Close-Up on Hudson Heights

Hudson Heights, the name for the northern and eastern part of Washington Heights, came about in the early '90s, when realtors and residents wanted a new name for this haven in the then-notorious neighborhood. The division between the two "heights" is still apparent: If you use the south exit of the 181st Street subway station you’ll be facing a shabby diner and a bodega. The north exit, however, lets you out near a grassy cliff—think the A Train for hobbits. Walk down the street and you'll find beautiful houses built into the knoll, leafy sidewalks, and riverside views. There is even a blonde older woman wearing a straw hat who sells homemade jams on the street. Some of the cheapest co-op prices in Manhattan have attracted many would-be Brooklynites, and low rents continue to ensure that the area's beloved artists, musicians, and Broadway performers stick around.

Borders: Fort Tryon Park to the north, Broadway to the east, J. Hood Wright Park/W. 173rd Street to the south, and the Hudson River to the west.

Transportation: The A train takes care of all the stops out West, and that's all. Buses: M4, M98, M100, and Bx7.

Main Drags: 181st Street from the river to Broadway is jam-packed with retail stores, many of the $10 variety. For fine dining and late nights, hit up 187th Street at the corner of Fort Washington. It is everything you need for a good Saturday night, including beer, pizza, and pharmacy.

Average Price to Rent: Studios: 800-1100; one-bedrooms: 950-1500; two-bedrooms: 1400-2200; three-bedrooms: 1600-2500. Depending on size, apartments near the river can go for as much as 200 to 500 dollars more, warns Gus Perry of Perry-Stein Real Estate. Luckily, there are many rent-stabilized units around, assures Joe Montagna of Simone Song Realty.

Average Price to Buy: Studios: $100,000-200,000; one-bedrooms: 150K-275K; two-bedroom: 250K-650K; three-bedroom (six rooms and up): 400K-685K. The area has a lot of co-ops, many with art-deco designs, in its small radius. Castle Village, a 585-unit luxury complex built in 1939, has wide-open and immaculate lawns with spectacular night views of the George Washington Bridge. Hudson View Gardens, built in 1924, features 353 apartments in Tudor-style buildings with their own private Bavarian-style gardens.

Coffee Houses: The Monkey Room, possibly the city's only coffeehouse with taxidermy, has animal-print everything: leopard-spot booths, tiger-stripe stools and even zebra walls. What at night is an unlikely sports bar doubles in the daytime as an all-drinks-imaginable coffee house cute enough to amuse a seven-year-old. Emilou's (827 W. 181st Street) is a more-typical kind of cute. A new Starbucks opened up at 803 W. 181st Street this summer, but you would be lucky to find a seat—the locals are loving it.

Green Space: Fort Tryon Park, at the north end of Hudson Heights, is the largest open area around and features heather gardens filled with wildflowers and butterflies, an open lawn, a café, and the Cloisters, the branch of the Metropolitan Museum of Art which focuses on Medieval European works. There are plenty of events held there year-round, including hay rides in the fall and bulb-planting in the spring. James Gordon Bennet Park, in the middle of the area, boasts the highest point in Manhattan and is perfect for dog-walkers and little kids. J. Wright Hood Park is there for those in the southern part of the Heights.

Local Landmarks: The "castle," or the Cloisters, which architecturally incorporate elements from five actual medieval French cloisters, overlooks the Hudson. Stroll among the gardens and buildings and take in the Unicorn tapestries on display. There are 5000 works of art from frescoes to illuminated manuscripts that are in the exhibit.

Best Restaurants: Bleu Evolution (808 W. 187th Street) is a treasure trove of Mediterranean cuisines. The backyard has outdoor heaters and interesting things hanging from the wood rafters, from Chinese birdcages to cast-iron street lamps. New Leaf Café (212-568-5323) is tucked away between the trees in Fort Tryon Park and suitable for those planning a romantic walk while digesting. Kismat (603 Fort Washington Avenue) has the expected Indian fare and locals are quick to recommend it, while the Voice’s Robert Sietsema recommends El Mundo Fried Chicken (4456 Broadway), specifically the rotisserie chicken, or chicharron de pollo.

Best Bars:Jesse's Place (812 W. 181st Street) has a dark, chic aura, but it's also where you'll most likely catch words like "angioplasty" being tossed around. Again, the Monkey Bar has the sports market cornered with those big-screen TV's and changing drink specials. Other than the late-night restaurant bars (open as late as 4 a.m.), the area is dead for late drinkers. El Tenampa (4314 B'way) is a dive, for those who dig that. You'd have better luck trying the W. 207th Street strip in Inwood, so make friends with that train.

Politicians: Councilman Robert Jackson, Assemblyman Herman D. Farrell Jr., State Senator David A. Patterson, and Congressman Charles B. Rangel. All Democrats.

Happenings: Don ye auld chain mail and prepareth for a joust! The Medieval Festival in Fort Tyron is held near the Cloisters at the end of September every year, and visitors are encouraged to dress up and participate in the festivities. Regular concerts are also held in the park, as well as in Bennet Park.

Crime Stats: Ground-level apartment dwellers leave their windows open, for starters. The 33rd and 34th Precincts cover the area called as Hudson Heights. The 34th Precinct, which serves Inwood and the bulk of Hudson Heights, reported late in 2003 7 murders, up 1 from the same time last year; 29 rapes, up 2; 215 robberies, down 6; 223 burglaries, down 50; and 179 felonious assaults, down eight.

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