Things are changing in “El Barrio.”
Over the past two years, East Harlem — also known as Spanish Harlem with a predominantly Puerto Rican, Dominican and Mexican diaspora — has slowly become more gentrified.
According to a plan put forward by the city late last year, the area might potentially be undergoing rezoning that would bring more retail stores and restaurants.
And with that comes new residents. Agents have noted that a number of first-time buyers are purchasing properties in the neighborhood because it is relatively affordable compared to the rest of Manhattan, and the presence of the 4,5 and 6 train service make connectivity to downtown Manhattan, and the Bronx easy.
“I’ve had doctors, fashion designers, bankers, and educators as clients. The one thing they have in common is they are seeking good value and a great location,” says Juan Rosado, a real estate agent with Citi Habitats. “In East Harlem you are never too far from the action.”
Rechelle Balanzat, a 31-year-old entrepreneur, who owns Juliette Laundry, an on-demand mobile app for laundry services, will be moving into the neighborhood in March. “It’s much more affordable,” says the current Nolita resident, adding, “Unlike the hustle and bustle of downtown, it’s very quiet here and I love visiting the bodegas and local restaurants.”
The neighborhood is a mix of residential and commercial properties. Along East 116th street, between 2nd and 3rd avenues, Mexican, Puerto Rican and Dominican eateries, cafes and taco carts line the sidewalks.
Although there are luxury properties like One Museum Mile and 1399 Park Avenue, regular market rate housing and public housing are also available in the neighborhood. Along East 111th Street, between Park Avenue and Madison Avenue, a strip of affordable housing is coming up soon and recently, a 400-unit building with affordable housing was approved on Lexington Avenue, between East 107th and 108th.
Still the influx of new development means unwanted change for others.
“The rent prices for stores and homes are going up and people are moving out, to places like the Bronx says Pedro Ramos, who helps fun his family’s Mexican grocery store, El Agave, on East 116th street, near 2nd avenue. “We used to own a store across the street for about 11 years. But the rent went up way too high and we had to move out. Now we rent this space for our store.”
“The vast majority of residential buildings in East Harlem are multi-family. It’s a mix between older walk-up buildings and new elevator rental and condo developments,” says Rosado. According to him, the further east the apartment is from Lexington Avenue, the lower its costs.
“Prices vary greatly, but resale wise apartments usually sell for around $800-950 per square foot,” said Matthew Cohen, a real estate salesperson at CORE.
“In addition, pricing both for rentals and sales is less expensive in East Harlem than it is in the west side of Harlem.”