Recently I was looking for a townhouse for a customer, and came across one on Manhattan Avenue and 105th Street. While I suppose I would have thought of this address as being either “Upper-Upper West Side” or “Lower Morningside Heights” before spending some time there, I have since learned that the area bounded by 110th Street and 96th Street to the north and south, and Central Park West and Broadway to the east and west is actually called Manhattan Valley. This part of town was known as the Bloomindale District in the past, for a Bloomingdale Street previously in the area (long since gone). There is a natural valley here, caused by what was once the path of a small stream leading from the Harlem Meer to the Hudson River. Between the price for the townhouse I was viewing in the area, and the price of a 2 bedroom co-op recently listed by a colleague on West 100th just off Central Park West, I quickly realized that this area, while very close to the Upper West Side in both location and atmosphere, offers opportunities for excellent value in real estate.
As I have written before, I find that the best way to get the feeling of what it would be like to live in an area is to take a dérive (an unplanned walk in an urban setting). For this one, I started at Broadway and 96th Street. 96th Street, like 86th on the east side, is a busy major two-way thoroughfare, often packed with cars on their way to the Henry Hudson and on to the George Washington Bridge. I walked east to Columbus, and headed north. The Columbus Square mega-residential development between Columbus and Amsterdam and between 97th and 100th Streets, has brought in a series of high-end shopping destinations along this stretch of Columbus. In addition to the Whole Foods, Sephora, Petco, and Starbucks already there, Crumbs cupcakes will be reopening here within a month.
Turning east on 100th, I walked to the beginning of Manhattan Avenue. The topography of the island of Manhattan is not a perfect rectangle, although we have imposed a grid of streets on most of it. This disparity occasionally leads to extra streets in some areas, and Manhattan Avenue appears between Central Park West and Columbus beginning at W. 100th Street, and continuing well into Harlem. The super block developments created by Park West Village and the Frederick Douglass Houses prevent cars from using this area as a way to cut crosstown, making it noticeably quiet. The blocks between 104th and 106th are simply gorgeous rows of townhouses, reminding me strongly of the beautiful peaceful townhouse blocks near Prospect Park in Brooklyn.
Turning east again on 106th, I walked to Central Park West, appreciating the view of 455 Central Park West. Formerly the New York Cancer Hospital, this property has quite an interesting history. This was the first cancer treatment facility in the country, created with money raised by John Jacob Astor and others after former president Ulysses S. Grant discovered he had throat cancer. They built a beautiful chateau, which looked more like a museum of art than a hospital (the rounded towers were created as a state-of-the-art medical feature to prevent germs building up in sharp corners), and it continued on this site until the mid-20th Century. The developers of this property restored the chateau into condominium apartments, and added a modern tower behind it with unimpeded Central Park views. Walking north on Central Park West to 110th, and turning west, I was now on Cathedral Parkway and had to finish this derive with a nod to our spectacular Cathedral of St. John the Divine, which I will discuss in more depth in a future derive in Morningside Heights.
I loved spending time in this neighborhood. For someone looking for a home with the feel of the Upper West Side or near New York’s jewel, Central Park, this area offers significant value.