Map of Upper Manhattan, with Greater Harlem highlighted. Harlem proper is the neighborhood in the center.
Harlem is located in Upper Manhattan, often referred to as Uptown by locals. The three neighborhoods that comprise greater Harlem (composed of Community Districts 9, 10, and 11) stretch from the Harlem River and East River in the east, to the Hudson River to the west; and between 155th Street in the north, where it meets Washington Heights, and an uneven boundary along the south that runs along 96th Street east of Fifth Avenue, 110th Street between Fifth Avenue to Morningside Park, and 125th Street west of Morningside Park to the Hudson River. These boundaries are also cited by Encyclopædia Britannica, though the Encyclopedia of New York City takes a much more conservative view of Harlem's boundaries, only regarding central Harlem as part of Harlem proper.:573
Central Harlem is the name of Harlem proper. This section is bounded by Fifth Avenue on the east; Central Park on the south; Morningside Park, St. Nicholas Avenue and Edgecombe Avenue on the west; and the Harlem River on the north. A chain of three large linear parks—Morningside Park, St. Nicholas Park and Jackie Robinson Park—are situated on steeply rising banks and form most of the district's western boundary. On the east, Fifth Avenue and Marcus Garvey Park, also known as Mount Morris Park, separate this area from East Harlem. This area falls under Manhattan Community District 10. In the late 2000s, South Harlem, emerged from area redevelopment, running along Frederick Douglass Boulevard from West 110th to West 138th Streets. Central Harlem includes the Mount Morris Park Historic District.
West Harlem is composed of Manhattanville and Hamilton Heights, which collectively comprise Manhattan Community District 9 and are not part of Harlem proper. The two neighborhoods' area is bounded by Cathedral Parkway/110th Street on the south; 155th Street on the north; Manhattan/Morningside Ave/St. Nicholas/Bradhurst/Edgecombe Avenues on the east; and Riverside Park/the Hudson River on the west. Manhattanville begins at roughly 123rd Street and extends northward to 135th Street. The northernmost section of West Harlem is Hamilton Heights.
East Harlem, also called Spanish Harlem or El Barrio, within Manhattan Community District 11, is bounded by East 96th Street on the south, East 138th Street on the north, Fifth Avenue on the west, and the Harlem River on the east. It is not part of Harlem proper.
In the 2010s, some real estate professionals started rebranding south Harlem and Morningside Heights as "SoHa" in an attempt to gentrify the neighborhood. New York City politicians have initiated legislative efforts to curtail this practice of neighborhood rebranding.
Politically, central Harlem is in New York's 13th congressional district. It is in 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.