Go north, pay less
THINK you’ve looked all over Manhattan and still can’t find a place to live? Well, head up north — way north — to Fort George. This enclave neighborhood is Manhattan’s last frontier.
"It’s a pioneering area," says Michelle Churchill, a Douglas Elliman sales associate, of the neighborhood tucked between Washing-ton Heights, Hudson Heights and Inwood.
Fort George is located in northeast Manhattan, from 181st Street to Dyckman Street and from the East River to Broadway. (There’s some dispute about the boundaries; some people will tell you the neighborhood runs all the way west to the Harlem River; others insist that western edge is "Hudson Heights.")
"I refer to it as ‘upstate Manhattan,’ " says resident Tom Mangne. The senior project manager has been renting a one-bedroom in Fort George for 12 years.
BACK IN TIME
The neighborhood is named after Fort Washing-ton, an actual earthern-walled fort built in 1776 for then-General George Wash-ington. It wasn’t very successful; the fort, set on what’s now 183rd Street, was lost to the British that November.
But the hilltop that seemed like a good military position (at 265 feet above sea level, it’s the highest hill in Manhattan) still has great views of the river.
The surrounding neighborhood is primarily residential. Near Fort Tryon Park, on the western edge, there are prewar low- and mid-rise Art Deco buildings with rentals and co-ops.
Fort George still has a substantial Dominican population, but like its surrounding neighborhoods, it is becoming more and more ethnically diverse.
"It is just a matter of time before this area becomes hot," says Corcoran senior associate Kelly Cole. "We saw it happen with Inwood and Washington and Hudson Heights. Fort George is next."
And why not? It’s the least expensive neighborhood in upper Manhattan, according to Douglas Elli-man vice president Amanda Jhones. She notes that properties in Fort George can be 60 percent less than those on the Upper West Side.
"People are being priced out of Midtown, uptown, downtown and now even Harlem," she says, "so the future of Fort George looks bright."
Studio co-ops range from $120,000 to $200,000 for 350 to 500 square feet. One-bedrooms start around $190,000 and go as high as $300,000 for 550 to 775 square feet.
Two-bedrooms run between $275,000 to $425,000 for an average of 950 square feet. Three-bedrooms are rare, but they and two-and-a-halfs begin around $325,000 and go as high as $625,000 for 1,000 to 1,400 square feet.
"The market is perfect for first-time buyers," says New Heights Realty principal broker Robert Kleinbardt.
The properties are a mix of walk-ups and elevator buildings. Many contain such features as scenic views, gracious foyers, eat-in kitchens and dining rooms, and are normally well maintained. Depending on the age of the building, many of the apartments have something lacking in some lower Manhattan apartments — decent closet space.
On the other hand, you’ll have to pass a board. "There are only maybe one or two condos that could be considered in the Fort George boundaries," says Halstead sales associate Sidney Whelan. "There is a big demand for them, and I think within the next five to 10 years more will come."
That isn’t deterring people from moving up there now.
"I love the openness of the area," says Ana Motta-Moss, who works as a researcher for a nonprofit and moved up from the Gramercy area. She purchased a 1,000-square-foot two-bedroom co-op in Fort George six months ago for $255,000. "I wake up to the birds singing. That would never have happened in Gramercy."
If you’re worried about living in the boonies, don’t fret. The A express train only takes about 20 minutes to get to Midtown.
"I was a little concerned about the commute at first," says Motta-Moss, "but it’s just as far if you were living in Brooklyn or Queens, yet you have the Manhattan address."
When asked about downsides, one problem mentioned was noise — the No. 1 quality-of-life complaint of Manhattan residents, according to Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
"Many of the youngsters blare their music," says Fort George resident Tim Connell, an actor who has been renting a one-bedroom in Fort George for 13 years.
For other residents, including Cynthia Eddy, an art director who moved from Chelsea into a $325,000 one-bedroom in Fort George, it’s the lack of stores, eateries and night life. "I’m used to having everything at my fingertips," she says.