Upper Manhattan

What neighborhoods are up there?

By Deane Barker

It’s mostly Harlem, however, there are subtleties.

Harlem is not a full-fledged borough, it’s just a neighborhood in Manhattan. It’s the upper boundary of Manhattan, north of 110th Street, which is the top boundary of Central Park. (If you live in Harlem, you technically live in Manhattan, though I’ve never personally heard of someone saying “Manhattan” when they mean Harlem.)

Harlem extends north to the Harlem River, which cuts diagonally from northwest to southeast.

This means Manhattan comprises the entire island. From Battery Park in the absolute south, to the Harlem River in the north, Manhattan and the island it sits on are basically the same thing. The island is called…wait for it…Manhattan Island.

The other side of the Harlem River is The Bronx, which is on the mainland USA (the only part of New York City actually connected to the mainland).

So, it’s easy to say, “Harlem is everything between the north end of the park and the north end of the island,” however, that’s not quite true.

  • Washington Heights is north of Harlem (north of 155th), but south of the river. It sits along the Hudson on the west side. Fort George is a “sub-neighborhood” inside Washington Heights.

  • Inwood is a smaller neighborhood just north of Washington Heights which borders the river. The streets aren’t numbered, and they turn diagonally, so there’s not a clear street border.

  • The area north and east of the park is technically East Harlem.

If you go over the Harlem River, then you’re in The Bronx, which is a separate borough from Manhattan, but still part of New York City.

(There’s a weird little cutout along the river for a neighborhood called Marble Hill. This is technically part of Manhattan, but is on the north side of the river. This is because it used to be an island, but the canal to the north of it was filled in 1914, which made it part of the mainland. Some people informally consider this part of The Bronx.)

The Bronx stretches all the way up to Yonkers, at which point you’re no longer in New York City. The street numbers get weird up here because they’re not in a clear grid. The highest number I could find was 261st Street.

The names of Harlem and The Bronx both have Scandanavian origins.

  • Harlem is named after the village of Haarlem in The Netherlands

  • The Bronx is named for Jonas Bronck, an immigrant who eventually purchased most of the land in the area, which became known as “Bronck’s Farm” or “The Broncks’ Land.” Bronck’s origins are disputed – some believe him to be Danish, others say Swedish.

Why I Looked It Up

I got to talking to my Uber driver during a trip to NYC. He lived in The Bronx, and tried to explain the geography to me. I wasn’t quite getting it, so I looked it up.

Also, I love the musical In the Heights, and I’ve always wondered where Washington Heights was actually located.

The only time I’ve been north of the park was on a bus trip. I remember taking a tourist bus around Harlem and being fascinated by it.

On this last trip, I stayed on the Upper West Side at 95th Street. This is the highest I’ve ever been in the city on foot.

Postscript

Added on

I found this… somewhere. I don’t remember where.

This is item #791 in a sequence of 838 items.

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