So, I had decided that My Apartment—if it existed at all—was likely to be found on Cabrini Boulevard in Hudson Heights. A little background is in order, as even lifelong New Yorkers might not have heard of the neighborhood or the street.
Hudson Heights is the area bounded by 181st Street, Broadway, Fort Tryon Park, and the Hudson River. Like a number of Manhattan neighborhoods, the name is an invention of the real estate industry (think TriBeCa, NoLITa).
Historically, all of Upper Manhattan north of Harlem—that is, north of 155th Street was called Washington Heights. Brokers created the name “Hudson Heights” in around the mid-1990s, to create a separate identity for a neighborhood that was considerably more upscale, and less crime-ridden, than Washington Heights as a whole.
At the western edge of Hudson Heights is Cabrini Boulevard, formerly known as Northern Avenue. Some realtors call it the Park Avenue of Washington Heights. Most of the buildings along Cabrini Boulevard between 181st Street and 192nd Street are co-ops or condos. Many of them are built in the art deco style that pervades Washington Heights buildings from the ca. 1930s. The buildings on the western edge of Cabrini Boulevard all have unobstructed panoramic views of the Hudson River, the George Washington Bridge, and the Palisades.
At the northern end of Cabrini Boulevard is Fort Tryon Park, located on the site of a 1776 Revolutionary War battle between the 2,400-man Continental Army and 8,000 Hessian troops. (The Hessians won.) In 1917, John D. Rockefeller, Jr., purchased the site and hired Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., whose father had designed Central Park, to design a similar park for Upper Manhattan. There are 67 acres of winding pathways, with spectacular riverviews. The Cloisters, an outpost of the Metropolitan Museum of Art dedicated to medieval art, is located within the park’s boundaries.
No one would call Hudson Heights a culinary magnet, but a number of respectable restaurants have appeared in the area. The New Leaf Cafe, in Fort Tryon Park, is listed in the Michelin Guide. Most of the other restaurants are concentrated on either 187th or 181st Street. 181st Street is home to the only Starbucks above Harlem.
On the map, Hudson Heights appears to be a long distance from midtown. But due to the unusually wide spacing of the express stops on the A Train, it is actually only a 20-25 minute ride, and seven stops, from 190th Street to Times Square.
The uptown “A” subway stations themselves, unfortunately, are in deplorable condition. They are safe, but haven’t been maintained since they were built in the 1930s. At 190th Street, the platforms are 240 feet below ground level. It is one of the few stations where you take an elevator to reach street level. The entrance to the 190th Street station, at the edge of Fort Tryon Park, was constructed at the same time as the park itself. A massive concrete and stone structure in the Tudor Revival style, it is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
Due to the psychological barrier of being so far uptown and the historically dubious reputation of the surrounding area in Washington Heights, apartments in Hudson Heights have always been priced well below comparable apartments downtown.
When I entered my criteria—a true 3 BR apartment $1 million in a safe Manhattan neighborhood near the subway—into various real estate search engines, Cabrini Boulevard was what kept coming back.
To be continued…