7 Reasons Why I Love Living in Uptown New York City

February 20, 2015

in exploring, family, new york, new york city, parks

New York is not my city.

I think the prime age at which I would have really enjoyed and taken advantage of this city has passed. Bright-eyed 22-year-old? I’d have owned this joint. Even the 27-year-old who almost chose to move to the Big Apple instead of going to Australia would have done all right here.

Now well into my 30s, my life is so different than it was just five years ago. I am not out sipping $20 cocktails on weeknights, attending networking events or taking a SoulCycle class. Still, the version of Manhattan life Brendan and I have carved out for ourselves and our young son is not so bad, even if it lacks some flash. We’ve distanced ourselves from the areas in which our 20-something selves would have played. Instead, we decided to live in uptown New York City.

It’s like a dirty word to some people who think anything above 100th Street is a waste of time. It’s true uptown doesn’t have as many options for restaurants and bars, music or other entertainment as places like the East Village do. But is has so much more–at least for a married mother in her early 30s. Here’s why I love living in uptown New York City.

The A Train

It’s criminal to start this list with a train line. But after living in Harlem where the only options were the local B and C, having this express line means I spend about the same time commuting all the way from the 190s to Midtown East as I did when I lived at 114th Street. Nothing feels as good as going from 125th Street all the way to 59th Street. Nothing. And because I live near the beginning of the line, I can almost always get a seat on the A even in weekday rush-hour.

The Subway Stations

Yes, this deserves a separate category from the A train. Why? Because you do not see subway stations like this anywhere else in Manhattan. In fact, my subway stop even made a TimeOut list of coolest subway stations. The stations in Hudson Heights are encased in stone structures and don’t have the round green post that indicates subway entrances elsewhere in Manhattan. They have Art Deco design elements, and the “Subway” signs are lit by green-glass, stenciled letters; the 190th Street station has, perhaps, the last freestanding subway lamp stanchion in the city. These subway stations are the last whose construction was overseen by Squire J. Vickers, the New York City Subway System’s chief architect for 36 years.

181st subway station

Oh, and there are elevators–and some of them are even staffed. Meaning someone actually sits in a blocked off corner of the elevator pressing the buttons for you while he simultaneously does a Crossword puzzle. Whaaaat?! It’s because my hood is home to the highest natural point in Manhattan, so they had to build the subways deep. In fact, both of the stations near me are two of the deepest in the MTA system.

Art Deco and Tudor Design

Nowhere in Manhattan are there more Art Deco buildings than there are in Hudson Heights. You can see it in the entrances, gates, even fire escapes. The Pelham family is responsible for designing some of the major Tudor buildings in the area, such as the Castle Village complex, built in the 1930s and which includes five buildings on Cabrini Boulevard overlooking the Hudson.

Art deco building in NYC Tudor building in NYC

Little Libraries

Outside Hudson Heights coffee shops, the subway stations and Bennett Park are “little” libraries where you can swap stories at a small bookcase (they’re often covered with a plastic tarp in the rain). If you leave a book, you can take a book. Super cute, convenient and cheap.

Outdoor bookcase NYC Outdoor bookcase NYC Outdoor bookcase NYC

Fort Tryon

We lived blocks from Central Park when we first moved here. I thought there was no better park in the city. Wrong. Fort Tryon is different in look, feel and size to CP, but it offers its own beauty with its small flower garden and tree cover. It’s less crowded than CP even in summer and provides good trails for walking, running or pushing a stroller which is how I started to explore the park last summer. Plus, its views of the Hudson can’t be beat.

Fort Tryon garden path Hudson River from Fort Tryon Baby carriage Hudson River from Fort Tryon

Authentic Dominican Food

This is terrible, but while my area boasts many authentic Dominican eateries (Washington Heights and neighboring Inwood, the last neighborhood in Manhattan, have more than 100,000 Dominican residents), I haven’t been to a single one. I’ll get around to it. But if you’re up my way, check out this self-guided Dominican eating tour put together by Edible Manhattan.

Good Bars Where You Can Actually Get a Seat

Buddha Beer Bar, District 12 and Inwood Local boast bountiful selections of craft brews and eats. The newly opened Tryon Public is a classy joint with a limited but good rotation of craft beers and a food menu. Plus, they are all kid-friendly (well, until 9 o’clock, when all children in New York bars turn into pumpkins).

I love being an Uptown girl. It’s the perfect speed for where I am in my life right now. I invite anyone who’s skeptical to hop on the A train one weekend day (in the spring, when it’s not 6 degrees out) and check us out.

33 Comments - Add Yours!

  1. Meg U

    I love your neighborhood. I feel like I walked into the cover of The Great Gatsby. Sipping margaritas at 2pm with you was a huge bonus. 😉

    Reply
  2. kathee fritsky

    great article lauren. i love your area and the park. i think it fits you and brendan right now.and yes the views of the hudson are beautiful.enjoy your stay there.

    Reply
  3. Annette

    I was really digging this piece about uptown Manhattan until you proceded to call Washington Heights, “Hudson Heights”. While the author may not understand the implications of that name, it still rubbed me the wrong way. Hudson Heights is a nomer that real estate agents at Stein Perry came up with to disassociate the “affluent” more gentrified area of Washington Heights, west of Broadway. Then came the real doozie for me: the author cited Dominican food as a reason to live Uptown and then admitted to not having eaten at one. I suspect that has something to do with not wanting to cross over into the Heights. Cross over to the dark side to taste the rice and beans and actually benefit from living “uptown”. I am sure you will be pleasantly surprised by your Dominican neighbors. Sincerely, a girl born and raised in WASHINGTON HEIGHTS.

    Reply
    1. Lauren Post author

      Hi Annette — Thanks for reading and commenting. I assure you I will one day eat at a Dominican restaurant. There are scores of places we haven’t yet ventured to, mostly because our lives are currently dictated by an infant. When we moved here, our son was 2.5 months-old, so we were a bit limited in where we took him. But now that our baby is older and when the weather is nicer, we will be endeavoring to explore what we haven’t yet experienced uptown, restaurants, culture, history, nature — all of it.

      Reply
    2. SF

      I have lived in this neighborhood for over six years and have heard that about the real estate agents naming one part “Hudson Heights”, but I have also read that is not true, that is was called “Hudson Heights” for a long time – perhaps the German Jews who settled after the war started calling it that? I am not sure what the name history is. Anyway, what’s wrong with delineating a certain area? There’s East Harlem, Central Harlem, West Harlem, East Village, West Village, Meatpacking, and all the neighborhoods of Brooklyn, Queens and everywhere. Plus, Hudson Heights is on the highest point of Washington Heights, and all of Manhattan. Why not call it something different?

      Re: Dominican food – some people just don’t like that type of food. I rarely eat Dominican – I don’t like rice/beans and chicken, etc. Don’t be so defensive! The diversity of the area is what makes it great. I am glad I don’t like in Brooklyn Heights 🙂

      Reply
      1. Ellen

        I grew up on Cabrini Blvd. in Washington Heights in the 50’s and 60’s and it was not called Hudson Heights. Annette is correct that it is a creation of real estate agents. I laughed the first time I saw my neighborhood re-named in order to sell apartments.

        Reply
        1. Lauren Post author

          It’s definitely a term that has caught on, I will say that I now say I live in Washington Heights when people ask.

          Reply
    1. Lauren Post author

      Hi Dannielle — It can definitely be a tough city. Commuting downtown is one of the parts I don’t like about NYC. A lot of rudeness, roughness — all unnecessary. But there are a lot of positives in the diversity, all there is to do, the uniqueness. I wish you luck in finding the city (or town, or farm, or wherever) that’s for you.

      Reply
  4. Matthew

    I live in this area and try so hard to convince friends and family that it is one of the best areas of NYC (and that Central Park can’t hold a candle to Fort Tryon), not to mention that it has some awesome restaurants (R.I.P. Rusty Mackerel). Everyone I talk to just thinks it’s too far away to bother with. Too bad for them.

    Reply
    1. Lauren Post author

      Matthew, I was totally bummed about the Rusty Mackerel! In a way, the more people don’t want to come here, it keeps the area’s charm for us. Thanks for reading.

      Reply
    1. Lauren Post author

      Thanks Ross! And I totally will check out the park! That’s great to know. I can’t wait for nicer weather 🙂

      Reply
  5. Luigy

    Great article! Almost creepy to read and I’ll tell you why…I am writing this comment from Victoria, Aus, as an expat looking to live with my partner who lives here. And where did I come from? Yup, Inwood! I’ve lived in this neighborhood all my life (until about a month ago) and I truly do miss it. I miss Inwood and Fort Tryon parks, the Nomat Book Club shelves (the one I frequented was in front of Good Shepherd Church), the awesome multi-ethnic food (I’m of Dominican descent!) and overall the feel of the neighborhood. It’s like no other. So thank you for writing this article and reminding me how awesome my ‘hood is! Can’t wait to bring my partner home for a visit sometime soon. Cheers!

    Reply
    1. Lauren Post author

      Wow, Luigy, that’s incredible! How do you like Australia? Are you trying to be added a de facto spouse to your partner’s visa? I still miss Oz, but New York definitely has a lot of benefits that Australia doesn’t (much more diverse, the multi-ethnic food at your disposal, and much of it so good and cheap, how different all the neighborhoods can be). I hope everything works out for you there!

      Reply
  6. RoseAnn

    We moved here to be close to one of our grandchildren, the other being on the west coast. I grew up in the Bronx, and went to LaGuardia, so I had friends from all 5 boroughs, including here, upstate Manhattan! When reminiscing about the old days, we talk about the newer name for this specific neighborhood, Hudson Heights, and everyone is well aware that it was a marketing concept. Back in the 70’s, when we were in high school, my friend’s apartment, in this very neighborhood, was broken into several times, so what’s in a name? Now all of the Heights has a record low crime rate. That’s what matters. Ironically, now I am a real estate agent at Halstead, which is where the original Stein -Perry group was. We proudly refer to our neighborhood as Washington Heights, and that includes 155th to the northern end of Fort Tryon Park. Nice blog post. I think it’s a great place to live, at any age.

    Reply
    1. Lauren Post author

      It’s interesting about the naming convention and the discussion it brings about. Before I had heard that it was a real estate-driven term, I thought it was named Hudson Heights because of the river. But you’re right, what matters more is that this whole area is a great, affordable (for now!) place to live with a lot more space in the apartments and open outdoor areas than you can get elsewhere right now. It seems like a great place both to raise a family and retire. Thanks for reading and commenting RoseAnn.

      Reply
  7. Eileen

    Thanks for this post; this is so helpful! I’m going to be moving into the area within the next couple of months, and I’m so excited, especially for the little libraries (what a great idea!). I agree about NYC being unnecessarily rough, but the neighborhood seems like a diamond in the rough. See you around!

    Reply
    1. Lauren Post author

      That’s amazing, Aileen, you are going to love it, especially in the spring/summer. So many cute parks, cafes and places to eat.

      Reply
    2. Lauren Post author

      Great to hear you are moving to the area, it’s great and growing. You will love it in the spring.

      Reply
  8. Carina Cooper

    Thanks so much for posting, Lauren! I have lived in Brooklyn since 2011, before that 2 years on Upper West side (104th street)…loved it! We are now looking for an apt to buy in Hudson Heights, love the area…surronded by nature, pretty far up on the map, but like you are saying, the A train takes everywhere in no time. Prices are still pretty reasonable in comparsion, but maybe not for long…?
    I was very skeptical at first…but love it more every time I visit! Where do you grocery shop? I know that Whole Foods is opening on 125th very soon…Any farm to markets during the weekends? Maybe I see you around! Thanks again, Lauren!

    Reply
    1. Lauren Post author

      Hi Carina — So happy to see your comment! I would say in the almost two years I’ve lived here, it seems prices for real estate have gone up. We are keeping our eye out too but don’t feel we are in a position to buy. Plus where we rent right now would allow our son, if we stay, to go to PS 187 which is a decent school. We have the advantage of two grocery stores right at 187, Frank’s and Associated (though the landlord wants to try to sell to Walgreens). There is also Key Foods down on Broadway which I like better than either store near me, it’s just a bit of a walk. I think there are a few farmers’ markets but more in the Inwood section. I haven’t been to any. Feel free to drop me an email with any questions and if you move into the hood–would love to grab a coffee 🙂

      Reply
  9. Courtney

    Hi Lauren, I really enjoyed reading your post. I’m relocating back to the east coast for work after a 5 year hiatus living on the West Coast. A broker recommened I look for an apartment in Inwood. He said it’s perfect for a single girl in her late 20’s with a large breed dog (aka renter suicide!!). I was skeptical at first because all of my friends live in Brooklyn and are trying to get me to move that direction, but after reading your blog I think Inwood could be the perfect gem of a neighborhood I’m looking for! Wish me luck on the apartment hunt!

    Reply
    1. Lauren Post author

      Hi Courtney! Glad you find this post and welcome to the neighborhood 🙂 I totally feel you on the pressure to move to Brooklyn. Brooklyn is great and diverse in terms of the different neighborhoods, but it’s crowded and expensive. I really think Inwood is on a slow crawl to being a booming area and that it is wise to invest there if you can (we have toyed with buying an apartment there). It’s still true to its roots which is a breath of fresh air. Good luck in your hunt! Sounds like you have a smart broker 🙂

      Reply
  10. Mary

    Thank you for your post Lauren! I’m currently considering living in the area you wrote about Hudson Heights or Washington Heights -whichever term is preferred, and your writing is helping me make the decision. I’m moving from Washington DC which has a lot of green space and more quiet streets, and it sound like this area might be a good match for me.
    I hope you continue to write about the neighborhood!
    Mary

    Reply
    1. Lauren Post author

      Hi Mary — Thanks so much for stopping by and reading! I have not written much about the area since then but I got so many comments on this post that I will think about some other related topics to post. I wish you the best of luck in your move.

      Reply
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