Upper East Side
The housing on the Upper East Side is diverse and plentiful. As the city's first choice for bargain hunters, the further one gets from the Park and the subway, the lower the rents tend to go. The Gold Coast properties?mansions and huge prewars in the 60s and 70s, on and near Fifth and Park Avenues?remain the domain of the seriously wealthy, for whom park views, expensive meals, Madison Avenue shopping, and proximity to most of the city's best private schools are basic requirements. East of Lexington Avenue, young professionals and budding families live in prewar and postwar co-ops, condos, and mid-block townhouses, which run smaller than those on the Gold Coast. They're mostly one- and two-bedrooms in walkups and postwar slabs, including lots of convertible studios. Cheap housing, entertainment on all the avenues, and Central Park are just a few of the reasons that make this the most popular neighborhood for all kinds of people living in Manhattan.
The Upper East Side is a neighborhood of great diversity. In addition to being able to claim our country's most affluent zip code (10021), there are a wide range of people inhabiting the area bound from 59th to 96th Streets and Central Park to the East River. Significant development of the Upper East Side began in the mid-19th century. Prior to this, very little construction occurred in this area, since most people lived downtown and much of the land on the Upper East Side remained in the hands of the city government, or was divided into country estates. Beginning in the 1850s, wood frame houses sprang up, but the area remained free of organized development of any kind. During the second half of the 19th century, the increase in the population of New York City was the primary catalyst for transforming areas north of Manhattan's settled districts at that time. Vast numbers of foreign immigrants and other American migrants flooded the city. Still, the Upper East Side experienced only speculative development activity in areas along Fourth (renamed Park Avenue in 1888) and Fifth Avenues. Plans existed to significantly expand, but these plans were shattered due to the Panics of 1873, when a severe economic depression--lasting for about six years--devastated the region, sending Upper East Side land prices plummeting. The Upper East Side regained its status as a prime location for speculative residential real estate investment in the 1880s, as the New York area recovered financially and elevated railroads were built on Second and Third Avenues in 1880 and 1878, respectively. Most of the people who bought housing on the Upper East Side commuted to jobs located in downtown New York City. Almost the entire Upper East Side, with the exception of Fifth Avenue, was built up with residences by the early 1890s. Fifth Avenue north of 59th Street was not considered to be a prestigious address prior to the 1890s. Up until this time, the wealthiest and most affluent people lived south of 59th street in mansions and rowhouses near Fifth Avenue. Fifth Avenue, along Central Park and north of 59th street, was too expensive for many builders to touch however, so these expensive plots remained vacant. The wealthy class began to dip its toe in the water of speculating in real estate along Fifth Avenue north of 59th street in the mid 1890s, and by 1915 large palatial residences were erected on Fifth Avenue all the way up to 96th street. At this time, the wide Park Avenue boulevard was transformed into a prime location for new residences, which were constructed by both real estate developers and wealthy individuals looking to build homes on Park Avenue for their own personal use. The Metropolitan Museum of Art undertook a major expansion as the Upper East Side had become an elite residential neighborhood. All of the major mansion and townhouse construction came to an end in about 1915, as rapidly escalating land values, the introduction of the income tax in 1913, and the scarcity of available servants rendered this area too expensive for all but the country's wealthiest individuals. Apartment houses began to be erected with all of the amenities expected in any high-class, single-family home. Luxury apartment buildings appeared on the Upper East Side for the first time in the first decade of the 20th century, and rapidly expanded during the next two decades. Still, the idea of living in a single building with many other families had not caught on with everyone, and those affluent families with enough money pursued single-family construction of rowhouses and renovation of existing rowhouses further east on the Upper East Side.
What's Next? With Fifth Avenue and Park Avenue being the choice of the wealthy, and with better schools (private and public) than any other neighborhood in the city (besides P.S. 234 in Tribeca) this neighborhood has the infrastructure and the momentum to be the city's premier neighborhood--and most often sought after--for years to come.
Upper East Side Buildings