Portions of this article have been updated.
Out of the strange intermingling of Alexander Hamilton’s tumultuous military career and Ralph Ellison’s controversial literary journey breathes Harlem’s mini-district Hamilton Grange. Named for Hamilton’s 19th-century estate, located in adjacent Hamilton Heights, the Grange is one of the few neighborhoods in New York that is at once chock full of historic sites, breathtaking green space, stark brownstones, and a swirl of cultures that spans the continents. The Grange can be considered the less-expensive, less-siddity, but just-as-magnetic area next to the monied Sugar Hill and Striver’s Row. Indeed, many literary and jazz greats made their home in the affordable neighborhood (including Ellison, who penned Invisible Man here).
Neighborhood Boundaries: The lines blur, but most draw the bounds at 152nd Street to the north, Amsterdam Avenue to the east, 140th Street to the south, and Riverside Drive to the west. Crafty real estate brokers renamed the upper part of the area Heritage Heights Village, which could bring the Grange up to 160th Street, where George Washington did his strategizing during the battle of Harlem Heights. One resident jokes, “Since they started calling us Heritage Heights, the city has been cleaning around here a lot more.”
Population: African American, West Indian, Latino, Eastern European, and African families have webbed a tight-knit community. Walk down Broadway in the 140s and lower 150s and it’s hard not to be swept up by the dizzying mix of merengue, salsa, pachata, Jamaican dance hall, and hip-hop that bumps from open doors and passing vehicles.
Main Drags: Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue between 140th and 150th streets are alive with ethnic restaurants, great shopping, and old men playing dominos on milk crates. Players Sportswear, on 145th Street and Broadway, hawks the latest hip-hop gear.
Transportation: Take the 1 train to 145th Street and Broadway or the A, B, C, or D train to 145th Street and walk east to Amsterdam and Broadway. The 5 bus offers a very green trip up Riverside Drive.
Average Price to Rent: Pre-war buildings boast house-sized apartments overlooking Riverside Park. One-bedroom, $1,000 to $1,500 ($1,200 to $1,500); two-bedroom, $1,300 to $1,400 ($1,500 to $1,700); three-bedroom, $1,500 and up ($1,800 to $2,200); four-bedroom, $1,800 and up ($2,200 to $2,900). Rent stabilization still exists in this neighborhood and can bring a one-bedroom down to the $900 range.
Average Price to Buy: Stunning brownstones line the streets between 145th and 150th; they range from $1.5 million to $1.8 million ($600,000 to $800,000, says long-time real estate man R. Kenyatta Punter. That’s a deal, Punter points out, considering that just two blocks away in Hamilton Heights, brownstones go for between $1.5 million to $2 million ($850,000 and $1.6 million).
Green Space: Riverbank State Park, built in the ’90s over a controversial sewer plant at 145th Street and Riverside Drive, contains amazingly clean indoor and outdoor pools, a skating rink, a gym, and a theater. “It’s like a freakin’ country club,” says one area newcomer. Riverside Park runs all the way up Hamilton Grange, offering jungle gyms for children, picnic spaces, and makeshift jogging trails. The Trinity Cemetery and Mausoleum (770 Riverside Drive) is a mass of green surrounding delicate, century-old gravestones.
Cultural Institutions: There are at least two dozen historic churches, including the 1901-built Our Lady of Lourdes (463 West 142nd Street), a Roman Catholic, African American congregation. At the Hamilton Grange Branch of the New York Public Library, on the corner of 145th Street and St. Nicholas Avenue, you can find a superior collection of books and research by people of color. Harlem School of the Arts (645 St. Nicholas Avenue) gives reasonably priced art lessons, while the world-renowned Dance Theatre of Harlem (466 West 152nd Street) offers dance classes and hosts a mean annual block party.
Hot Spots: For those seeking the time-tested, check out Copeland’s (547 West 145th Street) for soul food; their live-jazz Sunday brunch draws an older church crowd (fierce hats included) as well as a younger, artsy set. Chain shmain: Caridad Restaurant can still turn out Dominican standards with flare—especially at the 145th and Broadway spot.
Politicians: City Councilman Robert Jackson, Congressman Charles B. Rangel, State Senator David A. Paterson, and Assemblyman Keith L.T. Wright—all Democrats.
Crime Statistics: The 30th precinct includes Hamilton Heights, Hamilton Grange, Sugar Hill, and West Harlem. As of September 4, 2005, there were 4 murders, 19 rapes, 234 robberies, 177 felony assaults, and 99 burglaries. (The 30th precinct includes Hamilton Heights, Hamilton Grange, Sugar Hill, and West Harlem. As of June 29, it reported four murders, down three; 17 rapes, up seven; 141 felonious assaults, down 17; and 167 robberies, up nine).
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 22, 2003