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A renter’s guide to Hamilton Heights

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Everything you need to know about renting in this upper Manhattan neighborhood

Hamilton Heights from above.
Max Touhey

Wedged between Manhattanville and Washington Heights is Hamilton Heights, which runs from 135th to 155th streets along the Henry Hudson Parkway. Once home to the likes of Duke Ellington, Ralph Ellison, and (duh) Alexander Hamilton, the neighborhood’s longstanding African American and Hispanic communities have been joined, in recent years, by college students from nearby City College and Columbia University, as well as an influx of young families.

“I get a lot of people, a lot of executives, calling me [about Hamilton Heights],” Gilad Azaria, a real estate agent with Douglas Elliman, says. “I’m getting a lot of families.”

The neighborhood’s proximity to Columbia is a draw, Azaria says, as is its ease of transportation. The neighborhood is serviced by the 1, A, B, C, and D trains, which makes getting downtown fairly painless; for folks with cars, the Henry Hudson Parkway can get you to midtown in half an hour. While crime has been an issue in the area, Azaria says “it’s very safe now.”

Still, Hamilton Heights hasn’t quite been overtaken by the forces of gentrification (“We’re pretty far from that point,” Azaria says) and the luxury high-rises and condos that seem to have enveloped neighboring West Harlem haven’t quite made it on the scene, which means rents are still comparatively low. If any of that sounds appealing, read on.

Rental units

Pricey luxury developments are still a few years off from overtaking Hamilton Heights (though not by much), so for now, much of the neighborhood’s available housing stock consists of gut-renovated apartments in pre-war buildings. This means that amenities are limited, but that keeps rents low.

“In order to keep it affordable, you cannot have the doorman,” Azaria says. You’ll still get some of the good stuff in higher priced buildings, like The Westbourne at 611 West 137th Street. “You have a virtual doorman. You do have an elevator. You have all the amenities,” Azaria says. “You have a gym. You have a media room, for example. You have children’s playroom. But the only thing you don’t have is the extra luxury that you’d end up paying for.”

Not every building is jacked up—there are also historic townhouses, stripped-down elevator buildings, and multi-family walk-ups available, too.

Rent range

“It’s affordable,” says Azaria. “It’s not overpriced.” In Hamilton Heights, a typical renovated one bedroom runs about $2,400; two-bedroom apartments go for around $3,000/month, per Azaria, and three- or four-bedrooms run around $4,000/month.

But you can find cheaper listings on StreetEasy: There are one-bedrooms around $1,600/month, and there are some three-bedrooms going for around $2,500/month.

Hamilton Grange in St. Nicholas Park.

Neighborhood highlights

As previously mentioned, the readily available transportation options and proximity to a number of parks and academic institutions are big perks in Hamilton Heights. The neighborhood is bookended by St. Nicholas Park (home to Hamilton Grange) to the east and Riverside Park, which runs along the Hudson River, to the west. Riverbank State Park, home to an Olympic-size pool and a roller skating rink, is also close by. You’ll also find gorgeous architecture—beautiful olf townhouses in particular—on Convent Avenue and Hamilton Terrace.

There are also a number of popular eateries, like Harlem Public, the Grange Bar & Eatery, and ROKC, in addition to popular coffee shops like the Chipped Cup. And while a couple of big chains exist in the neighborhood, much of the local retail consists of mom & pop shops, a rarity in Manhattan.

Most expensive area

Buildings with more amenities (gyms, laundry, etc.) will charge more for rent, but if you live near a subway stop, you also may pay more for your place. “It’s building by building. It’s about what’s more convenient,” Azaria says. Even if subway-adjacent apartments don’t cost more, they will likely “rent quicker,” Azaria says.

What to look out for before signing a lease

Since neighborhood real estate is only just now embarking on an upward climb, landlords are still looking for ways to keep renters in units. This makes it a lot easier for prospective tenants to negotiate for two-year leases.

“We like [renters] to stay for the long-term,” Azaria says. “We don’t like them to come in and out, and disappear. We like to create a neighborhood, so we’re trying to offer even longer leases, because we want to keep them.” Landlords are also starting to offer concessions like one to two month’s rent free to get tenants into units, so come prepared to negotiate.

Sample rentals

Inside a two-bedroom rental at 750 Riverside Drive.
Keller Williams NYC

561 West 149th Street: On the non-luxury end of things is a one-bedroom on 149th Street, asking $1,875/month. The listing doesn’t give too much away—it has hardwood floors, a brand new kitchen, and a full bedroom—but the price is right, and it’s close to hotspots like Harlem Public.

542 West 153rd Street: A two-bedroom at Perch Harlem, the neighborhood’s new passive house rental, is going for $2,990/month. The apartment has all of the perks of a passive building—swanky windows that help keep the apartment cool, energy-efficient appliances, and the like—along with access to a roof deck and concierge services.

750 Riverside Drive: A two-bedroom in this Riverside Drive condo building comes with river views, a massive kitchen with an eat-in island, a dishwasher, and an updated bathroom. Located between the 157th and 145th street 1 train stations, the building has limited amenities, though it does have an elevator. The rent is $3,000/month, contingent on a two-year lease.

476 West 142nd Street: A renovated one-bed in this historic townhouse comes with central air-conditioning and a washer/dryer unit, in addition to a beautiful marble bathroom and a big kitchen. There’s also a private garden, outfitted with wrought iron gates and patio furniture, befitting the building’s 1920 build date. The rent is $3,950/month.