by Eileen Guo / Applesauce NY
Visitors and newcomers to New York City will quickly discover that there is not one “New York”, but many, with each borough, neighborhood, and sometimes even street existing as a world in miniature. But here’s a secret from long-time NYC residents: each mini-world – block, neighborhood, and borough – has different faces and rhythms at different times of the day; gradually getting to know all of them is one of the great joys of settling in to a new home in the city.
And perhaps nowhere is this truer than the Upper West Side, often described both as a small village in the big city of Manhattan as well as its cultural and intellectual hub. Bordered by Central Park to the east and the Hudson River to the west, the neighborhood runs from approximately 59th St in the south to 110th St – and Columbia University – in the north, it still has a charming deeply, community-oriented feel. For many residents and visitors, that community – coupled with the extraordinary amount of green space – represent some of the greatest draws of the UWS.
Both factors make the Upper West an immensely livable neighborhood, 161 W 91st St, located on a quiet side street right off of the main boulevard of Amsterdam and equidistant from Central and Riverside Parks, the UWS at the center of it all.
But beyond the parks for which the Upper West is perhaps most famous, here are six neighborhood gems that UWS residents love about their neighborhood:
Barney Greengrass (541 Amsterdam Ave): Open since 1908 and continuously run by the same family ever since, this neighborhood restaurant and deli has become a favorite of New Yorkers and visitors alike, with Jerry Seinfeld, Alec Baldwin, and Billy Crystal (who was once sent a package of its bagels and lox while filming City Slickers in Moab, Utah) among its famous fans. Its décor has barely changed since the early 1900s, and this timelessness serves as a bulwark in a constantly changing city. Pick up a bagel, some of the city’s best in a city known for delicious bagels, for breakfast or the whitefish and Nova sandwich with vegetable cream cheese, tomato, and onion on barley (the recommendation of the current and third-generation owner, Gary Greengrass.
Equinox (2465 Broadway): This upscale gym has a beautiful – even by Equinox standards – location on 92nd and Broadway boasting classes such as ballet-inspired true barre, cycling, and “Firestarter”, an intense 30-minute cardio session to start off the day, as well as well-equipped weights rooms, studios, and spa, all within exposed brick walls with high windows looking out into the bustle of Broadway.
Central Park Reservoir (86th St): Officially called the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir, but known to locals simply as the Central Park Reservoir, the 106-acre body can be entered at 86th street, just blocks from the brownstone. One of Central Park’s most visited and scenic points of attraction for visitors, for UWS residents, the 1.58-mile route around it presents a great running or walking path.
Westside Community Garden (W 90th St) Upper West Side’s greenery does not come just from its proximity to Central and Riverside Parks but also its tree-lined streets and abundance of community gardens, like the family-friendly Westside Community Garden just a block away on 90th St between Amsterdam and Columbus. Operated by an all-volunteer not-for-profit organization, the garden boasts a flower park as well as vegetable plots, compost bins for neighbors, and a variety of events throughout the year.
AMC Loews’ 84th St Theatre (2310 Broadway): Why is a movie theatre on this list? UWS residents know that the 84th St Theatre goes beyond the typical multiplex experience. With electronically controlled reclining seats and reserved, stadium seating (make sure to get your tickets online for the best selection), both UWS locals and Manhattanites alike know that the 84th Street Theatre is by far the city’s most comfortable for feature films.
Zabar’s (2245 Broadway) On the corner of 80th and Broadway, Zabar’s is an UWS institution. It’s known to the mainstream public thanks to its depictions in a number of Hollywood productions, including You’ve Got Mail, Friends, Sex and the City, Seinfeld, 30 Rock, Gossip Girl, and even The Simpsons, and virtually every other New York City-themed movie or TV show. But for UWS residents, and other loyal regulars flocking in from across Manhattan, it’s the food selection – the bagels, smoked fish, olives, cheeses, and coffee – that keep them coming back, long after the cameras stop rolling. And fun fact for coffee lovers? Zabar’s introduced drip coffee machines to the United States in the 60s.