyone was welcome here. It was a weeknight and yet it felt like a party.

Over sweet potato donuts, I looked at my sister and smiled. “I’m starting to think I was too fast to write off Harlem.”

A few months later, I was settling into my one-bedroom apartment in the heart of Hamilton Heights, Harlem — something I couldn’t have imagined just a few months ago.

Yeah, I might have shocked a lot of people.

“But Kate! You belong downtown!” one friend exclaimed.

“Nobody’s ever going to visit you,” another friend told me.

Still, moving to Harlem was the smartest decision I could have made.


UPDATE (March 2019): Three years later, I’m still living in Harlem and still loving it.

I had to leave my apartment because my landlady sold the brownstone, but I ended up moving into a much larger apartment one block away.

Hamilton Heights has changed quite a bit in the last few years — it’s gentrifying rapidly. It’s now THE queer neighborhood of uptown, especially for nightlife. You see a lot more white kids and older white people than you did in 2016. Adriano Espaillat has been elected our new Congressman, a symbolic move as Harlem’s seat is now held by the first Dominican-American to serve in Congress, and was once an undocumented immigrant.

I wanted to spend a few years getting to know Harlem well before writing an in-depth guide to the neighborhood. As of February 2019, I have finally done that. The post is called 124 Best Things to Do in Harlem, New York City and it includes 50 black-owned businesses — far more than any guide I’ve found online.


Hamilton Heights, Harlem

Understanding Harlem and Brooklyn

First of all, before I write anything more, know this: Harlem is a huge and diverse neighborhood.

I live in Hamilton Heights, which is part of West Harlem. Part of Hamilton Heights overlaps with Sugar Hill, and it borders Manhattanville to the south and Central Harlem to the east. Washington Heights, which is not part of Harlem, is to the north.

The borough of Brooklyn is even more enormous and diverse than Harlem. The neighborhoods I was considering living in were Brooklyn Heights, Cobble Hill, Downtown Brooklyn, Boerum Hill, Crown Heights, and Bushwick.

That said, I’ll be using the terms “Harlem” and “Brooklyn” throughout this post for simplicity’s sake.

Hamilton Heights, Harlem

What I Love in a Neighborhood

In my post-college years, I’ve lived in several different neighborhoods in two major cities, Boston and London, along with some suburban areas. Beyond that, I’ve spent a lot of time traveling around other cities and spending short- or long-term stints living like a local. In that time, I’ve learned what works for me in a place to live.

I don’t like living in the heart of downtown. I did that when I lived on the Back Bay/Fenway line in Boston. While there were lots of good things about living downtown, I felt that the residents were an odd mix of the very wealthy (especially men working in finance), college students, and tourists. I preferred the slightly shabbier, more intellectual environments of Cambridge and Somerville.

I like a place with neighborhood pride. I like having good local places at which to eat, drink, and hang out. But I also want to live somewhere where people are happy to live and spend their time, not just grumbling about it until they can afford somewhere better.

Good transit is a major priority. If there’s only one semi-reliable line to my neighborhood, I’m more likely to cocoon and less likely to venture further afield. I like to live somewhere I can get in and out, ideally on a few different transit lines, and somewhere I can get to the airport easily.

Overall, I like a neighborhood that is fun and active but not in the heart of the city. I liked staying in neighborhoods like Northcote in Melbourne, Bronte in Sydney, Nimmanhaeman in Chiang Mai, North Beach in San Francisco, and Shepherd’s Bush in London.

Hamilton Heights, Harlem

Checking Out New York Neighborhoods

My next step was to try out lots of different neighborhoods in New York. Overnight stays were a priority for me, as neighborhoods can feel markedly different at night.

I had done many stays with my sister in her current apartment in Hamilton Heights and in her last apartment, further south in Harlem, so it was time to check out other regions. I did multi-day stays in the following neighborhoods:

Brooklyn Heights. If I could live anywhere in New York, it would be Brooklyn Heights. The brownstones here are gorgeous and it’s the first neighborhood over from lower Manhattan. Furthermore, Brooklyn Heights is adjacent to Cobble Hill, which is filled with awesome restaurants and shops, including a Trader Joe’s. Also, everyone seems to have a dog here, including my best friend, who lives there! That said, this is a very expensive neighborhood.

Downtown Brooklyn. I had the best Airbnb here — a studio apartment on top of the Brooklyn Ballet with huge windows overlooking the sunset. (Sadly, it’s no longer available for rent.) Downtown Brooklyn doesn’t have the beauty of other neighborhoods, but if you’re in the southern part, it’s very convenient to Brooklyn Heights, Cobble Hill, and Boerum Hill.

Boerum Hill. Boerum Hill seemed to be the best fit for me — close to Brooklyn Heights and Cobble Hill, and similar in atmosphere and beauty, but further from Manhattan and therefore more affordable. Almost every major subway line in Brooklyn goes through Atlantic Terminal, which is in the neighborhood.

Crown Heights. Crown Heights was probably the best “on paper” fit for me — decent rents, not far from most of my Brooklyn friends, on the A train, an easy journey to the airport, and home to the best coffee shop I’ve worked from in New York City (Breukelen Coffee House).

But Crown Heights just didn’t do it for me. While I never felt unsafe there, I never felt comfortable, either; it almost felt like my intuition was screaming at me for three days straight. I know better than to ignore my intuition. (No offense to my friends who live in and love Crown Heights. I can see why people love living there; it just wasn’t for me.)

Bushwick. Weird as hell. At times, I loved Bushwick madly; at times, I couldn’t stand it. This is the artsiest neighborhood in New York. It’s cheap and full of cool restaurants, galleries, and coffee shops. They’re all spread out quite a bit through a warehouse-filled district. Ultimately, though, I didn’t feel like I would fit in, and deemed Bushwick a fun place to visit rather than a place to live.

Upper West Side/Morningside Heights. I really like this part of the Upper West Side, close to Columbia. I stayed on 109th St. and loved it. Even though, like the chi-chi Brooklyn neighborhoods, it was a bit out of my price range (and not close to an express train besides the 2 at 96th). That’s what ultimately put me off.

Other neighborhoods were jettisoned for various reasons. Rents were rising at an astronomical rate in Williamsburg. Park Slope was too pricey for the inconvenient transportation. Bed-Stuy wasn’t gentrified enough. And as much as I would enjoy living somewhere like Greenwich Village, it would be a similar atmosphere to my time in Back Bay: lots of extremely wealthy people, lots of NYU students, and the only apartments in my price range would be dreadful.

Hamilton Heights, Harlem

So after all that, why did I end up in Harlem?

Because I ran the numbers, compared the neighborhoods, and realized that there was far more value in Hamilton Heights than in any of the Brooklyn neighborhoods I looked at.

After traveling full-time for five years, my primary goal was to have a nice place to call my own. A place that could furnish nicely. A place where I could host tons of out-of-town friends. A place I wouldn’t need to share with roommates. A place, most importantly, I could comfortably afford.

Basically, if I lived in this exact apartment in Brooklyn Heights — a large one-bedroom floor-through brownstone apartment with hardwood floors and an in-unit washing machine — it would cost at least $1,000 more, if not $1,500 more. That’s a huge chunk of change.

Low prices. You get more for your money in Hamilton Heights than in cheaper Brooklyn neighborhoods like Crown Heights, Bed-Stuy, and Bushwick. You can get a renovated one-bedroom with an elevator, counter space, and a dishwasher for just $1,800. (Yeah, I know. Trust me, this is cheap for New York.)

High quality apartments. From what I’ve seen, most apartments in this neighborhood are either in newly renovated buildings or well-maintained brownstones. There are a few duds, as there are everywhere, but the quality is generally very high.

Excellent transportation. The 145th St. station, in the dead center of Hamilton Heights, has stops for the express A and D lines, which get you to midtown in two stops (!!), as well as the B and C. The 1 runs along Broadway.

Lots of cool restaurants, bars, and coffeeshops. You won’t find them stacked up end-to-end like in Cobble Hill (except on Broadway between 148th and 149th, which I jokingly call Restaurant Row), but there are lots of good places. I’m thrilled that a bar as cool as Harlem Public is my local. Bono does amazing and well-priced Italian food. The Chipped Cup does fabulous coffee. And more are opening up every month.

I feel safe here. Incredibly safe. Yes, I do get occasional catcalls from men (which is standard throughout New York or any other American city) but I’ve never felt uncomfortable or in danger here.

The main drawback: people’s reactions. “Wow, you’re really far up,” is the usual response. (“It’s-18-minutes-from-Times-Square-and-I’m-a-five-minute-walk-from-the-express” has become my standard reply.)

But honestly, the distance isn’t as big a deal as it looks on a map. It sure hasn’t dissuaded my friends from visiting. My friend Anna even came from Bushwick, almost an hourlong ride away.

I have to be willing to make a long journey to visit my friends in Brooklyn. But that’s fine. I love my friends and I love Brooklyn. (And I take my Kindle everywhere with me.)

Hamilton Heights, Harlem

I find it interesting here.

Harlem is interesting to me in a way that none of the aforementioned Brooklyn neighborhoods are. It’s so different from everywhere I’ve lived so far.

When I travel the world, my eternal goal is to fit in seamlessly. If I can’t pass as a local, I hope to at least pass as a longtime expat. That’s the way I feel about living here.

I love the architecture in Harlem. Hamilton Heights is home to a fantastic historic district (including the Royal Tenenbaums house!).

Being a lifelong R&B and hip-hop fan, I love that this is the music you hear when you’re out and about. (I’m not used to hearing the music I love anywhere!) I immediately sit up straight in shock when I hear Lianne La Havas’s “What You Don’t Do” at the Handpulled Noodle or Miguel’s “Simple Things” at the Sugar Hill Cafe.

That’s the random R&B that I discover on deep cuts playlists on Spotify.

I love being part of a neighborhood with so much history and culture. There’s so much more that I have to learn.

Also, a fact — Neil Patrick Harris lives in Harlem! He’s part of the most famous celebrity family with young kids and two gay dads. They could have lived anywhere in New York City and chose to live in Harlem. I find that so interesting.

Hamilton Heights, Harlem

Most importantly: I’m in Harlem to give, not just take.

I am a middle-class person moving to a historically low-income neighborhood. I am a white person moving to a historically black and Latino neighborhood. I am not forgetting that for one minute.

Gentrification is neither unilaterally good nor bad; to insist so is ignorant. Longtime residents in gentrifying neighborhoods receive benefits like higher property values, more money being spent at local businesses, and a more attentive police force as well as detriments like being priced out of their neighborhoods. That said, for many residents, the bad outweighs the good.

No matter what I do, I’m gentrifying this neighborhood just by being here. But I have a choice about how my actions affect my neighbors. I want my presence in Harlem to make a positive impact.

How am I going to do that? First of all, I’m getting involved with local issues. My friend Maya (whom I profiled in my traveling solo as a woman of color interview) lives and works in Harlem as a community organizer! We’ve already talked about me joining her at the meetings and helping out.

There are times when they’ll need a photographer with a good camera, she told me. There’s a chance they could need help with social media outreach or something web-oriented. Or they might just need another set of hands. Those are ways I can contribute.

Second, I’m perusing the longtime local businesses as well as the hipster ones. Yes, I love my lattes from the cute coffee shops, but I also love the no-frills juice stands up and down Broadway. I love the pappardelle al cinghiale at Bono as well as the tamales from the truck on 145th street. I don’t flee the neighborhood to get my nails done, even though the salons here are on the rough side. Instead of getting everything delivered from Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s, I shop at the discount grocery stores in the neighborhood, along with the local health food store. I’m getting tickets to see the Dance Theatre of Harlem in April.

Third, I’m observing how people behave here and following suit. For example, I’ve noticed that, as in Asia and Latin America, the elderly are given an enormous amount of respect here. More so than in other parts of America. If you so much as grab fruit from the same bin as an elderly person, lord help you. Treat them like kings and queens here.

Fourth, I’m making an effort to get to know my neighbors. Such a small thing, but very important. As an introvert, chatting up strangers in the grocery store isn’t my favorite thing to do, but I know this will have good effects.

Fifth, I plan to write more about Harlem and Hamilton Heights here. If I convince you to come up for a visit — or even move here — that’s a good thing. Maybe I should host some reader meetups at Harlem Public!

Finally, I’m here to listen and learn and understand. I’m reading up more on black history and Harlem history. (Currently: The Autobiography of Malcolm X, someone I know very little about despite taking AP US History.) I’m checking out the local meetup groups. I’m honestly game for anything going on in the neighborhood that will help me get to know it better.

Hamilton Heights, Harlem

This is only the beginning.

I’ve only been here a few weeks, in the dreary winter, no less. Only time will tell whether I made the right choice. I will say this, however — I am very optimistic about my future here. Several times a day, my heart feels like it’s exploding with happiness at my new life.

If you’re in a similar position to me and contemplating a move to New York City, know that Brooklyn is not the only acceptable place to live. There are tons of great neighborhoods all over the city and you shouldn’t overlook Harlem.

If you’re looking for an apartment with nice amenities — like a renovated apartment or a dishwasher — or you want more square footage, Hamilton Heights should definitely be on your list. If you want to live alone, I’d highly recommend looking here.

But Harlem is more than just a cheap place to live. This neighborhood is rich in beauty and culture and has so much to discover. I can’t wait to share it all with you.


READ NEXT:

124 Best Things to Do in Harlem


Why I moved to Harlem instead of Brooklyn

If you could live anywhere in New York, where would you live?

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118 thoughts on “Why I Moved to Harlem Instead of Brooklyn”

  1. Hi
    I am interested in moving from London UK and have always been interested in moving somewhere like Harlem It reminds me of some places in London. Can you recommend any good letting agents or estate agents (real estate) that cover Harlem? I just need a change and have always wanted to experience living in NYC but still deciding whether to take the plunge or move to another part of Europe. Many thanks.

  2. Thanks for this great blog post! I got to know the sugar hill area well a few years ago when one of my friends lived there. Ever since, I have always told myself I would live in this neighborhood if I moved back to new york. Now I actually have the chance to move back and my BF and I are looking at a great apartment on West 139th and Edgecomb. It’s a bit further south than the area I am familiar with. We have spent quite a bit of time walking around during the day, but I’m wondering if you’ve heard anything about this areas safety at night?

    1. I go down there on occasion — there’s a nice restaurant right there called The Edge and a nice coffeeshop (usually totally crowded though) called Manhattanville Coffee Shop. I haven’t spent much time there at night so I don’t think I would be a good person to ask, to be honest.

  3. Hi Kate,

    After reading your article I must say it was very informative for those trying to seek some guidance in home searches in new York. However, I was struck by your sentiment that you found Bedstuy “not gentrified enough”…your words mind you.. and your inability to truly grasp that gentrification really does more harm than good. As a woman of color who has been in the Clinton hills neighborhood of Brooklyn for almost 20 years I can attest to this fact. The one good thing is a more pronounced police presence. But the increase in property values that you mentioned makes the property taxes go up…so much so it forces longtime homeowners to have to sell their property due to the inability to pay. You mention more money for local business…. You mean the same local stores and eateries that have to close down due to high rents and greedy developers put in place to make the neighborhood more palitable for people like you….the gentrifier? When the local affordable supermarket or pizza place has to shut down for the specialty store that sells 7 dollar coffee or the beer garden that forces the local dry cleaning business to shutter its doors….places that middle class people can’t afford or care to go to….tell me how is that helpful to a community that has spent in some cases generations in that hood? The reality about gentrification is that it is a way to change a neighborhood as much as possible from being brown to being Lilly white. The funny thing is that the original intention ends up biting middle class white people in the behind because eventually even you all can’t afford to stay. Your comment about Bedstuy not being gentrified enough implies to me that it wasn’t white enough. So now you are in Harlem where the same gentrification process has taken root. You mention loving hip hop and r&b, reading up on malcom x and attending the dance theater of Harlem in April…but you mentioning that is tantamount to the white person who says “I’m not racist, I have black friends”, yet you would rather live in a place that has less of the ” people” for who’s culture you say you enjoy or wish to learn about. (Again your assessment that a place like bedstuy wasn’t gentrified enough). For the record I do not think you are a card carrying member of the kkk type of racist. I do feel that you believe you mean well regarding people of color and the neighborhood that you contribute in gentrifying. Just please see that some of your thoughts about “culture” people of color and gentrification might need some more research done by you to TRULY understand what is happening in these communities and helping with a camera in hand for a community organization is not going to cut it.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Oni. I am surprised that this is the conclusion you came to, assuming that you read the whole piece and didn’t just skim it or read part of it, but I appreciate you sharing your thoughts in a respectful way (which I wish more people would do here).

      The reason why I said Bed-Stuy was not gentrified enough is because I talked to a few people living in Bed-Stuy who told me that when you call the police, it takes forever for them to show up compared to other Brooklyn neighborhoods. That made me nervous, particularly as 1) a survivor of intimate partner abuse 2) a public personality who receives constant sexual advances online and has had random men show up at her hotel wanting to meet her.

      Like you said, an increased police presence is a benefit of gentrification, and one that I’m not sure is there in Bed-Stuy at this time. That was the biggest factor for me, but other factors that kept Bed-Stuy off my list were that it was a longer commute to Manhattan and I liked other neighborhoods better.

      1. Thanks for responding Kate. I chuckled and I’m still smiling actually at your snarky yet amusing commentary on the possibility of me only skimming or not reading your post in its entirety. Of course I read the entire post…but I’m sure you know that deep down inside. To be told that you are possibly a smidge racist or swimming in white privelage is not a comfortable feeling I grant you that and obviously had you feeling a way. I am also sorry that you are the victim of domestic abuse and harassment. But be honest with yourself that when you referred to the alleged slow police response in bedstuy being what you meant by not being gentrified enough…is complete hog wash. Gentrification is not a stronger police presence in a community. You were pretty descriptive about you deciding against other Brooklyn neighborhoods it wouldn’t have taken too many words to type that you heard the police response in bedstuy is sketchy as opposed to saying its not gentrified enough…two very different things (which couldn’t be further from the truth by the way and i’m sure the police precincts and TRUE residents there would disagree). Furthermore I am curious to know your stance on gentrification as I am certain you have done some more research on the topic…perhaps speaking more in depth to those who are truly affected by it. Liking other neighborhoods better and a more convenient commute is understandable. Perhaps your choice of words regarding bed stuy could have been different….but then again you said exactly what you meant….not gentrified enough….translation…not white enough.

        1. i am no where near as eloquent as you oni, but i too felt a little ..peeved– no, perplexed by the phrase ‘not gentrified enough’. you spoke a great deal of truth tho!

          but wow, the mindset between natives and gentrifiers truly is remarkable. growing up, it was common knowledge that police take forever to respond to emergencies so you’d tried your hardest to never have a reason to call lol. maybe that’s why i’m so perplexed by the idea of calling the police on your neighbor because they’re being noisy haha.

          also, am i the only person who feels slightly uncomfortable with the increased police protection in bed stuy? all i think about when i see those officers patrolling this streets is that they’re not here for black folk. it would’ve been nice if they had an interest in keeping the neighborhood safe before it became an attractive neighborhood for white people.

          but hey i’m just bitter

  4. Kate, thank you for your post. Have you ever been to East Harlem 120st? Is it safe to stay there and nice? I am coming to NY and planning to stay there, but a little bit nervous as don’t know the city.
    Thank you!

    1. I used to live even more uptown than 120th and despite occasionally coming home to a broken door lock or bullet hole in the front door of my apartment building, I feel safe almost everywhere in Manhattan.

  5. This is so helpful! I’m currently thinking of moving to NY from Miami and I’ve been researching for the best low-priced low-income neighborhoods in NY. Thank you

  6. Good article, we are a french family that comes in New York next october for few days of vacations. We booked an apartment in 136th street for our stay, but afterwards we are not so sure to have made the right choice. Our knowledge of Harlem is linked with its past or by what you can read or see in the medias. Your article is well come Kate. Thank you.

  7. Gotta say I have to agree with everything Kate said here. This article is such a beautiful piece and I hope more people visit/considering staying at Harlem area.

    Like Kate, I also lived in Hamilton Heights and a lot of times it makes people cringe when they hear a single Chinese girl living at Harlem. I can see it in their eyes, like they’re silently thinking “ain’t no Chinita has a gut to live there”. One time a guy I was having a conversation with in the subway even asked blatantly “Girl, your stop is 145th? You livin’ here?”.

    Despite occasionally coming home to a broken door lock or bullet hole in the front door of my apartment building, I love Hamilton Heights and Harlem in general. It’s just like what Kate said, you will feel welcomed in this neighbourhood no matter which part of the World you came from. If I live in NYC again I will definitely choose Hamilton Heights all over again.

  8. This is a wonderful article. I just purchased a condo in harlem and I couldn’t agree more. I have always loved Harlem, the history, the people, the vibe. I also really thank you for talking about the issue of gentrification. Being someone who is an asian american, I understand I cannot avoid the moving to a desired place and not be part of gentrification. I definitely got inspired by you for joining local communities, reading books and history about the community and the place. I think the key is really to contribute to the local community and be a part of it, rather than the sense of “taking the place over”. Thank you for this article, I really benefited from it.

  9. I just got approved for an apartment on 152nd between Broadway and Amsterdam. I must say, your blog inspired me and I’m really looking forward to not only experiencing a different lifestyle (Upper East Side resident for 4+ years), but contributing to a growing neighborhood!

  10. This was so helpful. Living in Manhattan is just too expensive for me and I’ve been debating between Brooklyn and Harlem for some time now. Brooklyn is great but I find it too expensive and cookie cutterish. I haven’t explored Harlem nearly enough but feels more of a place I can call my home.

    1. Yeah, I want to be around only white people, which is why I moved straight to Harlem. *eyeroll*

      Spend time in Bed-Stuy. Call the police when an emergency occurs. Then see how long it takes them to show up.

  11. The things you tout as wonderful about Harlem are the exact things that are and will disappear with gentrification I appreciate your acknowledgement that you are part of the gentrifying population but I also find your remarks about it rather flippant and uneducated. I’ve lived in Harlem for 20 years, and let’s be clear the only people that gentrification really is good for are the wealthier-usually white people that push the poorer minorities out. Yes property values have sky rocketed but the reality is most people in Harlem are renters and most of the building owners are not minorities, so it was of no benefit to the people of the community. For those who do own their homes most were not planning on selling so higher property values also bring higher property taxes which particularly for the older generation can be an extreme hardship. The police presence that you speak of is also the same police force that Blacks and Latinos have been clashing with for decades, and still are if you haven’t been watching the news. Things have not changed for us they just make you feel safer. Also be clear the police were brought in to “clean up” Harlem for the purpose of gentrification, not because they cared about the residents who are already existed here. I have watched so many great local businesses go under in the last decade due to being priced out and many of the new businesses are not affordable to the longtime residents of Harlem. Also many of the businesses that replaced once minority owned businesses are now owned by white people so supporting them doesn’t have the same effect that you would lead your readers to believe.

    I guess what really bothered me is the fact that you said, “That said, for many residents, the bad outweighs the good.” It just simply isn’t true. It seems to me you need to encounter more of the low income people in your neighborhood, because your view of gentrification is a very White privileged view. Based on many of the comments on this article most of the gentrifiers are going with this retoric that the part you guys take in the gentrifying of this community is ok because you acknowledge it. I’m sorry that doesn’t make it ok. For you $1800 a month for a 1 bedroom seems reasonable. That’s laughable to more than half of your neighborhood. Do you realize that the median income in Hamilton Heights is $39,840? Half of your neighborhood makes less than that. I liked your article and I appreciate that you even mentioned gentrification. I implore you though to really educate yourself on what gentrification is and what’s it’s really doing to Harlem, because it’s much more serious than you seem to realize.

  12. Hi!

    My Fiance and I are considering moving to Harlem in the summer. We are in our late 20’s. Now that you have been living in Harlem for over a year now, how do you feel about it? Would appreciate any feedback you have!

    Thank you!

    1. Keep in mind that Harlem is a HUGE and diverse neighborhood. I’m not sure what part of Harlem you’re considering.

      I am still VERY happy in Hamilton Heights a year and a half later.

  13. Don’t know when you moved to my neighborhood, but welcome! Just happened to come across your site and was interested in reading this piece.

    I agree with all that you said and am very glad you brought up gentrification. It is a double-edged sword for us long-term residents. Neighbors have had to move out… some of the old mom-and-pop stores closed. But I do enjoy the improvements: more police presence (although for my Black son, this wasn’t so great.. he kept being stopped when

    I grew up here, left briefly for Gramercy and returned a few years later. Missed Harlem. Missed Hamilton Heights. I, too, feel very safe here even when I walk home alone from the train station on 145th late at night.

    One thing I suggest: be friendly. Don’t be shy. Say hello. We are a very warm people and tend to greet one another. It’s how many of us were raised; it’s how we stay a community.

    I hope to see you around, neighbor.

    1. Thank you, Maria, and I’m happy to be your neighbor! When I moved to New York, I assumed I wouldn’t know any of my neighbors (after all, I didn’t in Boston or London), but one of the biggest surprises is how much I’ve gotten to know my Harlem neighbors. They are AWESOME. Some of them have lived on my block for 30+ years and tell me stories about what the neighborhood and our block used to be like. Some of them read the blog now, too.

      I got recognized for the first time in Hamilton Heights a month ago (“Heyyyy, I thought you lived here!” “I DO live here!”). If you ever see me, do say hi!

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts on gentrification as well.

  14. Hi Kate
    I’m currently living in the east village and tired of being in a hotel room sized studio on the ground floor on the street side (noisy).
    My lease is up so I’m looking around for a 2 bed with pre war detail.
    I love sugar hill but found many places removed the original detail.

    Long story short, I found a place on Haven and 170th. Huge 2 bed.
    I have also found a place in Crown Heights where I can take over the lease, avoid a broker fee, and pay much less than most apartments in the building are going for.

    So I’m feeling a dilemma.
    I thought 170th would feel so far away which it does, but it’s right on the A line.
    The Nostrand stop for Crown Heights is a little gnarly and the neighborhood doesn’t feel as comfortable. Bit o can avoid a fee here and $2100 for a 2 bed is nearly unheard of.

    Not sure yet which way to go.

    1. Well, honestly, only you can make the decision that’s right for you! I highly recommend visiting both neighborhoods at night as well as day and see how you feel. I like Washington Heights A LOT, but my two issues if I were to live there are 1) it’s VERY noisy and 2) there is a TON of trash. But I would most likely choose 170th over Nostrand based on location alone, not taking into account any other factors.

      You’re right that a lot of places around Sugar Hill have removed the original detail. Tons of places around here have been renovated like crazy.

    1. You can either take the subway/AirTrain to JFK (90 minutes) or an Uber (30 minutes if you’re SUPER lucky, likelier 45-60 minutes, sometimes longer if you’re unlucky).

  15. Nicole Shelton-Bouciquot

    I loved this post and really have always wanted to check out Harlem since I was a child but have only visited NY once. My husband is Haitian and we currently live in Haiti but are trying to move to the States and considering New York. I’ve read some rough things about Harlem, specifically 125th St, being unacceting of Black/white interracial couples. Would you be able to give a little insight into this as we would really love to live in a place with so my new culture.

    1. I honestly would not be the person to ask about this, since I haven’t been part of a black/white interracial couple since I moved to Harlem (and don’t spend much time around 125th St. anyway). I would reach out to someone else.

      However, Harlem is huge. Hamilton Heights has a very different atmosphere from around 125th, especially today, more than two years after I wrote this post. It’s much more Dominican, especially around Broadway, and it’s much more gentrified as well. There are a lot more white babies and older white people in the neighborhood today, which is very different from when I first moved here two years ago. I can’t ascertain what your experience would be, but if I were in your shoes, I would choose around 145th on the west side rather than around 125th.

  16. Hi Kate,
    I’ve been following you for several years now and excited that we finally have the chance to visit and stay in NYC. Thanks to your work, we’ve settled on staying in Harlem (near the 135 metro) to meet up with our Chilean family. Just wanted to extend our thanks! And ask, have you ever visited Chile? I don’t recall reading of your work from there. If not, why not? I’d be happy to give you recommendations and advice!
    Thanks again for all of your honest feedback whilst traveling.

  17. Hi Kate,
    Love your post and writing about NYC.
    Being a travel blogger in the past, your posts reallg inspired me. After travelling for two years i decided to move to california however i dont think it was the right choice so right now i have my heart set to move to NYC as i feel it has the diversity and i wouldnt miss travelling as much.
    I been looking at areas and astoria and harlem were in my interest. Thanks so much for your post, has really helped me in thinking which places to look at and also coming from a traveller who settled in new york makes me believe im making the right choice this time

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