Neighborhoods in New York City are constantly changing, or being renamed (Clinton, anyone?), or completely reinvented, as a community’s dominant character shifts, sometimes slowly, sometimes quite suddenly, from, say, industrial to residential. It’s been this way throughout the city’s nearly-400-year history, and it will more than likely continue for another few centuries. Resistance, as they say, is futile.
So it should come as no surprise that even that the most solid-seeming boundaries are sometimes becoming blurred. Case in point: the once-indisputable northern demarcation line of the Upper East Side, 96th Street. For as long as I can remember, Upper East Side apartments were below 96th Street; East Harlem apartments were above. Period.
Especially in the Carnegie Hill section of the Upper East Side–from 86th to 96th Streets, and from Fifth to Third Avenues–one of the most stately and static neighborhoods in town.
But why, then, is Earl’s Beer and Cheese (pictured above), which is located on Park Avenue close to 98th Street (and, by the way, an excellent though tiny bar and cafe whose menu emphasizes, well… beer and cheese) listed as an Upper East Side establishment on every website I could find? And what about the all of the new (or newly renovated) residential buildings facing the lovely, northern-most stretch of Central Park, like pre-war 1212 Fifth Avenue, on 102nd Street, or the Robert A.M. Stern-designed tower at 1280 Fifth Avenue (pictured below), which is “way” up on 109th Street?
And this dynamic shouldn’t be seen as an Upper East Side invasion of East Harlem. The character of the neighborhoods–its people, its stores (there’s now a Fairway in Carnegie Hill… yes, actual groceries!… as well as a Target and Costco in East Harlem), its rental prices–on both sides are changing, enough so that the area from the 90s through, say, 110th Street is an increasingly block-by-block proposition. The point is that if you’re looking for an Upper East Side apartment, or an East Harlem apartment, don’t stop your search at the traditional 96th Street line, because your perfect apartment might be right over there on the other side.
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