Living In: Fort George, Manhattan: Nosebleed Heights and Down-to-Earth Prices

Living In: Fort George, Manhattan: Nosebleed Heights and Down-to-Earth Prices

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Real-estate colonists, of course, can fan fears of gentrification, and among a population that is 77 percent Hispanic, according to the last census, there are signs a deep-seated culture may be changing. “The ethnic presence is diminishing fast,” said William Beltran, 50, who was born in Ecuador and spent more than three decades in Fort George, before moving to the Bronx.

292 WADSWORTH AVENUE A 1901 two-family townhouse with five bedrooms and four baths, listed at $1.75 million. 646-238-6261

Credit
Elias Williams for The New York Times

What once kept people from moving to Fort George, brokers say, was its association with drug crimes, which roiled Upper Manhattan in the 1980s and 1990s. But young buyers and renters priced out of Brooklyn and brand-name sections of Manhattan don’t know or care about that history, said Mr. Beltran, an agent for Douglas Elliman, who often works in Fort George: “They’re not afraid of the stigma, and they’re creating a new market.”

A once-sizable Jewish community has also faded away, said Babette Crain, who was born in the area in 1948 and has lived in Fort George since 1969. The kosher bakeries and butcher shops that Ms. Crain visited as a child on St. Nicholas Avenue, a main retail strip, are gone, she said. On Bogardus Place, she owns a two-bedroom postwar co-op. In 1993, it cost $100,000, said Ms. Crain, 68, who retired as an assistant vice president of a Midtown bank. A two-bedroom in her building recently sold for $480,000.

In many ways, however, Fort George feels remarkably intact, especially Fort Tryon Park. Ms. Crain, who hung out in the park as a teenager, feeds peanuts to cardinals and blue jays there today. “It is,” she said, “magnificent.”

What You’ll Find

Despite grumbling from some residents about the carving of Washington Heights into smaller neighborhoods, most agree that Fort George runs east of Broadway, from West 181st to Dyckman Street.

Low-lying along Broadway and on the blocks by Sherman and Nagle Avenues, the neighborhood is mostly stacked atop a ridge from which views are impressive, as along Laurel Hill Terrace, by a campus of Yeshiva University. On Wadsworth Terrace, one building’s foundation is propped up by an erector set of stilts. Other buildings are curved, like seashells, to fit winding streets.

But the architecture is mostly conventional. Most buildings, constructed in the 1920s and 1930s, are brick and no more than six stories, with front doors set back from the sidewalk in courtyards.





And most are available to let, not buy. Indeed, 94 percent of all homes are rentals, according to the census, versus 77 percent in Manhattan, though co-ops (like 37 Nagle Avenue) do exist, and there are a few condos as well (4260 Broadway, for example).

But new luxury housing is coming — like the Wadsworth, an eight-story, 98-unit residence being built on Wadsworth Avenue. Leo Tsimmer, a principal of Caerus Group, its developer, said he would decide soon whether the units, which run from studios to three-bedrooms, will be condos or rentals. “This is the last neighborhood,” Mr. Tsimmer said, “that has the peace and quiet, the greenery and the price-sensitivity.”

What You’ll Pay

With so few homes sold, sales data is of limited use, brokers say. But the broader area is on an upswing, according to Douglas Elliman, which has research that merges Fort George with Hudson Heights, a more affluent area to the west. In that combined market, the median sale price in the first quarter was about $538,000, the company said, up from $522,000 in the same quarter the year before.

Rents in Fort George start about $1,700 a month for one-bedrooms and $2,400 for two-bedrooms, said Robert Kleinbardt, the principal broker of New Heights Realty, adding that the pricier units are near Broadway.

The Vibe

La Casa Del Mofongo and Marisco Centro, both on St. Nicholas, are popular Dominican restaurants, while newcomers include Rue La Rue Cafe, at 4394 Broadway, a shrine to the television show “The Golden Girls.”

If upscale coffee shops presage change, Fort George is turning a page; a Filtered Coffee outpost opened in December in a former party supply store on Broadway. And next winter, it will be joined there by North End, a seven-kiosk food hall akin to the Gotham West Market in Midtown, said Jay Solomon, creative director of Sugar Hill Capital Partners, the building’s landlord.

160 WADSWORTH AVENUE, NO. 301 A two-bedroom, one-bath, gut-renovated and furnished condo, listed at $620,000. 646-320-0927

Credit
Elias Williams for The New York Times

Fort George’s rock-textured green spaces include Highbridge Park, where yellow blossoms freckled a winding path on a recent warm spring day.

The Schools

Many students are zoned for Public School 48, the Michael J. Buczek elementary school, named for a police officer killed about 20 blocks away during a drug arrest in 1988; it covers prekindergarten through fifth grade. On state exams during the 2015-16 school year, 18 percent of students there met standards in English, versus 39 percent citywide, while in math, 19 percent met standards, versus 40 percent citywide.

Intermediate School 143 on West 182nd Street, a zoned middle school, enrolled about 360 students last year. On last year’s state exams, 13 percent of students met standards in English, versus 37 percent citywide; 7 percent met standards in math, versus 32 percent citywide.

George Washington High School, a regal brick pile on Audubon Avenue, counts Harry Belafonte, Henry A. Kissinger and the baseball star Manny Ramirez among its former students. In the late 1990s, the city divided the school into four smaller versions under the same roof. The schools are the College Academy, where in 2015 the average SAT scores were 377 in reading, 367 in math and 363 in writing, versus 446, 467 and 442 citywide. At the High School for Media and Communications, the SAT averages were 381, 378 and 383, and at the High School for Law and Public Service, they were 394, 401 and 381. In addition, at the High School for Health Careers and Sciences, the averages were 385, 374 and 389.

The Commute

The local 1 train stops at West 181st, West 191st and Dyckman Streets, and commuters can transfer at West 96th Street to 2 or 3 trains to arrive in Times Square in about 30 minutes. The A train, which runs mostly west of Broadway, has a station at Broadway and Dyckman.

Bus lines include the M101, M98 and M3, which run to the east side of Midtown.

The History

Before it was a neighborhood, Fort George was a place to unwind. At the turn of the last century, a large amusement park at the end of Amsterdam offered casinos, Ferris wheels and roller coasters, which were tucked amid trees, according to old postcards. Below, along the river, ran a dirt track called the Harlem River Speedway, where people would parade their horses and buggies. The Speedway is now the Harlem River Drive.

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