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Upper East Side
Neighborhood of Manhattan in New York, New York, United States
Before the arrival of Europeans, the mouths of streams that eroded gullies in the East River bluffs are conjectured to have been the sites of fishing camps used by the Lenape, whose controlled burns once a generation or so kept the dense canopy of oak-hickory forest open at ground level.
In the 19th century the farmland and market garden district of what was to be the Upper East Side was still traversed by the Boston Post Road and, from 1837, the New York and Harlem Railroad, which brought straggling commercial development around its one station in the neighborhood, at 86th Street, which became the heart of German Yorkville. The area was defined by the attractions of the bluff overlooking the East River, which ran without interruption from James William Beekman's "Mount Pleasant", north of the marshy squalor of Turtle Bay, to Gracie Mansion, north of which the land sloped steeply to the wetlands that separated this area from the suburban village of Harlem. Among the series of villas a Schermerhorn country house overlooked the river at the foot of present-day 73rd Street and another, Peter Schermerhorn's at 66th Street, and the Riker homestead was similarly sited at the foot of 75th Street. By the mid-19th century the farmland had largely been subdivided, with the exception of the 150 acres (61 ha) of Jones's Wood, stretching from 66th to 76th Streets and from the Old Post Road (Third Avenue) to the river and the farmland inherited by James Lenox, who divided it into blocks of houselots in the 1870s, built his Lenox Library on a Fifth Avenue lot at the farm's south-west corner, and donated a full square block for the Presbyterian Hospital, between 70th and 71st Streets, and Madison and Park Avenues. At that time, along the Boston Post Road taverns stood at the mile-markers, Five-Mile House at 72nd Street and Six-Mile House at 97th, a New Yorker recalled in 1893.
The fashionable future of the narrow strip between Central Park and the railroad cut was established at the outset by the nature of its entrance, in the southwest corner, north of the Vanderbilt family's favored stretch of Fifth Avenue from 50th to 59th Streets. A row of handsome townhouses was built on speculation by Mary Mason Jones, who owned the entire block bounded by 57th and 58th Streets and Fifth and Madison. In 1870 she occupied the prominent corner house at 57th and Fifth, though not in the isolation described by her niece, Edith Wharton, whose picture has been uncritically accepted as history, as Christopher Gray has pointed out.
It was her habit to sit in a window of her sitting room on the ground floor, as if watching calmly for life and fashion to flow northward to her solitary door... She was sure that presently the quarries, the wooden greenhouses in ragged gardens, the rocks from which goats surveyed the scene, would vanish before the advance of residences as stately as her own.
Before the Park Avenue Tunnel was covered (finished in 1910), fashionable New Yorkers shunned the smoky railroad trench up Fourth Avenue (now Park Avenue), to build stylish mansions and townhouses on the large lots along Fifth Avenue, facing Central Park, and on the adjacent side streets. The latest arrivals were the rich Pittsburghers Andrew Carnegie and Henry Clay Frick. The classic phase of Gilded Age Fifth Avenue as a stretch of private mansions was not long-lasting: the first apartment house to replace a private mansion on upper Fifth Avenue was 907 Fifth Avenue (1916), at 72nd Street, the neighborhood's grand carriage entrance to Central Park.
Construction of the Third Avenue El, opened from 1878 in sections, followed by the Second Avenue El, opened in 1879, linked the Upper East Side's middle class and skilled artisans closely to the heart of the city, and confirmed the modest nature of the area to their east. The ghostly "Hamilton Square", which had appeared as one of the few genteel interruptions of the grid plan on city maps since the Commissioners' Plan of 1811, was intended to straddle what had now become the Harlem Railroad right-of-way between 66th and 69th Streets; it never materialized, though during the Panic of 1857 its unleveled ground was the scene of an open-air mass meeting called in July to agitate for the secession of the city and its neighboring counties from New York State, and the city divided its acreage into house lots and sold them. From the 1880s the neighborhood of Yorkville became a suburb of middle class Germans.
Gracie Mansion, the last remaining suburban villa overlooking the East River at Carl Schurz Park, became the home of New York's mayor in 1942. The East River Drive, designed by Robert Moses, was extended south from the first section, from 125th Street to 92nd Street, which was completed in 1934 as a boulevard, an arterial highway running at street level; reconstruction designs from 1948 to 1966 converted FDR Drive, as it was renamed after Franklin Delano Roosevelt, into the full limited-access parkway that is in use today.
Demolishing the elevated railways on Third and Second Avenues opened these tenement-lined streets to the construction of high-rise apartment blocks starting in the 1950s. However, it had an adverse effect on transportation, because the IRT Lexington Avenue Line was now the only subway line in the area. The construction of the Second Avenue Subway has brought up the price of houses in the Upper East Side somewhat.
Some real estate agents use the term "Upper East Side" instead of "East Harlem" to describe areas that are slightly north of 96th Street and near Fifth Avenue, in order to avoid associating these areas with the negative connotations of the latter, a neighborhood which is generally perceived as less prestigious.
The Upper East Side Historic District is one of New York City's largest districts, as is the neighborhood. This district runs from 59th to 78th Streets along Fifth Avenue, and up to 3rd Avenue at some points. In the decades after the Civil War, the once decrepit district transitioned into a thriving middle class residential neighborhood. At the start of the 20th century, the neighborhood transformed again, but this time into a neighborhood of mansions and townhouses. As the century continued, and living environments altered, a lot of these single-family homes were replaced by lavish apartment buildings.
As of the 2000 census, twenty-one percent of the population was foreign born; of this, 45.6% came from Europe, 29.5% from Asia, 16.2% from Latin America and 8.7% from other. The female-male ratio was very high with 125 females for 100 males. The Upper East Side contains a large and affluent Jewish population estimated at 56,000. Traditionally, the Upper East Side has been dominated by wealthy White Anglo-Saxon Protestant families.
Given its very high population density and per capita income ($85,081 in 2000), the neighborhood contains the greatest concentration of individual wealth in Manhattan. As of 2011, the median household income for the Upper East Side was $117,903. As of 2011, 60.6% of adults (25+) had earned a bachelor's degree or higher.
The Upper East Side maintains the highest pricing per square foot in the United States. A 2002 report cited the average cost per square meter as $8,856; however, that price has noticed a substantial jump, increasing to almost as much as $11,200 per square meter as of 2006. There are some buildings which cost about $125 per square foot (~$1345/m^2). The only public housing projects for those of low to moderate incomes on the Upper East Side are located just south of the neighborhood's northern limit at 96th Street, the Holmes Towers and Isaacs Houses. It borders East Harlem, which has the highest concentration of public housing in the United States.
The Upper East Side is one of few areas of Manhattan where Republicans constitute more than 20% of the electorate. In the southwestern part of the neighborhood, Republican voters equal Democratic voters (the only such area in Manhattan), whereas in the rest of the neighborhood Republicans make up between 20 and 40% of registered voters.
The Upper East Side is notable as a significant location of political fundraising in the United States. Four of the top five ZIP codes in the nation for political contributions are in Manhattan. The top ZIP Code, 10021, is on the Upper East Side and generated the most money for the 2004 presidential campaigns of both George W. Bush and John Kerry.
The area is host to some of the most famous museums in the world. The string of museums along Fifth Avenue fronting Central Park has been dubbed "Museum Mile", running between 82nd and 105th Streets. It was once named "Millionaire's Row". The following are among the cultural institutions on the Upper East Side:
The United States Postal Service operates post offices at Lenox Hill Station (ZIP code 10021), 221 East 70th Street; Cherokee Station (10075), 1483 York Avenue; Gracie Station (10028), 229 East 85th Street; and Yorkville Station (10128), 1617 Third Avenue. New ZIP codes now include 10065, 10029 and 10075.
The New York Public Library operates the 67th Street Branch Library at 328 East 67th Street, near First Avenue, the Yorkville Branch Library, 222 East 79th Street and the 96th Street Branch Library at 112 East 96th Street, near Lexington Avenue.
In popular culture
The Upper East Side has been a setting for many films, television shows, and other media.
^Noted at East 53rd, 62nd, 74th Streets (the Saw Kill, dammed to form the Lake in Central Park) and 80th Street (Eric W. Sanderson, Mannahatta: A Natural History of New York City, 2009, p. 261`"Lenape sites and place-names").
^A reconstructed map of the patchwork ecologies of Manhattan island before Europeanization is presented in Sanderson 2009; map p. 139.
^The history of the Upper East Side, in the broader citywide context, is repeatedly noted in Edwin G. Burrows and Mike Wallace, Gotham: A History of New York City to 1898 (1999).
^The original ecology of Manhattan Island and its evolution is now thoroughly explored in Eric W. Sanderson, Mannahatta: A Natural History of New York City (New York: Abrams, 2009), based in part on a British army map detailing the island's natural terrain at the time of the American Revolution.
^In 1818, with a purchase to the south, Peter Schermerhorn enlarged the property given him by his father-in-law, John Jones ("History of the Schermerhorn family", The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record,, 36 (July 1905:204)), now the site of Rockefeller University (Rockefeller University: history).
^Jones's Wood, owned by the Joneses and their Schermerhorn cousins and operated as a popular beer-garden resort, was briefly touted as a possible location for a public park before Central Park was established (Roy Rosenzweig and Elizabeth Blackmar, The Park and the People: A History of Central Park, New York, 1992, pp 20-21, map p. 38, et passim).
^Barron, james; and Roberts, Sam. "New York Mayor's Mansion Seeks a Missing Item (the Mayor)", The New York Times, November 2, 2013. Accessed September 3, 2017. "Gracie Mansion, home to the mayors of New York since movers delivered the La Guardias' own furniture in 1942, was never quite right for the billionaire mayor, who shunned it even as he shined it up, donating millions for repairs, renovations and the occasional antique."
^Nir, Sarah Maslin."Nowadays, 'Odd Couple' Would Have to Be Rich Couple, Too"The New York Times (December 25, 2012). Quote: "[Their] the apartment seemed to bounce between locations. At various times it was on the Upper West Side, where some episodes seemed to indicate that the pair drove each other crazy amid the twin spires of the exclusive San Remo on Central Park West between 74th and 75th Streets. But exterior shots of their home often were across Central Park, at 1049 Park Avenue..."
^Day, Sherri (March 26, 2004). "Disappointment for Woody Allen, But Not at Box Office". The New York Times. Retrieved August 19, 2012. "The state's highest court yesterday dismissed an effort to halt construction of a 10-story building on the Upper East Side, ending a six-year battle that pitted Woody Allen and a group of fellow Upper East Siders against the city's Landmarks Preservation Commission."
^Marino, Vivian. "A $14 Million Co-op for Michael R. Bloomberg", The New York Times, April 15, 2016. Accessed September 3, 2017. "Former Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, apparently looking to someday create a double-wide mansion for himself on the Upper East Side, paid $14,000,000 for a triplex at the co-op townhouse next to his Beaux-Arts limestone house."
^Jacobs, Alexandra. "Joan Didion on the Céline Ad", The New York Times, January 7, 2015. Accessed September 3, 2017. "'I don't have any clue,' said the 80-year-old author of well-thumbed classics such as The White Album, Slouching Towards Bethlehem and The Year of Magical Thinking, reached by telephone on Wednesday at her Upper East Side residence (where the photo, by Juergen Teller, was taken)."
^ abLLC, New York Media (May 20, 1968). "New York Magazine". New York Media, LLC. Retrieved 2018 – via Google Books.
^De La Merced, Michael J. "Protesters Take Aim at Dimon, but Miss His Office", The New York Times, October 12, 2011. Accessed September 3, 2017. "The nearly month-old Occupy Wall Street protest has apparently settled on a favorite target for their ire, Jamie Dimon. On Tuesday, protestors marched to his apartment building in Manhattan's Upper East Side, bearing a giant fake check critiquing the low taxes of America's wealthiest individuals."
^Marino, Vivian. "Penthouse Owned by Joan Rivers Sold for $28 Million", The New York Times, July 17, 2015. Accessed September 3, 2017. "The palatial triplex on the Upper East Side that Joan Rivers called home for more than a quarter of a century until her death last year -- where she had honed her caustic comedy routines, entertained celebrities, and, by her own telling, even encountered a belligerent ghost -- sold for $28 million and was the most expensive closed sale of the week, according to city records."
^Barbaro, Michael; Chen, David W. "Spitzer Rejoins Politics, Asking for Forgiveness", The New York Times, July 7, 2013. Accessed September 3, 2017. "Mr. Spitzer said he had not conducted any polling before deciding to run based on his gut reading of ordinary New Yorkers. He described an encounter on Sunday afternoon, when he was sitting on a park bench after a run near his Upper East Side home."