By: Magdalene Perez
As fast as the pace of change is in New York, perhaps no other part of the city is seeing transformation as rapidly as Manhattanville, a post-industrial neighborhood sandwiched between Columbia University and the upper reaches of Harlem's west side. Once a busy Hudson River port, today the old warehouses and rusted viaducts are being replaced by apartments, restaurants and -- most significantly -- Columbia University's planned 17-acre expansion.
Fearing the threat of eminent domain, longtime black and Hispanic residents have taken issue with Columbia's plan to build dorms, classrooms and common areas in this riverside neighborhood. But others, already used to the mix of students from both Columbia and the CUNY's City College, are more welcoming of the change.
"It's good for the barrio," said Jose Perez, 29, a Manhattanville resident for 10 years. "Because the community will grow."
Perez, among other neighbors, predicted that the continued influx of young residents could be what this long-depressed neighborhood needs to finally drive out what's left of delinquency and drugs. In other parts of the neighborhood, the signs of gentrification and renewal can already be seen: West Harlem Piers between 125th and 132nd streets, once nicknamed "viaduct valley," recently underwent a major facelift and now provides green space for running and cycling.
Meanwhile, Columbia has tried to soothe the neighborhood's jitters, promising not to use eminent domain to push out locals without compensation. If the school's proposed rezoning plan -- backed by Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer -- is approved, half the controversial project will be finished by 2015.
There are plenty of rentals in Manhattanville, many priced cheaply because of rent control or income caps, but no matter where you rent in the area, don't expect to stay much longer than two or three years. By that time, Columbia plans to raze most of the area for new development. For now, expect one-bedrooms to start at about $1,700 and two-bedrooms to range from $2,200 to $3,000, depending on quality, said Mark D. Friedman, a real estatebroker for Halstead Property.
But while the rental market remains heated, buyers who want to plop down money for a mortgage when Columbia is expected to displace residents in a few years are fewer and farther between.
"Most people are staying away from that area right now because of what's going on," Friedman said. "I would say that it's an area that you would want to rent instead of buy."
Hunting for an apartment within Manhattanville boundaries can take some digging. But look on the outskirts -- south near Morningside Heights or North near Hamilton Heights -- and you may just uncover a diamond in the rough.
Hudson River view studio with security and on-site laundromat: $1,177
One-bedroom covering a whole floor in West 132nd Street brownstone: $1,700
Three-bedroom, one-bath with dining room and skylights on top floor at West 123rd Street: $3,300
One-bedroom, one-and-half bath in renovated elevator building at 307 W. 126th St.: $496,186
One-bedroom, two-bathroom in new 122nd Street condo: $950,000
Five-room apartment with two bedrooms, one bath on West 122nd Street: $500,000
Two-bedroom, one-bathroom co-op on West 122nd Street near Amsterdam, 1,000 square-feet: $799,000
Eight-room apartment with four bedrooms and two baths at 501 W. 122nd St.:$1,065,800
To Eat With college students at every turn, many good eats in Manhattanville are to be had at reasonable prices. International flavors abound, from Cuban sandwiches to authentic Mexican tacos. And for those who value atmosphere as much as a good meal, new Riverside hangouts bring a touch of celebrity chef styling to the mix.
Forget going downtown for great Italian; this cozy restaurant serves up pasta to match the best of 'em. Highlights include oricchette broccoli rabe ($10) and house meatballs over polenta ($11).
125 La Salle St.
Dishing out Cuban sandwiches, crispy tostones, ropa vieja and other authentic Cuban dishes, this diner provides an ample meal at a cheap price. And don't skip the papaya shakes or freshly made coffee, also delicious bargains.
A Syracuse transplant with the same back-road feel as its upstate counterpart, Dinosaur piles on the ribs and brisket with a dash of tasty sides like Creole shrimp, fried green tomatoes and mac and cheese. But don't show up without reservations. There's often as much as an hour wait at dinner or brunch.
646 W. 131st St.
The Hudson River Café
This old mechanics shop on the Hudson viaduct now has two levels of prime patio seating. Opened this spring under chef Ricardo Cardona, the roomy cafe serves a seafood-centric menu starring calamari salad, lobster rolls and mix-and-match grill options.
697 W. 133rd St.
This Hamilton Heights joint only recently reopened sans liquor license (BYOB for now), but locals are already raving about the crab dip ($8), tapas and seafood. Meatballs with sauce are $7, and catfish fillet is only a slightly pricier $15.
The River Room
A hike out of Manhattanville to this white tablecloth restaurant is worth the effort. Situated on the water's edge in Riverbank State Park, this elegant eatery offers floor-to-ceiling views of the George Washington Bridge, one of the most beautiful pieces of Manhattan architecture to see at night. The menu: "A fusion of Southern, Caribbean and Latin American influences," according to the restaurant.
Riverbank State Park
Park entrance at 145th Street and Riverside Drive
If happy hour is what you're looking for, this neighborhood dive outdoes the competition with $2.50 pints and $3 well drinks. A good selection of beer, and a menu that adds feta sandwiches to the usual bar fare keeps the college crowd toasting to another round.
Jazz lovers can get their music fix at this legendary Harlem club, a jazz hotspot since 1942. With a friendly staff, no cover and just a two-drink minimum, there's nothing to distract from the grooves.
375 W. 125th St.
From Guinness to Weihenstephaner Weiss, this Irish pub has a beer list to rival any in the city. And if all that drinking makes your tummy rumble, the well-rounded bar menu features ½-pound burgers made to order and served on a toasted bun. Yum.
485 Amsterdam Ave.
Studio Museum of Harlem
A Harlem gem, this contemporary art museum is devoted to showing the latest and most innovative work by African-American, Caribbean and African artists. Explore the permanent collection, which dates back to the museum's founding in 1968, or check out one of the constantly updated special exhibitions.
144 W. 125th St.
The Gatehouse Theater
Housed in a former water pumping station that looks like a fort, this 192-seat performance space for Harlem Stage/Aaron Davis Hall opened in 2006. A hefty $21 million was spent to open the theater, the first to debut in Harlem in decades. Expect experimental, modern performances in the company's repertoire, such as "Chapel/Chapter" by choreographer Bill T. Jones.
150 Convent Ave.
Who's buried in Grant's tomb? Well, General Ulysses S. Grant, of course, and the Civil War hero's wife as well. Erected in 1897 in Riverside Park, the granite and marble mausoleum is the largest in North America. Visit the memorial to our country's 18th president free of charge any day of the week. Summer hours keep the towering classical dome open 9 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. through August.
Riverside Park at 122nd Street
Aunt Meriam's of Harlem
Filled with African-American bric-a-brac, memorabilia, books and African art spanning the 18th to 20th centuries, this antiques shop brings together some of the most interesting items from many a Harlem grandmother's collection.
435 West 125th St.
Greenmarket Farmer's Market
Buy everything from fresh apples and pumpkins to orchids direct from the grower in front of Columbia University every Thursday and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. The sellers accept EBT cards, and even better, show up year-round.
Broadway at 115th Street
The Harlem outpost of this Tokyo-based sneaker shop keeps the sneaker-heads drooling. From custom-made Nikes to limited-edition kicks designed by the world's top street artists, this store has it all.
203 W. 125th St.
The Buzz Columbia University has eased some fears of its 17-acre expansion plan by promising to help relocate the residents of 132 apartments in seven walkup buildings to equal or better housing, but the specter of eminent domain remains for local businesses.
Nick Sprayregen, owner of Tuck-It-Away self storage, has led the charge in resisting the plan, calling the development a "land grab" of the "most extreme type." After three years of fighting the expansion, the giant "Stop Columbia" banners hanging on his brick warehouse at 131st Street and Broadway -- visible from the elevated 1 train -- have become a permanent part of the landscape.
Crime: The 26th Precinct, which includes Manhattanville and Morningside Heights, experienced one murder, two rapes, and 112 robberies through Aug. 5, compared to no murders, seven rapes and 134 robberies during the same period last year.
Schools: St. Joseph School (PK-8), 168 Morningside Ave.; P.S. 125 Ralph Bunche School (1-6), 425 W. 123rd St; P.S. 36 Margaret Douglas School (PK-2), 123 Morningside Drive; A. Philip Randolph Campus High School (9-12), 433 W. 135th St.; Kipp Infinity Charter School (5-6), 625 W. 133 St.
Post Offices: Manhattanville, 365 W. 125th St.; College Station, 217 W. 140th St.
Banks: Citibank, 1310 Amsterdam Ave.; Chase, 322 W. 125th St.; Bank of America, 215 W. 125th St.
Wednesday, August 22, 2007