Tuesday, July 17, 2007

City Living: Morningside Heights

City Living: Morningside Heights
By Kiera Butler Special to amNewYork

Morningside Heights is a neighborhood very much defined by the educational and religious institutions in its borders.

Columbia University and its elegant campus sites at the neighborhood's center. The incomplete towers of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine rise at Amsterdam Avenue and 112th Street, and the bell tower of Riverside Church looms at 122nd Street.

But it is also very much a neighborhood for living, with families and young professionals mixing in with the academics and students. For residents, a stroll along Broadway often includes encounters with neighbors and friends, giving the area the feel of a small town in the midst of a big city.

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Photos: Morningside Heights Photos

The neighborhood has a rich stock of residential buildings, many with large, sought-after apartments. Especially noteworthy are the stately buildings that line Riverside Drive.

Morningside Heights was once upon a time the place where people moved after they were priced out of the West 70s and 80s. This is no longer the case. The neighborhood, with its easy access to Riverside Park, is a destination in its own right. As a result, prices have gone up and bargains are more difficult to find.


Morningside Heights runs from 110th Street to 123rd Street between Morningside Park and Riverside Drive. The section of Broadway reaching down to 106th Street is also included in this article.


Morningside Heights offers classic New York living in pre-war (and often doorman) buildings.

Upper floor apartments along Riverside Drive can include spectacular views of the Hudson and, in some cases, the George Washington Bridge.

There is one new building going up at one of the neighborhood's main crossroads, Broadway and 110th Street. According to Prudential Douglas Elliman Realty, condominiums in this 11-story building at 543 W. 110th St. have been on the market for eight weeks. Eighty percent of the building's 56 units already have been sold at prices that range from $780,000 to $3.2 million, the agency said.

TO RENT:Rents vary widely depending on the building and location.

Expect to pay:

** About $1,500-$2,000 a month for a studio;

**Between $1,800 and $2,800 for a one-bedroom;

** Between $2,000 and $3,000 for a two-bedroom.

What's renting:-Studio at 107th and West End: $1,900-One-bedroom at 107th and West End with a garden: $2,950-Three-bedroom in the low 100s: $3,600

(Sources: Peggy Fox, Ardor NY Realty and Craigslist)


** Studios run from roughly $350,000 to $450,000;

** One-bedroom apartments run between $400,000 and $600,000;

** Two-bedrooms cost upwards of $700,000.
Judy Maysles of Coldwell Banker Hunt Kennedy West Side

What's selling:

** One-bedroom, 750-sqare-foeet at 390 Riverside Dr., $544,000

** One-bedroom at 380 Riverside Dr.: $552,000

** Two-bedroom, 855-square-feet, at 504 W. 111th St., $725,000

(Source: Coldwell Banker Hunt Kennedy)


In order to generate more income, the Cathedral of St. John the Divine has opened up two different sites on its grounds to developers. Columbia University plans to build a new facility on one of the sites, and a private developer has made arrangements to put up a residential building in another area within the grounds.

"Some people feel the cathedral does not have the right to develop," said Jordi Reyes-Montblanc, chair of Manhattan Community Board 9. Many locals worry that when the building projects are completed the grounds will lose their peaceful charm.


On Broadway between 110th and 116th a college crowd dines and imbibes at cafes and casual restaurants, among them the West End (2911 Broadway between 113th and 114th streets 212- 662-8830), a well-loved Columbia watering hole and neighborhood institution which is set to close in the next few months.

Seinfeld fans will recognize the façade of Tom's Restaurant (2880 Broadway at 112th street, 212-864-6137) from the show. The new restaurant scene that has popped up on Amsterdam Avenue between 116th and 123rd streets is worth checking out as well.

Caffe Swish --This bustling pan-Asian eatery attracts a casual crowd. Cook your own shabu-shabu style food right at your table or order sushi, noodle dishes, bento and more from the lengthy menu. 2953-55 Broadway, between 115th and 116th streets, 212-222-3568

Kitchenette -- Weekend brunch is popular at this hip and homey spot, and many customers can't resist a cupcake or cookie from the bakery counter on the way out. 1272 Amsterdam Ave (between 122nd and 123rd streets.) 212-531-7600

Pisticci --Friendly wait staff and good Italian food at reasonable prices are making this neighborhood place even more popular. 125 La Salle St. (between 122nd and 123rd streets) 212-932-3500.

Le Monde -- This French bistro is a good place on a sunny day if you can nab one of the tables outside. 2885 Broadway (between 113th and 112th streets) (212) 531-3939

Café Pertutti --This neighborhood fixture also has outside tables in the summer and serves good deserts and coffee. 2888 Broadway (between 113th and 112th streets) (212) 864-1143

Henry's -- A neighborhood bistro with classic charm. 2745 Broadway (at 105th Street) 212-866-0600


1020 --You'll find both students and locals in this comfortable dive. The music ranges from doo-wop to eighties rock and beyond. 1020 Amsterdam (at 110th St.) 212-531-3468

The Heights -- The rooftop bar of this upstairs establishment is a popular drinking spot during the warm weather months. 2867 Broadway (between 112th and 111th streets)

Smoke Jazz Club and Lounge -- Live jazz is the draw at this dark and busy bar. 2751 Broadway between 105th and 106th Streets 212-864-6662

Radio Perfecto -- In warm weather, you can sip one of the bar's signature martinis and nibble on appetizers in their sidewalk seating section. 1187 Amsterdam (between 118th and 119th streets) 212-932-0707


** Cathedral of Saint John the Divine. This immense Gothic cathedral is one of the largest in the world. Highlights include the famous 40-foot tall Rose Window, which contains more than 10,000 pieces of stained glass; the Great Bronze doors cast by Barbedienne, who also cast the Statue of Liberty; and the Chapels of the Tongues, each of which honors a different immigrant group in the United States. 1047 Amsterdam Ave. at 112th Street 212-316-7540

** Morningside Park -- Long, zig-zagging staircases wind through this quiet park on a hill.

In the summer, locals barbecue and relax in the park's grassy lower areas. West 110th to West 123rd streets between Manhattan Avenue, Morningside Avenue and Morningside Drive.

** Riverside Park -- Ride a bike or take a stroll through this long park that stretches from 72nd to 158th Street along the Hudson River. There are plenty of activities to pursue in the area of Morningside Heights. There, you'll find tennis courts, basketball courts, baseball fields, a skate park and a summertime restaurant, The Hudson Beach Café at 105th Street, where you can watch the sun set over New Jersey. At 122nd Street, find out who's buried in Grant's Tomb.

**Riverside Church -- This imposing structure at Riverside Drive and 122nd Street is modeled after a 13th-century Gothic cathedral. What most people don't know is that you can go up to the bell tower for breathtaking views of the Hudson River and Manhattan.

**Columbia University -- On spring days, students catch some sun on the steps of Low Library, which is an impressive building (and not actually a library at all). The sleek and modern architecture of the Lerner Hall student center is eye-catching. Few buildings are open to the public, but campus tours leave regularly from the Office of Admissions in Low Library. 2960 Broadway at 116th Street (212) 854-1754


Household goods stores, dry cleaners, and other essentials line Broadway just south of Columbia.

Supermarkets are abundant, and just north of the neighborhood is Fairway (2328 12th Avenue at 132nd Street 212-234-3883), a giant supermarket that features bargains and a room-sized refrigerated section -- complete with jackets for customers.

Those with a sweet tooth to indulge will appreciate Silver Moon Bakery (2740 Broadway at 105th Street 212-866-4717).

The bookstores of Morningside Heights are not to be missed. For a great variety of new and used scholarly and general interest books, head to Labyrinth Books (536 West 112th Street 212-865-1588). Bank Street Bookstore (Broadway at 112th Street 212-678-1654) specializes in children's books.

While most residents in the neighborhood head down to the 80s, or further south, for serious clothes shopping, there is one boutique in the area. Liberty House (2878A Broadway at 112th Street 212-932-1950) that carries women's and children's clothing, jewelry and gifts.

Mondel's Chocolates -- (2913 Broadway at 114th Street 212-864-2111) has been around forever and still offers delicious, old-fashioned, handmade chocolates.

Q&A with Ruth Mueller-Maerki

Ruth Mueller-Maerki serves as the coordinator of volunteers and ushers at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. She's been involved with the Cathedral and the neighborhood for 14 years.

Q: How have things changed in the neighborhood during the 14 years that you've worked here?

A: It's been gentrified tremendously, and it's gotten a lot more expensive, but I think the essential character hasn't changed that much. It's still a student-dominated area, which is what I like.

Q: What are some hidden gems in the neighborhood?

A: The Biblical Garden at the Cathedral. It's designed to host plants that are mentioned in the Bible, and they're actually labeled as such in the garden, but often it's the variant that grows in this climate. It was redesigned recently, and it picks up a lot of the design of the Cathedral.

Q: What do you think about the plans to develop on the grounds of the Cathedral?

A: I wish we didn't have to do it, but it's the only alternative to having to close the doors. The donations are not coming in, so we need a means to create revenue to keep the doors open.

Q: What do you think about Columbia's plans for expansion?

A: Unlike most other people in this neighborhood, I'm fine with it. Students and universities bring a lot of good things to a neighborhood. As long as not too many people are displaced who have cheap rent up there.


Transportation: The 1 subway line runs along Broadway, and the C will take you just west of Central Park. Buses in the area include the M4, M5, M7, M10, M11, M60, M104, and M116.


St. Luke's Hospital is located at Amsterdam Avenue and 114th Street. Emergency room includes special pediatric section.


The 26th Precinct covers not only Morningside Heights, but also Hamilton Heights, West Harlem, and Manhattan Valley. According to the precinct Web site, last year there were five murders and 17 rapes, while four years earlier, in 2001, there was one murder and nine rapes.

In the past eight years, however, overall crime has decreased significantly, down from 1,327 total crimes in 1998 to 895 last year.


Public: Public School 145 Bloomingdale School, Public School 165 Robert E Simon School, and Middle School 246 Crossroads School are all in the neighborhood, and a few high schools, such as Thurgood Marshall Academy, are just outside.

Private: Cathedral School, St. Hilda's and St. Hugh's, The School at Columbia University, Bank Street School for Children.

Post Offices: Morningside Station Post Office is at 232 West 116th Street, and Columbia University Post Office is at 534 West 112th Street.Library:

The Morningside Heights Branch library is at 2900 Broadway at 113th St.


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