Where Does Harlem Begin and End?

By HarlemGuy

Credit: Wikipedia

Last week I met with friends for coffee in a local Harlem establishment.  We found ourselves debating the boundaries of Harlem.   There was some debate over the southern edge on the East side.   A newcomer said they thought it was 110th on the West side and 96th on the East side (east of 5th Ave.).  Another born and raised in Harlem said it was 110th all the way across.   I have heard and read both.  I found myself perusing Wikipedia recently and stumbled upon the below.


“The boundaries of modern Harlem; some landmarks are noted.Harlem stretches from the East River west to the Hudson River between 155th Street; where it meets Washington Heights—to a ragged border along the south. Central Harlem begins at 110th Street, at the northern boundary of Central Park; Spanish Harlem extends east Harlem’s boundaries south to 96th Street, while in the west it begins north of Upper West Side, which gives an irregular border west of Morningside Avenue. Harlem’s boundaries have changed over the years; as Ralph Ellison observed: “Wherever Negroes live uptown is considered Harlem.”[citation needed]

The neighborhood contains a number of smaller, cohesive districts. The following are some examples:

West Harlem (west of St. Nicholas Avenue and north of 123rd Street)
Hamilton Heights, around the Hamilton Grange
Sugar Hill[2]
Manhattanville, north of Morningside Heights

Central Harlem
Mount Morris, extending west from Marcus Garvey Park
Strivers’ Row, centered on 139th Street
Astor Row, centered on 130th Street

Spanish Harlem, also known as East Harlem or El Barrio (east of Fifth Avenue)

The New York City Police Department patrols five precincts located within Harlem. The areas of West Harlem are served by the 30th Precinct,[3] the areas of Central Harlem are served by the 28th[4] and 32nd Precincts,[5] and the areas of East Harlem are served by the 23rd[6] and 25th Precincts.[7]

Harlem is represented by New York’s 15th congressional district, the New York State Senate’s 30th district, the New York State Assembly’s 68th and 70th districts, and the New York City Council’s 7th, 8th, and 9th districts.”

So, what is the “right” answer?  Please join the conversation and share your thoughts.

19 thoughts on “Where Does Harlem Begin and End?”

  1. 96th to 110th feels like Harlem, but it isn’t Harlem proper. To myself I call this section “wannabe” Harlem. To me though, and it’s nothing more than a matter of feeling, I don’t think Harlem really extends all the way to 155th because I think anything north of 128th has an entirely different vibe. I also feel like Bed-Stuy and Red Hook have a different feel than the rest of Brooklyn, but it’s a much slimmer difference than the different sections of Harlem. Of course this all conjecture based on my own personal travels and experiences.

  2. Ask a different person and you’ll get a different answer. My best friend is born and raised on East 97th and that’s Harlem we always refer to it as such. So I agree with the above comment, staring at 96th and up.

  3. Thanks for your comments. After additional research it would appear that the boundaries are as follows:

    Harlem stretches from the East River west to the Hudson River between 155 Street, where it meets Washington Heights, to a ragged border along the south.

    Central Harlem: 110th St. to Harlem River, 5th Ave. to St. Nicholas Ave.

    East Harlem: 96th St. to Harlem River, East River to 5th Ave.

  4. I think this is a good question to ask the Department of City Planning they keep all sorts of statistics including boundary and neighborhood name locations!

    1. Being from Central Harlem and a Graduate from Columbia U. Harlem starts from 110th to 155th. and Columbia U in Morningside Heights Harlem, New York.

      1. Thank you for writing. What about Harlem’s easternmost border? From where in Central Harlem? How do you feel about marketing efforts claiming the upper west side as the slice of Harlem between 96 and 110 from Central Park to West Broadway?

  5. I’ve been living in Harlem for many years now and all my downtown friends always ask this question.. where does Harlem begin? I always think on the West side Harlem starts around 107th St not 11oth.

  6. Ellen,

    Previously, “Manhattan Valley” (96th to 110th on the west side of the park) was in fact considered part of “Harlem” rather than the “Upper West Side.”

    It is clear that the boundaries have in fact evolved over time. I think “Harlem,” in what it has come to define, has always had a great deal more to do with Manhattan’s collective psychology and evolving demography, than with any physical measure of geography.

  7. I think it doesn’t really matter, its a state of mind. I now live in Harlem and feel its so special and its about being friendly and actually nice to other people. SO the exact street can’t make or break Harlem. In fact I don’t like boundries anymore. I guif it had to be determined then 96th on the eastside is right and growing up we were always told 96th st on the westside is Harlem also…

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