Ah, the Upper East Side.
Think: Park Avenue, high-end boutiques, soccer moms, designer poodles, investment bankers, million dollar townhouses.
When I first moved to the Upper East Side, I was not only excited to give up my 3+ hours/day commuting (the PTSD still lingers), but to live as one of Manhattan’s elite (or pretend to…). From shows such as Gossip Girl to The Real Housewives of New York City, the Upper East Side has long been portrayed as a playground for the uber-wealthy. The Nanny Diaries depicted the neighborhood as a class struggle of dysfunction and chaos. Gossip Girl classified high schoolers as spoiled children acting like adults, and adults acting like children. To this day, the stigma of the neighborhood still exists: but what most don’t realize is that the UES is typically where you can find the best apartment bargains as a young, broke millennial.
Before the reign of the Q train that transformed the neighborhood into being more “transportation friendly,” apartment prices alongside the East River and in Yorkville were, and maybe still are, considered super low for the region. You could steal a one bedroom for $1,600 (maybe your jaw dropped if you’re from out-of-state, maybe you’re envious if you’re in NYC).
Here are some pros and cons about residing in Manhattan’s most cheapest-expensive area:
- The convenience of the Q train is now unmatched. No more walking 10-15 minutes to the 6 train if you live on 1st Ave or York Ave.
- It’s quiet for New York City. I love that. I love to be able to work in the hectic area of midtown, or go out in the lively village, and return home to peace and solitude while still being in Manhattan.
- There are tons of great restaurants and hang-out spots. To grabbing incredible vegan food at Blake Lane to Gigi Hadid’s favorite burger at J.G. Melon, the cuisine focuses on every culture, including celebrity (because, Upper East Side).
- The close proximity to Central Park: my favorite perk. I love being able to get some sun, walk through “nature,” and row boats at the boathouse steps from my apartment.
- The affordability. I, along with my roommate, was able to snag a 2-bedroom that has people envious when I tell them our monthly rate (although it’s a box TBH, but the UES is slightly known for a better bang-for-your-buck.
- LESS TOURISTS. Or, if any, even. The only real tourist attraction is the Met.
- The stigma. Although this doesn’t bother me too much, many people will refuse to visit you because…Upper East Side. Think: Broad City‘s best scene.
- You can feel excluded from the city. When most go out on weekends, it’s not the UES. And so, you either subway at 2 AM back home or take a costly Uber.
- The culture. While neighborhoods such as Greenwich Village or Hell’s Kitchen have character, weirdness, and a typical New York vibe…the UES is home to families and rich folk settling down in life, while judging your outfit on the sidewalk.
- Soccer moms, baby strollers, and designer dogs. Nothing says Friday afternoon on the UES quite like children running around at all street corners, soccer moms rolling over your feet with their strollers (and not apologizing), and an abundance of poodles you have to look out for when walking by.
Overall, however, the Upper East Side is definitely a better place to live than most realize. I thoroughly enjoy having more solitude, cheaper rent, jogging at East River Park and Carl Shultz Park, avoiding tourists, and having that “homey” vibe.
So, I guess here I am, pretending I’m a rich Upper East Sider on a millennial salary. But that’s what New York is: faking it until you make it.
The Upper East Side, a horrible, vapid (but beautiful) wasteland.
-mike, the upper east sider
xoxo, gossip guy