Where Harlem begins depends on who you ask and where in Manhattan you stand -- on the west side, Harlem runs from somewhere around 110th Street to the 158th Street border with Washington Heights; East Harlem begins at 96th Street and runs until Manhattan gives way to the Harlem River. What Harlem is, too, depends somewhat on your perspective -- the de facto capital of black history in New York on the west side and the Latin-American hub of El Barrio on the east, Harlem is too complicated to be reduced to a real estate nickname or a few words. One thing that everyone can agree on, though, is that Harlem -- east and west, north and south of 125th Street -- is on the rise. After a few difficult decades, one of Manhattan’s stateliest old neighborhoods is back, and home to a bumper crop of boutiques and markets, hot new restaurants and nightspots, blocks of meticulously renovated pre-war brownstones, and a wealth of new construction condominiums.
While official and unofficial landmarks abound in Harlem -- from the Apollo Theater to the townhouses of Striver’s Row -- the new Harlem condominiums function as Harlem landmarks of their own. Harlem’s demographics have changed notably during an ongoing real estate boom that saw property values surge 300 percent during the 1990s, but both Harlem and East Harlem have retained their distinctive culture and character. What made Harlem one of Manhattan’s most desirable residential neighborhoods a century ago -- elegant tree-lined blocks, copious green space from Central Park to Morningside Park, and a cultural life all its own -- remains in place, as well. Harlem’s history isn’t going anywhere, but the neighborhood itself is inarguably going places.