What an interesting read from the NY Times about our neighborhood!Thanks Cristie for always sharing interesting info! I did miss it yesterday and now I’ll share it.
Living In | The West 70s
‘The Suburbs of Manhattan’
Chang W. Lee/The New York Times
COMFORT ZONE In an area flanked by Central and Riverside Parks, “there’s no neglected avenue,” one agent said. The scene near Gray’s Papaya evinces the West 70s’ busy but relaxed aura.
By JAKE MOONEY
Published: April 8, 2011
WHEN Paul Kahn was growing up on the Upper West Side in the 1980s, he recalled recently, it was pleasant and livable but a neighborhood that might seem surprising in hindsight. There were some blocks his parents didn’t let him walk on; many children, himself included, went to private school; and his Little League, which drew from both the Upper West Side and Harlem, still felt uncrowded.
He has been away from the area a while — he and his wife, Star, now live in a studio on 14th Street in the East Village. But they are expecting a baby next month and are hoping to move to a two-bedroom apartment on Riverside Drive before then. (A contract, for $600,000 to $700,000, has been signed, and they are awaiting co-op board approval.)
Their anticipated new home in the West 70s evokes the Upper West Side of Mr. Kahn’s youth in many ways, with Central Park on one side, Riverside Park on the other, and blocks of brownstones and prewar apartments in between. But given its new status as one of the most desirable parts of Manhattan it is different, too: New buildings are taller; storefronts are brighter and often occupied by retail chains. Notably, there are far more children.
That, Ms. Kahn said, is part of the appeal. “I consider the Upper West Side to be the suburbs of Manhattan,” she said. “If you want to stay in Manhattan and you’re considering having a baby, access to the park is such a benefit.”
At the same time, their building, between 71st and 72nd Streets, is near the Beacon Theater, where Ms. Kahn, a set designer, sometimes works. And the corner of 72nd and Broadway has as much bustle as Union Square, she said, adding, “That’s why I live in Manhattan.”
Mel Wymore, the chairman of Community Board 7, which represents all the Upper West Side, said that in addition to encompassing some of the costliest real estate in the city, along Central Park West, the West 70s had gained buildings, among them condominium construction on Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue. The growth has buttressed values, even in a down market, but Mr. Wymore said it had also brought challenges. Small businesses like dry cleaners and hardware stores have struggled amid chain stores and banks, he said, and schools are crowded.
One recent controversy, over the wattage of a new Duane Reade sign above 72nd and Broadway, is illustrative. Mr. Wymore, who lives at 70th and Columbus, said the board and city government had had little success getting it dimmed. “It’s, in not the greatest way, symbolic of the national chains moving in,” he said.
Still, Mr. Wymore pointed out, such issues take nothing away from offerings like the American Museum of Natural History, the New-York Historical Society, a lively restaurant scene, a thriving retail strip on Columbus Avenue, and of course Central Park.
Leslie Pastor, a new resident, said she had been drawn by the express subway service at 72nd Street. Ms. Pastor, 34, moved from Connecticut early this year into a one-bedroom on West 75th Street. She did not say how much she had paid, but similar units in her building cost $500,000 to $600,000. She described being pleasantly surprised by people’s friendliness.
And, while the area is certainly no nightlife nexus, she said she had found several places to meet friends. Besides, busier areas are always accessible by subway, while the particular appeal of her neighborhood is distinctive.
“There are so many little treasures to find,” Ms. Pastor said.
As a West 70s resident charmed by her surroundings she has company. Sherry Matays, a senior vice president of the Corcoran Group who lives in the low 70s, said that on a recent visit to Paris, her mind had wandered home.
“I thought, ‘Oh my goodness, this is tantamount to where I live,’ ” she said.
WHAT YOU’LL FIND
The housing stock is diverse, if almost all pricey. Central Park West is home to exclusive buildings like the Dakota and the San Remo. Many side streets are lined with brownstones, notably the blocks near the natural history museum, between Columbus and Central Park West in the high 70s. And there is new construction: a rental at 200 West 72nd that also has a new Trader Joe’s and the brightly lit Duane Reade, and condos farther up Broadway.
Jonathan Charnas, the broker at the Fox Residential Group who sold the Kahns their place, says West End Avenue and Riverside Drive tend to be relatively quiet because commercial traffic is prohibited. Mr. Charnas, who lives in the Kahns’ building, remarked on the change in demographics in 34 years.
“Because of the subway system and access to the financial district,” he said, “we have attracted a lot of people of means to the Upper West Side.” Also, “you see many, many more baby carriages, many more pregnant women.”
Mr. Charnas, 67, said that although the area was safer and had big new stores like Trader Joe’s and Barney’s Co-op, he missed some of the small antique stores that have closed, and one particular Viennese bakery.
Some small retail has held out, though, particularly on Columbus, where a business improvement district was inaugurated in 1999 to combat vacancies. Barbara Adler, its executive director, said it had installed tree guards and planted flowers, and had lobbied the city for more significant changes. Today, she said, storefronts are nearly all full and pedestrians numerous.
WHAT YOU’LL PAY
The multiplicity of housing types makes generalizations difficult, Mr. Charnas said, adding: “Buildings differ so much from each other. A lot of the buildings don’t have doormen. A lot of the buildings do have doormen. There are brownstones, there are low-rises, there are mid-rises.”
Other agents agreed, but they did offer some price generalizations. On Central Park West, “if you’re on a very high floor facing Central Park, we’re in the stratosphere,” said Ms. Matays of Corcoran.
That, she added, can mean upwards of $4,000 a square foot in a co-op. Prime co-op buildings off the park cost more than $1,000 a square foot, she said, adding that comparable condos, which are relatively rare in the neighborhood but include distinguished addresses like the Ansonia and the Apthorp, are generally about 15 percent more expensive.
Yair Tavivian, head of the Tavivian Sporn Group at Prudential Douglas Elliman, says a new condo building at 78th Street and Broadway is selling for well over $2,000 a foot, while units in other condo buildings are in the $1,000-to-$1,200-a-square-foot range.
Over all, two- and three-bedroom units are in especially high demand, because of the area’s appeal to families. Mr. Tavivian said one recent sale, a two-bedroom condo on West End and 71st, was on the market for three weeks, then sold just below asking price, which was $1.3 million. In that time, he recalled, it had 200 showings.
“If you have a good product, which has unique features and it’s priced right,” Mr. Tavivian said, “if it’s not selling in two or three weeks there’s something wrong with the broker.”
Rental prices vary. Luxury buildings, like 200 West 72nd, charge $14,000 a month and up for two-bedrooms. There are cheaper options: One-bedrooms are available on Craigslist for around $2,000, two-bedrooms around $3,000.
Some students above 72nd are zoned for Public School 87, on 78th, where 77.8 percent of tested students recently met standards in English, 77.9 percent in math. Two blocks south of 72nd, at Public School 199, 84.5 percent met standards in English, 85.9 percent in math.
To accommodate long waiting lists at both schools, last year the city opened P.S. 452, on 77th. It shares a building with Junior High School 44, which is being phased out for poor performance. Also in the building are the Anderson School, for gifted students from kindergarten through eighth grade, and the West Prep Academy, a middle school. There are no public high schools in the 70s.
WHAT TO DO
In an area flanked by Central and Riverside Parks, “there’s no neglected avenue,” Mr. Tavivian said. The natural history museum, between Central Park West and Columbus, is one of the most popular in the country.
Surrounding it is Theodore Roosevelt Park, the site on Sundays of a farmers’ market at 79th Street. Across the avenue at 77th, also Sundays, is a popular flea market. And of course, markets like Fairway and Citarella, in the mid-70s, draw a wide range of shoppers, as does Zabar’s, just outside the neighborhood a little north of 80th.
Subway service includes the B and C local trains, which stop at Central Park West and 72nd; also, the 1 local stops on Broadway at 72nd and 79th, and the 2 and 3 express trains stop at 72nd.
In the 17th century, Dutch and Flemish settlers first called the area now known as the Upper West Side Bloemendaal, or “flowering valley,” according the Encyclopedia of New York City. Among villages in the area in the 1800s was Harsenville, near today’s 71st Street.