Yesterday I had the good fortune to be an extra on the set of Law & Order: SVU. The shoot was on the sound stage in Bergen, NJ. When that happens, L&O provides a courtesy bus for those of us who live in New York without a car. So it was that, at 6:30AM, I arrived at West 43rd Street and Ninth Ave in Manhattan.
I must confess that as a real estate agent, I haven't worked much in that neighborhood. Quite frankly, most of my clients lately try to live in Gramercy or the East Village. And as usual, the budgets are on the low end (low meaning under $2500 per month for a one-bedroom apartment, which is low for Manhattan these days as the current average is just over $2700 per month). Most of them are students going to one of the Village-based colleges (NYU, New School, SVA), so I understand why they would want to live there. But, with the amazing price jumps year after year, I have to wonder why they wouldn't want to consider one of the other affordable parts of Manhattan.
The three most affordable parts of downtown Manhattan are: Lower East Side, Hells Kitchen, and Murray Hill, with parts of the Financial District in fourth place. The reason for this? Well, the first two had a reputation for shabby housing: walk-up tenements with little to no renovation, and the neighborhoods had little else to recommend them, since the retail basically consisted of discount retailers, bodegas and, in the case of Hell's Kitchen, a lot of peepshows.
Well, being there the other day sure opened my eyes. When I moved to NYC in 1997, the Kitchen was shaking its image as a haven for the adult trade, but didn't have much to convince me to go beyond Eighth Ave. In the years since, a lovely restaurant row has popped up from 42nd streets to 50th or so, and condos have been in the neighborhood for the last 10 years as well. I was thrilled to discover a Starbucks at the very corner that I was meeting the bus (for, at 6:30 AM, I need an incentive to stay awake). Ninth Ave looks remade, from the corner of 42nd as far as my eye could see. Buildings have been rehabbed and new retail spreads north. Starting on 43rd streets, the charming tree-lined townhouse streets remain intact between Ninth and Tenth Aves. And yet, the subway is only a couple blocks away! It's truly a great place to be for theater lovers. Party-goers will find it easy to get downtown, but the Kitchen (or Clinton, if you want), will not feel isolated in their own neighborhoods either.
Rents in this neighborhood remain lower than other parts of the city. A real one bedroom can be found for $2300, a two-bedroom for $2800. So, if you have been looking for a nice neighborhood, go one block beyond busy Eighth Ave and you'll find it.