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Harlem’s Other Half

East Harlem’s pricing catches up with the rest of upper Manhattan’s.

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Not much more than the promise of a cut-rate rental lured Jarvis, a banker, to East Harlem in 2003. He’d been looking elsewhere uptown, but prices were easily 30 percent cheaper—even more—over on Pleasant Avenue, where he eventually found a place. “At the time, it was the best bang for the buck,” he says. Never mind that it was a much scruffier place than the West Side’s rapidly gentrifying Harlem brownstone communities. “There was definitely this feeling that [it] was up-and-coming, but not like West Harlem,” remembers Gumley Haft Kleier broker Lauren Berger, who specializes in the area. “Buyers would say, ‘Oh, it’s not as developed.’ ”

Four years on, that hefty discount in East Harlem (a.k.a. El Barrio, a.k.a. Spanish Harlem) is long gone, as is the 96th Street cutoff for high-priced real estate. Sid Whelan, the lead sales agent for the Bridges NYC, a condo development at 124th Street and Third Avenue, says that the area’s “also-ran” status is simply a thing of the past. According to a Halstead survey of properties sold in both areas in 2007, the average price per square foot in East Harlem now hovers at $629, just $8 below West Harlem’s. “There’s more parity now. There’s no clear distinction between the two,” says appraiser Jonathan Miller, who says when he’s evaluating the property values in East Harlem these days, he no longer makes a “location adjustment compared to West Harlem. I would’ve done that [a couple of] years ago.”

The price increase appears to have been led by the neighborhood’s batch of new condos. Buildings like the 68-unit Mirada at Lexington and 110th Street and the 31-unit Bridges are bringing upscale amenities and finishes (concierge service, roof decks, “intelligent” kitchens), and the well-off buyers who want them. At the same time, city officials are discussing ways to “green” the area and lower pollution, the Second Avenue subway will expand transportation options surprisingly soon, and services are multiplying. Jarvis, for his part, got himself a three-bedroom at the Bridges, and George Rivera, who grew up in West Harlem, bought a mixed-use warehouse for home and investment. “It’s less crowded, less dense here,” he says. “You get a tremendous amount of light, unlike in West Harlem. I have an open view to downtown!” Adds Jarvis: “Five years from now, people will be saying, ‘Damn, I wish I’d jumped on that East Harlem thing.’ ”


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