The Hottest Spot in Harlem

Photo: Lovelynn Gwinn

Sorting through the day’s mail is no fun anymore for Yuien Chin, a longtime resident of Hamilton Terrace in Harlem. That’s because she knows she’ll find yet another postcard or handwritten note imploring her to sell. “I get at least one a day,” she complains. “It’s vulturelike,” admits veteran Harlem broker Willie Kathryn Suggs. “They’re circling.”

It’s no secret that Harlem’s booming, its renaissance fueled not by poets but by realty (if not pure avarice). New developments like Strivers Gardens and Bradhurst Court, where a recent “ownership day” attracted nearly 1,000 visitors, are everywhere. Nowhere is the pace more evident, however, than on Hamilton Terrace, a three-block-long street running between 141st and 144th Streets. In the past ten months, five houses have changed hands here, two of them twice (1 Hamilton Terrace was bought for $780,000 last spring, then flipped for $900,000 in the summer; last May, a buyer paid $600,000 for 20 Hamilton Terrace, which he sold a few months later for nearly double). Suggs’s firm handled two of the sales, including one at a record $1.925 million. (One apocryphal story has a wannabe buyer knocking on a Hamilton Terrace door, offering a suitcase full of cash. The answer was no.)

What makes this little street so desirable? Like Strivers Row and Convent Avenue, it has single-family rowhouses in excellent condition. But unlike those areas, it’s on an oddly placed street with little traffic, giving it “a certain sense of exclusivity,” says Lisa Silversmith, who owns properties on both Convent Avenue and Hamilton Terrace. It’s a peaceful enclave where residents know each other, a sort of urban Mayberry. “The irony,” says Chin, “is that the things which attract new people—the sense of community, the quiet—are the very things they’re eroding.”

Not that she can do much about it. Brokers say the changes on Hamilton Terrace are a microcosm of what’s happening all over Harlem. With big guns like Douglas Elliman and Corcoran opening offices in the area, activity is expected only to escalate. “The neighborhood’s a long way from a plateau,” says Elliman president Dottie Herman. While the average sale price for properties in prime Manhattan hovers around a million, Harlem’s is $360,000, she says. For now.

Buy It Now! Don’t Delay!
It’s unclear if he snagged a one-of-a-kind deal!, but infomercial mogul Bill Guthy and his wife, Lola Cosmetics founder Victoria Jackson (pictured), have just made one purchase for a lot more than $19.95. City records show that the couple paid $12 million in February for a six-story East 65th Street townhouse with fourteen rooms and a private glass elevator. It also has a media room, perfect for the co-founder and principal of Guthy-Renker, the billion-dollar-grossing studio that—as all insomniacs know—produces infomercials for skin-care lines and Pilates DVDs hawked by the likes of Cindy Crawford and Daisy Fuentes. Jackson, who sells her makeup on QVC, says the mansion is the California couple’s first purchase in the city, and will serve as home base for their frequent East Coast trips. “It’s New York at its best,” she swoons, sounding like a master pitchwoman even off the air.
—S. Jhoanna Robledo

Same Space, Different Place
When Is a River View a Liability?
And where can four blocks mean a 20 percent markdown? In Murray Hill, which is really two neighborhoods: the prime area from Third Avenue to Madison, and the towers over by the river, cut off by the Queens-Midtown Tunnel’s entrance complex. Though this apartment at 330 East 38th Street, near First Avenue, is in a much ritzier building (indoor pool, running track) and has lower monthly charges than its mate between Madison and Park, it’s still far cheaper. “Mine doesn’t have any of that,” admits Corcoran’s Nicholas Athanail, who represents the latter. But “most of my clients are reluctant to go that far east.”

35 East 38th Street
The Facts: One-bedroom, one-bath, 800-square-foot condo.
Asking Price: $800,000.
Charges and Taxes: $1,147 per month.
Agent: Nicholas Athanail, the Corcoran Group.

330 East 38th Street
The Facts: One-bedroom, one-bath, 772-square-foot condo.
Asking Price: $659,000.
Charges and Taxes: $745 per month.
Agent: Jay Molishever, Citi-Habitats.
—S. Jhoanna Robledo

The Hottest Spot in Harlem