The Upper East Side has a reputation of wealth and fancy. Once the home to the wealthiest New Yorkers (like the Kennedys, the Roosevelts and the Rockefellers), the UES is ornate and beautiful. The Upper East Side is still today one of the most expensive neighborhoods in New York City, but in the last few years it has begun to see younger arrivals (people in their 20s and 30s) who are finding better deals up north, away from the Lower East Side and even hip Williamsburg. There are mansions…
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Upper East Side, Upper Manhattan, Manhattan
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The Upper East Side has a reputation of wealth and fancy. Once the home to the wealthiest New Yorkers (like the Kennedys, the Roosevelts and the Rockefellers), the UES is ornate and beautiful. The Upper East Side is still today one of the most expensive neighborhoods in New York City, but in the last few years it has begun to see younger arrivals (people in their 20s and 30s) who are finding better deals up north, away from the Lower East Side and even hip Williamsburg. There are mansions, high-rises, walk ups, pre-war doorman buildings, and sparkling-new luxury ones. The further east you go, the cheaper the apartments get. Now that the 2nd Avenue train is finished, it's become less of a hike for renters who live in the area, as previously the only train servicing the UES was the 4,5,6 on Lexington Avenue. The Upper East Side contains some smaller neighborhoods (Yorkville, Lenox Hill, Carnegie Hall) and spans from the bottom of central park (59th Street) to 96th Street and is bordered by the east side of Central Park at 5th Avenue to the East River.
The Upper East Side is known for its wealthy residents (the median income for Upper East Side residents in 2013 was $114,000 compared to $52,000 for the city as a whole), its proximity to Central Park, and of course, for Museum Mile. Central Park is iconic — at 2.5 miles long in the center of Manhattan, the park is both a respite from the asphalt and noise of the city, and an incredible tribute to urban landscape design from whom many call the father of landscape architecture, Frederick Law Olmsted.
From a stroll through Central Park (or a boat ride, carousel ride, or bird watching trip) you fall right onto Museum Mile. Named such for the abundance of New York’s finest museums, Museum Mile runs from 82nd to 110th Streets on 5th Avenue and is occupied by ten museums: The Museum for African Art, El Museo del Barrio, Museum of the City of New York, The Jewish Museum, Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, National Academy Museum, The Guggenheim, Neue Galerie New York, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Henry Clay Frick house, though not technically part of museum mile is on the same avenue on 70th street.
For those who love to shop, Madison Avenue is home to some of the highest fashion stores like Gucci, Christian Louboutin, Alexander McQueen, Tory Burch and Fendi (among many others).
The Upper East Side is one of few areas of Manhattan where Republicans constitute more than 20% of the electorate. The Upper East Side also is home to most of the city’s elite private schools and as such is a hub for well-off families and of course their children. Some of the better-known private schools include Marymount, Dalton, The Spence School, Nightingale-Bamford, The Browning School, and Rudolf Steiner among others. The density of these private schools make the summer and fall competitive times to move into the neighborhood, as families hearing back from their children’s applications begin moving closer to school.
The Upper East Side’s housing stock is fairly dichotomous; there are beautiful, very expensive apartment buildings and brownstones, and a host of less-expensive (but nevertheless luxury) high-rises closer to the East River.
Before Europeans arrived in New York City, the Upper East Side was home to Native Americans with fishing camps along the East River. As Europeans arrived, they for the most part settled in lower Manhattan leaving the Upper East Side rural farmland for many years. When New York and Harlem railroad began to develop around the one station in the neighborhood (at 86th Street) this all began to change. The Upper East Side saw a lot of growth and eventually became the heart of German immigration. Much of the farmland was subdivided and during the second half of the 19th century, large numbers of immigrants began flooding NYC causing a massive population boom beyond the downtown areas.
In 1878 the Third Avenue El was opened followed closely by the Second Avenue El, which linked together the upper and lower classes of the Upper East Side, which were generally separated East to West of Lexington Avenue. In the 1950s, these elevated trains were demolished which opened the tenement-lined streets to spotty construction of high-rise apartment buildings. The neighborhood was left with only one subway line, which had adverse effects on both its transportation and its popularity. The construction of the new Second Avenue subway has since brought home prices up on the Upper East Side.
Central Park offers a wide variety of activities for families, singles, and everyone in between. From jogging paths to the Central Park Zoo to the Great Lawn, Central Park is a sanctuary from the noise and heat of the city for all residents of NYC.
Check out the bars and restaurants from 3rd to 1st ave or enjoy a night of laughs at one of the city’s legendary comedy clubs, Comic Strip Live, and of course take a day (or a week) to visit the museums on Museum Mile. And as you head east, Gracie Mansion is a beautiful site to see, in Carl Schurz Park, along with fantastic views of the East River, Randall’s Island, and Queens.
In terms of food, be sure to check La Maison du Chocolat, Alloro, Café Boulud, Candle 79, and the Lexington Candy Shop. The Upper East side is filled with incredible restaurants from all cuisines with many world famous chefs. If you can’t afford $600 socks on Madison Avenue, check out Housing Works Thrift Shop or BIS Designer Reseal for secondhand clothes from the wealthier residents of Park Avenue.