AM New York Upper East Side: Enjoy the Met, Carl Schurz Park and more between 80-89th streets by Alison Fox
The Upper East Side between 80th and 89th streets offers plenty of fun things to do and place to eat. (Credit: Linda Rosier)
Staring out at the calm water of the East River from Carl Schurz Park from the long stretch of promenade, it’s easy to forget the hustle and bustle of the city just steps away.
For many Upper East Siders who live between 80th and 89th streets, this is the draw of a neighborhood that is equal parts quiet residential homes and busy commercial strips.
The area, framed on one side by the water and on the other by Central Park, is a residential dream with everything from luxury apartment buildings to townhomes to five-story walk ups.
“It’s a beautiful place to live, it’s quiet. It appeals to me more than any other part of New York City,” said Leonardo Playa, who moved to the area about 20 years ago from Italy and lives here with his wife and 8-year-old daughter in a large one-bedroom rental. “It’s convenient for everything. You live in the city, but at nighttime it’s quiet. The downside is you pay a lot for rent.”
While the further east the more affordable housing prices get, according to local experts, those looking to buy property here shouldn’t expect it to come cheap.
And prices toward the river are expected to increase with the expected completion of the Second Avenue subway, the first phase of which is slated to open in December.
For Sharon Rachev, 29, who moved to the East 80s about a year ago, its impending debut makes the eastern half of the neighborhood feel “up and coming.”
“If we decide to sell the house [after the subway opens], it would go up in value,” said Rachev.
The median sales price in the East 80s was $1,100,000 in 2015, compared to $910,000 for all of Manhattan, and up from $893,000 in 2013, according to the listings site StreetEasy.
The median rent in the area was $2,650 last year, compared to $3,125 in the borough as a whole, and up from $2,495 in 2013, StreetEasy found.
But Romina Monsef, a real estate sales broker with Citi Habitats who lives and works on the Upper East Side, said the area offers a diverse enough housing stock to fit most price ranges.
“In terms of housing, there’s a lot of options,” Monsef said. “You have walk up buildings, elevator buildings and luxury buildings. There’s also a lot of townhouses. Anything that you’re looking for, you can find it there at a lot of different price points.”
And those that can afford to live here rarely have to leave the area for entertainment and amenities.
Despite being plagued with subway construction for the last few years, Second Avenue is still going strong with bars and restaurants lining the busy stretch, like well-known bakery Two Little Red Hens, near 86th Street, and cocktail bar The Penrose, at 82nd Street.
Stores become increasingly more high-end toward Madison Avenue, where shoppers can find home decor by Jonathan Adler and luggage at Tumi, both near 83rd Street, or cooking supplies in William Sonoma, at 86th Street.
Art is also in abundance here, with the Metropolitan Museum of Art dominating several blocks along Fifth Avenue, and the Neue Galerie exhibiting its extensive collection of Austrian and German art, including paintings by Gustav Klimt.
Central Park is another big draw. Neighborhood residents have immediate access to running paths and the calm of the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir.
But above all else, residents say the neighborhood’s friendliness is its best quality.
When Elissa Domnitz and her husband were looking to transition from a house on Long Island to apartment-living in Manhattan, they settled on the East 80s six months ago for exactly that reason.
“It just seemed like this would be the most livable place for me,” said Domnitz, 51. “There’s not a day that goes by where I don’t meet someone. Everyone talks to everyone.”
The East 80s run from East 80th Street to the south to East 89th Street to the north. The nabe sits between Fifth Avenue, at central Park, and the FDR Drive, at the East River.
Upper East Side restaurants between 80-89th streets
1621 Second Ave.
Dig in to a plate of fried calamari or spaghetti puttanesca at this old-school Italian eatery. You might bump into Woody Allen, Tom Hanks or Paul McCartney, who are reportedly regulars.
1431 Third Ave.
This Turkish cafe has a devoted customer base. Order anything from hummus and stuffed grape leaves to the fish specials.
Il Salumaio (pictured)
1731 Second Ave.
Grab a sandwich (like the famed Arthur Avenue panini) or try a classic dish like eggplant parmigiano at this small trattoria.
Bars and nightlife
Mad River Bar & Grille
1142 Third Ave.
Open since 1998, this bi-level sports bar attracts a diverse crowd and offers everything from food to DJs on weekends.
1590 Second Ave.
Brick walls and wood floors lend a cozy vibe to this trendy and popular cocktail bar. An extensive beer menu and high-end bar food make it a crowd pleaser.
Ethyl's Alcohol and Food (pictured)
1629 Second Ave.
Step back in time in this 1970s-themed bar that features a DJ and go-go girls.
Where to shop
Glaser's Bake Shop (pictured)
1670 First Ave.
The German bakery first opened its doors in 1902, slinging old-fashioned donuts, challah, and rugelach ever since.
1195 Lexington Ave.
This high-end dog boutique is bursting at the seams with stylish clothing, toys and accessories.
324 E. 81st St.
Find discounted designer clothes from Chanel, Lanvin, Prada and more at this local consignment shop.
(Credit: Linda Rosier)
Things to do on the UES between 80-89th streets
Metropolitan Museum of Art (pictured)
1000 Fifth Ave.
Get in touch with your inner fine art critic while touring this iconic New York museum. Suggested admission for adults at the Met is $25.
Carl Schurz Park
East End Avenue from East 84th to 90th streets
Relax away from the hustle and bustle of the city and look out at the calming water of the East River. Sit along one of the benches on the promenade, take your pooch to the dog park or bring the kiddies to the Catbird Playground.
East End Avenue at East 88th Street
This historic mansion, built in 1799 and home to the city's First Family, offers tours on Tuesdays, which have to be reserved in advance.
4, 5, 6 to 86th Street
M1, M2, M3, M4, M15, M31, M86, M98, M101, M102, M103(Credit: Linda Rosier)
Celebs who live on the UES between 80-89th streets
Madonna owns a residential compound at 152 E. 81st St. and Ricky Martin has a four-bedroom condo at 170 East End Ave.(Credit: Getty Images / Ben Stansall )
The buzz: Second Avenue subway
After several delays, the first phase of the Second Avenue subway line is slated to open on Dec. 31st, and residents are hoping it makes commuting more convenient and brings more foot traffic to businesses on the strip.
The new line, which will run the Q train at first, is being built is four phases, with the first including three new stations at 72nd, 86th and 92nd streets.
It is expected to serve more than 200,000 people each day, according to an MTA spokesman, taking pressure off the crowded Lexington Avenue line.
An average of more than 76,000 riders used the 86th Street 4, 5, 6 station per weekend in 2015, according to the MTA.
"I think it's great, it's going to help," Kathryn Smith, 44, said of the new subway line.
"Sometimes when I take the subway at rush hour, you have to wait three trains," explained Smith, who has lived on the Upper East Side for about 20 years.
Lifelong resident Wendy Koppinger, however, said she was excited the project began but her feeling was tempered by the calamitous subway construction and delays in station openings.
"Three stops really don't do it," said Koppinger, who works as a dog walker. "For the amount of stuff we've been putting up with -- I don't even walk on Second Avenue if I can avoid it."
Councilman Ben Kallos, whose district includes the East 80s, said he would have preferred the subway to open years ago, as it's been planned since the 1920s, but now is better than never.
But Kallos said he thinks while "100 years is a long time to wait for a subway," when the line finally opens it will be a welcome sight.
"The Second Avenue Subway will [lure] a lot of the riders from Lexington over to," said Kallos. "Businesses that are now here will have the benefit of more traffic, both foot traffic and subway traffic. The neighborhood will get Second Avenue back."(Credit: MTA)
Q&A with Eva Matischak, owner of Heidelberg
Heidelberg, at 648 Second Ave. was first-opened in the 1930s, and has since beckoned customers into the dimly-lit, authentic German bar to try its comfort foods like pretzels and sausages. Owner Eva Matischak, 63, was 12 when her family took over the business in 1964. We chatted with her about life in the restaurant business and the Upper East Side.
What was it like growing up in this restaurant?
We went through many different stages, starting in the'60s. It's seen it all. The neighborhood changed considerably. When we took over it was basically all Germantown and gradually it's all changed.
And you've kept the business going, how does that feel?
It's something to be proud of. It's a very hard task to accomplish, keeping it in the family. Having one generation after another ... the heritage, the tradition. German food isn't really the in-thing, it's not trendy anymore. Now we're all into diet food and vegetables. It brings you back to grandma and I don't think that gets old.
What does it contribute to the neighborhood?
It is a family place. It's kind of a neighborhood-theme that pretty much has died out. It's just an old-fashioned, comfortable place to go and really just have a conversation. It's just wholesome comfort food. The family [dinner] situation is kind of becoming obsolete. People go out, they don't sit down. People come in, they're on their phones. They're on their internet. We ask people to not do that when they come in.
(Credit: Courtesy of Eva Matischak)