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How the Word ‘North’ Affects Prices

The New York Times // Nov 12, 2013

The moment Gary Davis popped his head out of the subway station on Central Park North and Lenox Avenue in 2004, he understood he was looking at an extraordinary spot. An architect and real estate developer, he had been invited to the block by a lawyer for the owner of a two-story corner building there, and though Mr. Davis recalls not being “very excited about Harlem,” he was quick to see the site’s potential. He then sent a photographer 120 feet above the street in a bucket attached to a crane arm; the resulting pictures showed breathtaking panoramic views of Central Park and miles beyond.

In 2007, 111 Central Park North, a 19-story glass-fronted luxury condominium, was opened on the site by the Athena Group, of which Mr. Davis was the executive vice president. He liked his surroundings so much that when the project was done, he bought a two-bedroom apartment on the seventh floor. (Although he declined to say what he paid, similar units were selling for around $1.4 million.)

“This is why I live here,” he said the other day, standing on his balcony and gesturing expansively at the park and the glorious cityscape of Manhattan, clear down to 1 World Trade Center. In the evenings, he said, the individual buildings on Central Park South soften into a purplish-gray mass whose craggy profile reminds him of the view of the Rocky Mountains from his childhood balcony in Denver.

Mr. Davis’s fellow residents on Central Park North are an eclectic bunch, even by New York standards. Along with regular folk like teachers, his neighbors on the three-block-long corridor include the Yankees outfielder Ichiro Suzuki, who rents a full-floor condo upstairs; L. Dennis Kozlowski, the former Tyco International chief executive convicted of grand larceny, conspiracy and fraud, who lives at the Lincoln Correctional Facility down the street; and the numerous ducks that ply the water of the Harlem Meer, some of which have nested on a terrace at No. 111. Just across Lenox is the Park View Hotel, sometimes a source of noise that has compelled neighbors to shut their windows in summer.

Willie Kathryn Suggs, a real estate broker who specializes in Harlem, says that No. 111 has provided the greatest lift to the area since the construction in the late 1980s of Towers on the Park, a mixed-income condo complex flanking West 110th Street west of Frederick Douglass Circle. At 201 Central Park North, a prewar building, a one-bedroom condo sold for $811 a square foot in May, a 20 percent jump from its sale price in 2004.

At 45 Central Park North, an income-restricted co-op, prices are lower, and bidding can get fierce. A three-bedroom on the second floor, listed in July at $469,000, attracted multiple offers above $500,000, said Mitchell Hall, an associate broker with the Corcoran Group.

Jason Stone, the winning bidder along with his wife, Meredith, said he imagined watching their son, now 19 months old, play hockey at Lasker Rink, which is visible from their windows. “I’ve been reading about uberluxury apartments on Central Park South where the developers are looking for $7,000 to $8,000 a square foot,” said Mr. Stone, a structural engineer. “For less than 10 percent of that, I have Central Park views as well.”

What You’ll Find
Central Park North, also called West 110th Street, is bookended by circles, each commanded by a monument to an African-American legend. At the park’s northwest corner, the abolitionist Frederick Douglass gazes northward up the gentrifying boulevard that bears his name. At the northeast corner, the jazz composer Duke Ellington looks east past One Museum Mile, a Fifth Avenue luxury condo designed by Robert A. M. Stern Architects, and toward a public housing development.

The uptown side of Central Park North is lined primarily by low-slung prewar apartments, many of them rent-stabilized. The street level of No. 111 is home to the Cooper-Hewitt Design Center, as well as a Dunkin’ Donuts.

The area’s population, historically dominated by blacks, has diversified at an even faster clip than Central Harlem as a whole. A 2007-to-2011 census survey estimated that 6,489 people lived in an area comprising the blocks along northern Central Park and a small wedge of land running north from there to 114th Street west of Lenox. Half of these residents were black, a 17 percent drop since 2000. In that time, the white population nearly quadrupled, to 19 percent; the share of Asians grew to 5 percent; that of Hispanics dropped slightly, to 23 percent.

But long before the gentrification of the 1990s, Central Park North was known as a more stable strip than the streets above it, said Larry Young, a Central Park North resident who grew up on 111th in the 1960s. Mr. Young, a program director for a nonprofit, recalled that back then kids from 111th or 112th played football in the street against 110th Street kids, whom he describes as typically better educated, with parents in better jobs, often the Civil Service.

Later, into the early ’80s, when Harlem in general grew more troubled, “drugs didn’t go so much in that part of town,” he said of Central Park North. “The families were more together, and even now it’s family-oriented.”

Residents often say that Central Park feels like their backyard. The street lacks the crowds and traffic of counterpart boulevards on its other sides, and at the Farmers’ Gate at Lenox Avenue and the Warriors’ Gate at Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard, the park throws its arms open wide.

“I never feel it’s garbagey, and I never feel unsafe; it’s just picturesque,” said Ellen Anthony-Moore, a professor who has lived on Central Park North since 1999. “There are a lot of international families and a lot of people from Columbia University, and it just feels very down-to-earth.”

What You’ll Pay
Inventory is low — a search on Streeteasy.com found just two units for sale and five for rent.

No units have changed hands this year at 111 Central Park North; in 2012, three-bedrooms there traded for an average of $1,100 a square foot. At No. 201, a first-floor condo sold in July for $629 a square foot.

“People are paying a premium to live on that street,” said Chuck Newman, an agent at Reliance Realty Partners. But rental prices are wildly variable. Two-bedrooms in No. 111 are commanding $7,000 to $7,900 a month — “downtown prices” — said Jeffrey Berger of Isen & Company, a real estate advisory firm. At No. 125, a two-bedroom was listed at $4,000. But in some buildings, three-bedrooms can be had for $3,000.

What to Do
Restaurants and lounges like Bier International and 67 Orange Street have popped up on Frederick Douglass Boulevard, filling a neighborhood need.

The Conservatory Garden, whose chrysanthemums are a riot of color in fall, is a short walk.

Weeping willows overhang the sinuous shores of the Harlem Meer; Canada geese frequent its waters, and children fish with poles and bait provided free at the Charles A. Dana Discovery Center. Two playgrounds are nestled near Central Park North.

At the Harlem Meer Performance Festival each summer, picnickers enjoy jazz and other music. Nearby, Lasker Rink becomes a public pool in the summer.

The Schools
Some students are zoned for Public School 185 on West 112th Street, for prekindergarten through second grade, and P.S. 208 on West 111th, for Grades 3 through 5. Both scored Bs on their most recent city progress reports.
The Frederick Douglass Academy II Secondary School on West 114th serves Grades 6 through 12. SAT averages at the high school in 2012 were 356 in reading, 379 in math and 361 in writing, versus 434, 461 and 430 citywide.

The Commute
The financial district is about 35 minutes away on the 2 or 3 train, both of which stop at 110th and Lenox. The B and C stop at Frederick Douglass Circle; both reach Midtown in 15 to 20 minutes.

The History
The Lincoln Correctional Facility was built in 1914 as a Young Women’s Hebrew Association home for immigrants. Its roof, now caged, once had a garden, according to the Jewish Women’s Archive.

Original Article: The New York Times