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Why I Moved To Harlem Instead Of Brooklyn


Modified: December 27, 2023

by Teressa Collins



When it came time for me to make a move to New York City, the decision of where to settle down was not an easy one. The city has so many vibrant neighborhoods, each with its own unique charm and character. However, as I delved into my research, two neighborhoods stood out: Brooklyn and Harlem.


Brooklyn, known for its hipster vibe and trendy eateries, has long been a popular choice for newcomers to the city. But as I dug deeper, I discovered that Harlem, with its rich history and cultural diversity, offered a compelling alternative. This led me to make the somewhat unconventional choice of moving to Harlem instead of Brooklyn.


In this article, I will delve into why I ultimately decided on Harlem over Brooklyn and share the reasons behind my decision. From the vibrant community spirit and architectural beauty to the cost of living and accessibility of amenities, there are numerous factors that make Harlem an enticing place to call home.


So, let’s dive into the fascinating world of Harlem and discover why this dynamic neighborhood captured my heart and became my chosen destination in the Big Apple.


A Brief Overview of Brooklyn

Brooklyn, often referred to as the “hipster capital,” has gained significant popularity over the past decade. It offers a dynamic mix of art, culture, and cuisine that has attracted a diverse population of residents. With its charming brownstone-lined streets, bustling farmers’ markets, and thriving music and arts scene, Brooklyn has become a hotspot for young professionals and creatives looking for a vibrant urban experience.


Home to iconic neighborhoods such as Williamsburg, DUMBO, and Park Slope, Brooklyn boasts a rich history and a sense of community that sets it apart. Its proximity to Manhattan, with convenient access via the subway or iconic bridges, adds to its appeal. From trendy coffee shops and rooftop bars to boutique stores and global cuisine, Brooklyn offers a plethora of options for entertainment, leisure, and gastronomic adventures.


The diversity of neighborhoods within Brooklyn means there is something for everyone. Want to immerse yourself in the artistic vibes? Head to Bushwick and explore its vibrant street art scene. Craving a beach getaway? Visit the charming seaside neighborhood of Coney Island, famous for its amusement park and the iconic Cyclone roller coaster. Looking for a family-friendly area with tree-lined streets and top-notch schools? Park Slope has got you covered.


However, despite all its allure, Brooklyn does come with its drawbacks. One of the main challenges is the high cost of living. As the neighborhood has become increasingly popular, rental prices and housing costs have soared. The competition for apartments is fierce, and finding an affordable place to live can be a daunting task.


Furthermore, while Brooklyn offers an array of amenities and attractions, it can also be crowded and congested, particularly in popular areas. The vibrant atmosphere often means dealing with noise and hustle and bustle on a daily basis.


Considering these factors, I started to explore other options that could provide a similar urban experience with a different cultural flavor. This is how I began to set my sights on the vibrant neighborhood of Harlem.


The Allure of Harlem

Harlem has a magnetic pull that sets it apart from other neighborhoods in New York City. Renowned for its rich history, vibrant culture, and sense of community, Harlem has become a destination for those seeking a unique and authentic New York experience.


One of the main reasons Harlem captivated me was its cultural diversity. Known as the cultural epicenter of African American art, music, and literature, Harlem has played a significant role in shaping American history and identity. From the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s, which brought forth a flourishing of African American arts and culture, to its present-day influence, Harlem continues to be a hub of artistic expression and creativity.


Walking through the streets of Harlem, you can feel the pulse of history and art. The neighborhood is dotted with iconic landmarks such as the Apollo Theater, a legendary venue that has hosted countless greats in the world of music and entertainment. The Studio Museum in Harlem and its vibrant art scene showcase the works of African American artists, both established and emerging, giving insight into diverse perspectives and experiences.


Moreover, Harlem’s appeal lies in its affordability compared to other neighborhoods in Manhattan. While prices have risen in recent years, it still offers a more accessible option for those looking to live in the heart of the city. The unique architecture, with its characteristic brownstones and townhouses, adds to the charm and character of Harlem’s streets.


In addition to affordability, Harlem provides a tight-knit community atmosphere that fosters a sense of belonging. From community gardens to local farmers’ markets, residents actively engage and support one another. Harlem has a strong sense of pride in its heritage and a commitment to preserving its cultural identity. The annual Harlem Week festival, a celebration of community, music, and art, showcases the community spirit that thrives in the neighborhood.


Another appealing aspect of Harlem is the growing food scene. From soul food restaurants to trendy modern eateries, Harlem offers a diverse range of culinary experiences. From legendary establishments like Sylvia’s to hidden gems serving international cuisine, there is always something tantalizing to satisfy your taste buds.


Ultimately, the allure of Harlem lies in its ability to capture the essence of New York City while adding its own distinct flavor. The neighborhood’s rich history, cultural diversity, and sense of community make it an enticing choice for those seeking a vibrant and inclusive environment to call home.


Cultural Diversity in Harlem

Harlem has long been celebrated for its vibrant cultural diversity. It is a melting pot of different ethnicities, traditions, and artistic expressions, making it a truly unique and enriching neighborhood in New York City.


One of the main contributors to Harlem’s cultural diversity is its historic significance as a center of African American culture and heritage. During the early 20th century, Harlem experienced a cultural explosion known as the Harlem Renaissance. This movement brought forth a remarkable artistic and intellectual renaissance among African Americans, with figures like Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, and Duke Ellington shaping the cultural landscape through their works in literature, music, and art.


Today, Harlem continues to be a reflection of its vibrant past. It is a place where African American culture is proudly exhibited and celebrated. Visitors and residents alike can experience the sounds of jazz and gospel music that flow from the local clubs and churches. The Apollo Theater, legendary for its iconic Amateur Night, is a testament to the deep roots of African American entertainment in the neighborhood.


However, what makes Harlem truly special is its diversity within diversity. Alongside African American culture, Harlem also embraces and cherishes the contributions of various other ethnicities, creating a beautifully woven tapestry of traditions and perspectives. The neighborhood is home to significant populations of Caribbean, Latin American, and West African communities, each adding their own unique cultural influences to the mix.


From Caribbean-inspired restaurants serving jerk chicken and oxtail to the vibrant celebrations of Caribbean Carnivals and parades, Harlem showcases the richness of Caribbean culture. Similarly, Latin American contributions can be seen in the neighborhood’s salsa clubs, street festivals, and authentic eateries that serve delightful dishes from countries such as Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, and Mexico.


Furthermore, Harlem’s West African community brings an array of cultural delights, from traditional African drumming and dance to the aromatic flavors of West African cuisine. Walking through the streets of Harlem, you may encounter vibrant fabric stores, where you can find beautiful African textiles and garments.


Harlem’s cultural diversity is not only reflected in its arts and cuisine but also in its community events and festivals. The annual African-American Day Parade, West Indian Day Parade, and Hispanic Day Parade celebrate the rich heritage of these communities, filling the streets with joyous music, dazzling costumes, and a deep sense of pride.


This vibrant tapestry of cultures makes Harlem an incredibly dynamic and inclusive neighborhood. It serves as a reminder of the power and beauty that lies in embracing and celebrating diversity.


Cost of Living Comparison: Harlem vs. Brooklyn

One of the key factors that influenced my decision to choose Harlem over Brooklyn was the cost of living. While both neighborhoods offer a unique urban experience, there are noticeable differences when it comes to affordability.


Brooklyn, with its popularity and gentrification, has seen a significant increase in rental prices and housing costs. Neighborhoods like Williamsburg and DUMBO have become particularly sought-after, driving up the prices even further. Finding an affordable apartment in Brooklyn can be a challenging task, especially for those on a tight budget.


On the other hand, Harlem offers a more accessible cost of living compared to Brooklyn. While prices have risen in recent years, particularly in trendy areas like Central Harlem and Harlem’s Historic District, there are still options available for those seeking more affordable housing. Harlem’s iconic brownstones and townhouses, with their unique architectural charm, come at a more reasonable price compared to the sky-high rents of Brooklyn’s upscale neighborhoods.


In addition to housing costs, other aspects of the cost of living also come into play. For example, dining out in trendy Brooklyn neighborhoods can be pricey, with many restaurants catering to a more upscale clientele. In Harlem, on the other hand, you can find a wide range of dining options to suit different budgets, from casual soul food joints to international eateries serving affordable yet delicious meals.


Transportation expenses can also vary between the two neighborhoods. While both are well-connected to the rest of the city through public transportation, Brooklyn’s proximity to Manhattan can mean higher commuting costs for those who need to travel frequently. In contrast, Harlem’s location in Upper Manhattan offers more affordable transportation options, with shorter and less costly commutes for many residents.


Moreover, Harlem offers a lower overall cost of living when it comes to groceries, utilities, and other daily necessities. Local supermarkets and markets provide reasonably priced options for fresh produce and essential items, easing the financial burden for residents. This affordability allows Harlem residents to enjoy a good quality of life without straining their budget.


While affordability was a significant factor for me, it is important to note that cost of living can vary depending on personal circumstances and preferences. Some may prioritize living in a trendy neighborhood regardless of the higher costs, while others may choose to embrace the affordability and diverse cultural experiences that Harlem has to offer.


Ultimately, when it comes to the cost of living comparison between Harlem and Brooklyn, Harlem emerges as a more accessible option for those seeking a balance between a vibrant urban lifestyle and financial feasibility.


Accessible Amenities in Harlem

One of the many appeals of living in Harlem is the accessibility of amenities that cater to a diverse range of interests and needs. From shopping and dining to recreational activities and cultural experiences, Harlem offers a plethora of options to explore and enjoy.


When it comes to shopping, Harlem is home to a variety of unique boutiques, local shops, and well-known brand stores. From fashion to home decor, you can find everything you need within the neighborhood. The historic 125th Street is a bustling hub of retail activity, offering a mix of chain stores, specialty shops, and local vendors. Whether you’re looking for a fashionable outfit or a one-of-a-kind piece of artwork, Harlem has something for everyone.


Food enthusiasts will delight in the diverse culinary scene that Harlem has to offer. The neighborhood boasts a wide range of dining options, from soul food joints serving up comfort classics to trendy farm-to-table restaurants. You can sample mouthwatering dishes from around the world, including Caribbean, Latin American, African, and Southern cuisines. Harlem is also known for its vibrant food markets, where locals can find fresh produce, gourmet treats, and homemade goodies.


For fitness and recreation, Harlem offers numerous parks and recreational facilities. St. Nicholas Park, Marcus Garvey Park, and Riverside Park are just a few of the green spaces where you can enjoy outdoor activities, whether it’s jogging, yoga, or simply relaxing. Harlem also has a number of community centers and sports complexes that offer various programs and classes, catering to people of all ages and interests.


When it comes to cultural experiences, Harlem is a treasure trove. The neighborhood is known for its iconic music venues, such as the Apollo Theater and the famed Lenox Lounge. These venues host live performances, showcasing the talents of both established and emerging artists. Art lovers can visit galleries like The Studio Museum in Harlem to view thought-provoking exhibitions by African American artists. Additionally, Harlem is dotted with churches that offer soul-stirring gospel music services, providing a unique spiritual and musical experience.


Harlem’s educational institutions also contribute to its accessibility of amenities. With renowned schools like Columbia University and The City College of New York within reach, residents have access to a wealth of educational opportunities. The presence of these institutions contributes to a vibrant intellectual atmosphere in the neighborhood, with lectures, events, and debates taking place regularly.


Public transportation options in Harlem are excellent, with multiple subway lines and bus routes serving the area. This makes it easy to navigate the city and explore other parts of New York City. Additionally, Harlem’s central location in Manhattan provides convenient access to the rest of the city’s attractions, including museums, theaters, and shopping districts.


Overall, Harlem’s accessible amenities make it a thriving and vibrant neighborhood where residents can easily find everything they need and more. From shopping and dining to cultural experiences and recreational opportunities, Harlem has it all within reach.


The Harlem Renaissance and Its Influence Today

The Harlem Renaissance, a cultural and artistic movement that thrived in the 1920s, holds a significant place in the history of Harlem and continues to have a profound influence on the neighborhood today. This period of African American cultural resurgence brought forth a wave of creativity and intellectual exploration, shaping the artistic landscape of not only Harlem but also the entire nation.


During the Harlem Renaissance, Harlem became a haven for African American writers, musicians, artists, and intellectuals. Figures like Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Duke Ellington, and Billie Holiday emerged, contributing immensely to the African American arts and literature. The movement celebrated the richness of African American culture, emphasizing self-expression, pride, and the breaking of racial barriers.


Today, the legacy of the Harlem Renaissance is alive and thriving in the neighborhood. Harlem continues to be a hub for African American art and culture, showcasing the influence of this iconic historical period. The spirit of the Harlem Renaissance is evident in the numerous art galleries, theaters, and cultural institutions that showcase the works of African American artists, both past and present.


One of the most significant legacies of the Harlem Renaissance is its impact on literature. The literature produced during this time showcased a new and distinctive voice in African American storytelling, centered on themes of identity, discrimination, and the importance of African American history and heritage. These themes continue to resonate in contemporary African American literature, demonstrating the ongoing influence of the Harlem Renaissance.


The music that emerged during the Harlem Renaissance, particularly jazz, also played a pivotal role in shaping American music. The innovative sounds of jazz, rooted in African rhythms and improvisation, challenged the norms of the time and formed the foundation for subsequent musical genres. Today, the echoes of the Harlem Renaissance can still be heard in the diverse music scene of Harlem, where jazz clubs and live performances celebrate the rich heritage of African American musical traditions.


Beyond the arts, the Harlem Renaissance also had a profound impact on civil rights activism and the fight against racial inequality. The grassroots movements and activism that emerged during this time laid the foundation for the Civil Rights Movement of the 1950s and 1960s. The spirit of resilience and the pursuit of social justice that characterized the Harlem Renaissance continue to inspire and fuel advocacy and activism in Harlem today.


Overall, the Harlem Renaissance left an indelible mark on the neighborhood of Harlem. Its influence can be seen and felt in the vibrant artistic community, the celebration of African American culture, and the ongoing commitment to social justice. The legacy of the Harlem Renaissance serves as a constant reminder of the power of creativity, art, and resilience in shaping communities and driving change.


Appreciating Harlem’s Historic Architecture

Harlem showcases a rich tapestry of historic architecture, which stands as a testament to the neighborhood’s diverse and dynamic history. From iconic brownstones to luxurious churches and iconic landmarks, Harlem’s architecture serves as a visual chronicle of its past and adds to the unique character of the neighborhood.


One of the most recognizable features of Harlem’s architecture is the brownstone. These elegant and distinctive buildings line the streets of the neighborhood, offering a glimpse into the architectural styles of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The brownstones feature characteristic elements such as ornate cornices, stoops, and bay windows, while their unique detailing and uniformity create a sense of visual harmony. These historic brownstones have been meticulously preserved and are sought-after as both residential and commercial spaces.


In addition to brownstones, Harlem is also home to grand houses of worship that showcase stunning architectural designs. Churches like the Abyssinian Baptist Church and the Greater Refuge Temple exhibit magnificent facades, intricate stained glass windows, and elaborate interiors. These spaces not only serve as places of worship for the community but also serve as architectural and cultural landmarks, offering glimpses into Harlem’s religious heritage.


Harlem’s architectural landscape also includes iconic landmarks like the Apollo Theater and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture. The Apollo Theater, with its distinct art deco facade, has hosted legendary performances by African American artists, becoming a symbol of African American cultural achievement. The Schomburg Center, housed in a beautiful Carnegie Library building, is dedicated to the preservation and research of African American history and culture.


Another noteworthy aspect of Harlem’s architecture is the influence of various architectural styles. From Renaissance Revival to Queen Anne, from Beaux-Arts to Romanesque Revival, Harlem’s buildings showcase a blend of different architectural influences. This diversity of styles is a reflection of the neighborhood’s evolving history and the influx of different communities throughout the years.


Preservation plays a crucial role in Harlem’s architectural landscape. Historic preservation efforts ensure that the neighborhood’s iconic structures, such as the Apollo Theater and the brownstones, are maintained and protected for future generations. These efforts aim to retain the unique character and charm of Harlem, while also serving as a reminder of the neighborhood’s rich history.


Furthermore, a walk through Harlem reveals the ongoing revitalization and restoration of historic buildings. Adaptive reuse projects have transformed old factories and warehouses into vibrant artistic spaces, galleries, and community centers, breathing new life into previously neglected structures.


Appreciating Harlem’s historic architecture is not limited to aesthetics; it is also an acknowledgment of the neighborhood’s cultural heritage. The architecture serves as a tangible connection to the past, a reminder of the people who built and shaped the community. It also showcases Harlem’s resilience and its commitment to preserving its legacy in the face of urban development and changing times.


Harlem’s architectural gems are an integral part of the neighborhood’s identity and contribute to its distinct charm. They stand as a visual representation of Harlem’s past, present, and future, inviting residents and visitors alike to appreciate and celebrate the rich architectural heritage that makes Harlem truly special.


Community Spirit in Harlem

One of the most remarkable aspects of Harlem is its vibrant community spirit. This neighborhood in Upper Manhattan exudes a strong sense of unity, pride, and belonging. Harlem’s community spirit is evident in the way its residents come together to support one another, celebrate their heritage, and create a sense of shared identity.


Harlem has a long history of resilience and activism, with its residents fighting against racial inequality and advocating for civil rights. This spirit of activism and community engagement is still alive today. Community organizations, local leaders, and grassroots initiatives continue to work tirelessly to address social issues, promote equality, and ensure that Harlem remains a place where everyone’s voices are heard.


Harlem’s community spirit is also fostered by its rich cultural heritage. The neighborhood is proud of its African American roots and the contributions of its diverse communities. Numerous events, festivals, and parades celebrate the cultural traditions and legacies that form the fabric of Harlem. From the African-American Day Parade to the Uptown Bounce street festival, these events bring people together, encouraging connections and fostering a strong sense of community pride.


Furthermore, Harlem’s community spirit can be felt through its emphasis on education and youth development. The neighborhood is home to various organizations and programs dedicated to empowering young people and providing them with the resources they need to thrive. From after-school programs to mentoring initiatives, Harlem invests in its youth, recognizing them as the future leaders of the community.


Community gardens also play a significant role in fostering a sense of togetherness in Harlem. These vibrant green spaces provide a place for residents to connect with nature, grow their own food, and socialize with their neighbors. Community gardens offer a sense of ownership and pride, as residents collectively work to maintain and beautify these oases in the concrete jungle.


Another example of the community spirit in Harlem is the support for local businesses. The neighborhood is filled with small, family-owned shops, boutiques, and restaurants. Harlem residents actively patronize these businesses, not only to support the local economy but also to cultivate a sense of belonging and connection. This support extends beyond the economic transaction, fostering a personal connection between business owners and customers, creating spaces where relationships are nurtured and community bonds are strengthened.


Harlem’s community spirit is not limited to its physical boundaries; it extends beyond the neighborhood’s borders. The neighborhood takes pride in representing the larger African American community and serves as a symbol of resilience and cultural heritage. People from all walks of life visit Harlem to experience its vibrant energy, celebrate its history, and embrace the sense of community that permeates the neighborhood.


Overall, Harlem’s community spirit is what gives the neighborhood its heart and soul. It is a collective effort to create a welcoming and inclusive environment where residents feel a deep connection to each other and their shared history. Harlem’s community spirit serves as a powerful reminder of the strength that lies in unity and the enduring bonds that can be formed within a neighborhood.



Choosing between Harlem and Brooklyn was a difficult decision, but ultimately, my heart led me to Harlem. The neighborhood’s rich history, vibrant cultural diversity, and strong community spirit captured my imagination and made it an irresistible place to call home.


Harlem’s allure lies in its ability to offer a unique blend of old-world charm and contemporary vibrancy. The neighborhood’s iconic brownstones, historic churches, and cultural landmarks reflect its rich architectural heritage. The legacy of the Harlem Renaissance can be felt in the artistic expression, music, and literature that continue to thrive in the community.


Harlem’s cultural diversity is a testament to its inclusive and welcoming nature. African American, Caribbean, Latin American, and West African cultures coexist and intersect, creating a tapestry of traditions and perspectives that enrich the neighborhood. The accessibility of amenities, from shopping and dining to parks and cultural institutions, ensures that residents have everything they need within reach.


What truly sets Harlem apart is its sense of community. The neighborhood’s community spirit is palpable, with residents actively engaged in supporting each other, celebrating their heritage, and advocating for social change. Harlem’s commitment to education, youth development, and local businesses further enhances its community-driven atmosphere.


While both Harlem and Brooklyn offer unique experiences, Harlem’s distinctive character, affordability, and rich cultural heritage made it the perfect choice for me. The decision to make Harlem my home has proven to be a rewarding one as I immerse myself in the vibrant arts scene, explore the diverse culinary offerings, and connect with the warm and welcoming community.


In conclusion, Harlem is a neighborhood that captivates the heart and stimulates the senses. It is a place where history, culture, and community converge, creating a truly extraordinary experience that is both enriching and inspiring. Whether you are drawn to its architectural beauty, cultural diversity, or close-knit community spirit, Harlem is a neighborhood that exudes its own special magic, making it a remarkable place to live, work, and play.