Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Miraculously These 12 Places Still Exist On The Upper East Side

Mathew Perpetua wrote an excellent article last week over at Buzzfeed titled "44 Amazing NYC Places That Actually Exist." It got me thinking about the amazing places that actually still exist on the Upper East Side and served as inspiration for this blog post.

The city is quickly losing amazing landmark businesses, and the UES is no different. Subway Inn (though being reborn), Lascoff Drugs, and Gino's are just a few that come to mind that we have recently lost. Fortunately, the Upper East Side, despite recent growth and development, is still a treasure trove of businesses and places where you can easily slip back into an earlier age.

1. Lexington Avenue Candy (1226 Lexington Ave at 83rd St.)
(A. Fine, 2015)
An absolute treat! Opened in 1925, so much of this luncheonette is original. You want a real New York egg cream? Lexington Avenue Candy is your place! Both windows feature Coke bottle collections from around the world and through the ages. The atmosphere is right out of old NY, and the diner fare is pretty tasty too.

2. Glaser's Bakery (1670 First Avenue at 87th Street)
(A. Fine, 2015)
One of three remaining holdouts from the German enclave that still remain. Established in 1902 this old school bakery still churns out some of the best black and white cookies known to man (and woman).

3. Schaller and Weber (1654 Second Avenue bet 85th and 86th)
(A. Fine, 2015)

Another Germantown classic. Classic beer steins are on display and for sale in the front window. This butcher and grocery has been in the hood since 1937. Thinking about some brats, these are the wurst, I mean, best, you can find. Side note, Schaller has the best bologna in town.

4. Heidelberg Restaurant (1648 Second Avenue, bet. 85th and 86th)
A. Fine 2015
Yep, that is a 2 liter boot full of beer you see there. Need I say more? And, if you dont want to cook and want that brat right away, this neighbor of Schaller and last of the Germantown holdout trio has got just what you need. Heidelberg, established in 1936, has been rumored to be in troubled waters, so go get yourself a boot, before they do! Please!

5. Jerome Florist, 1379 Madison Avenue at 96th Street
(A. Fine, 2015)

A neighborhood institution since 1929. These are not cheap, die two days later deli flowers, this is a real florist. It looks like a florist, and smells like a florist! Nice sign too!

6. Bloomingdale's, 1000 Third Avenue at 59th Street
(courtesy of Wiki)

Sure not hard to miss Bloomingdale's and it is not exactly hidden, but few realize that this Grand Dame of department stores has been in this location since 1886! Founded by the sons of a Bavarian-born salesman, it all started with Lyman and Joseph Bloomingdale selling hoop skirts on the Lower East Side in 1861. They did alright. Twenty Five years later- megastore! Take a close look, especially at the 60th Street side of the store by the loading docks, and you'll see intriguing bits and pieces of history of mysterious origins.

7. Wankel's Hardware, 1573 Third Avenue at 88th St
(Courtesy Flickr)

Speaking of long runs in retail, it is hard to beat this five generation, family owned hardware store on Third Avenue. Since 1896 and still running! Building has been recently and festively repainted. One negative, seems like much of the merchandise is under lock and key. With this much experience, who is gonna argue with them?

8. Orwasher's Bakery, 308 East 78th St.

Almost 100 years old, and using the same original brick hearths from 1916. I forgot about this place for a while, and now I am obsessed. The Rye bread at this place, oh my, oh my! I cant stop! They also make super-sized hand filled (on the spot) jelly donuts and so much more. A real treasure!

9. Dangerfield's, 1181 First Avenue at 62nd St.
(A.C. Fine, 2015)

"The oldest comedy venue in the country", that's what they say, and I generally believe them. Dangerfield's is a true classic, dating back to 1969 when Rodney "I don't get no respect" Dangerfield opened the laugh emporium with friend Anthony Bevacqua (who according to Wiki still runs the place today). Dim lights, tiny table lamps with ages old grafitti on each shade, you would swear the walls were still tar stained, if you could see them. Still attracts high quality comedians and always a great night out, just sit in the back if you don't feel like getting razzed all night.

10. Reif's Tavern, 302 East 92nd bet. Second Avenue and Third Avenue
(A Fine, 2015)

Alright, I know, that is one blurry picture, but people have been getting blurry here at Reif's Tavern since 1942. From what I can tell this may be the oldest free standing bar (non-hotel, non-club) on the Upper East Side. There is a bar, pool table, back yard and wood on the walls. This place has a distinctive 1942 vibe. And, these guys were serving PBR way, way, waaaaay before it was hip, and will after as well!

11. Papaya King, 179 East 86th, corner of Third Avenue
(A. Fine, 2015)

Slanging dogs and tropical drinks on the same corner since 1932. Damn good dogs at that! Recently renovated but really just cleaned the place up and kept everything, thankfully, the same. Oh yeah, they added some sort of breakfast dog offerings.

12. The Yorkville Clock, 1501 Third Avenue bet 84th and 85th
(A. Fine, 2015)

Standing the test of time, the Yorkville Clock has stood here since 1898. Originally an advertisement for a jeweler on the site, the clock remains, the jeweler long gone. The clock itself was graffiti covered, vandalized and broken through the 1980's only to be saved and cherished by local residents. Let's hope our other amazing pieces of UES history are equally cherished and continue to stand the test of time.Share B

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Trader Joe's Hearts The Upper East Side, Location Unknown..

Wouldn't it be great to have a Trader Joe's on the Upper East Side? Many locals sure think so, and many have asked me to look into that possibility. Rumors have been swirling in the neighborhood for the past year that a location is coming soon, yet there has been little substance to the rumor that I can find. Food Emporium's closure last year on Second Avenue between 86th and 87th only added fuel to the fire, as a viable space was now available. Digging deeper, Trader's is represented by RKF & Associates, the same broker that listed the Union Square space and coincidentally, the listing broker for the Food Emporium space. If the price was right, you would figure that it would make for a straight forward transaction. So, with this, why not track down the CEO and ask him myself? I did just that.

Trader Joe's is an unusual company- they don't talk, the don't pre-announce locations beyond a couple of months, and they do not seek publicity. If you Google "Dan Bane", the CEO, the only interview you will find is with USC magazine, affiliated with his alma mater. Through a bit of perseverance, and a talk with the Regional Acquisition Manager, I managed to get a response from Dan Bane by email. In short, he reiterated that they do not discuss locations, and found the Manhattan market "tough" to find deals. That said, he indicated that Trader Joe's would "love to open a bunch of stores in Manhattan", they continue to "work on deals", and they would "love to open a great store in your area (Upper East Side)."

I'm not sure if that is a morsel or a nugget, but I would say there is hope for more Trader Joe's in Manhattan in the future, and on the Upper East Side. As for the 86th Street location, an email to the listing broker has not been returned, not like I would expect him to reveal details of a deal that he may or may not be working on. So, I guess the rumors will continue to swirl, just now with perhaps a tad more validity.

Trader Joe's Location Request PageShare B

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Metropolitan Hill Development-O-Rama: 151 East 78th, 60 East 86th...and More!

On Metropolitan Hill (77th to 86th Street, West of Third Avenue) there is a scarcity of new residential condo developments. Those that are currently rising are decidedly high end, and despite being far from ready for occupancy, mostly spoken for. Here is a look at what is percolating in the neighborhood:

151 East 78th Street. This tasteful, classic, Candela inspired effort by architect Peter Pennoyer has topped and is currently ensconced in bright white wrap. Beneath the wrap, the building has not yet been faced, so we are still anxiously awaiting the red brick and limestone facade which should seem to blend seamlessly into its prewar environment. The 16 story building has 14 units, at least 10 of them in contract at an average of approximately $3200/psf. No worries, the nearly 7000sf Penthouse is still listed as available on Streeteasy for a mere $29,500,000. 

Update (1/14/15): Just hours later, the $29.5M Penthouse is spoken for, as is the $27.5M penthouse as reported by Curbed. Wow! That was quick!

view from southwest

60 East 86th Street. It seems like just yesterday that the foundation was being poured, yet to my surprise this modernist condo by noted architect Thomas Juul-Hansen is rising 4 stories above the street. The "fluted grey limestone" condo will rise 19 stories and include 15 units, of which at least 11 are already in contract. Average prices have been around $3200psf, give or take, which seems to be the going rate for new luxury condos in the area.

view from the north on East 86th Street
155 East 79th Street. Topped at 14 stories, this boutique condominium will be comprised of only 7 units, and at most only 2 units remain available.The building will have a two story limestone base, and some sort of very upscale grey brick above (similar to 135 E 79th Street). All of the units are duplex, 4300sf or larger, and again, averaging over $3000/psf.

view from the south on East 79th Street
1010 Park Avenue. No real action aside from a scaffold on the former rectory of Park Avenue Christian, just south of East 85th Street. The development, purchased by Extell for $25 Million is expected to rise 16 stories but has had a tough time of it with Landmarks thus far. Nonetheless, I see a future "Lot Line Follies" blog considering the residents next door at 1000 Park Avenue.

Update (1/14/15): 1010 Park Avenue has passed Landmarks and is now a go! 16 stories of luxurious bliss coming soon. Let the "Lot Line Follies" begin! Full Story on the approved plan over at Curbed.

It is interesting to note, of the three condos currently in progress, and none finished, we have a total of 49 stories, 36 total units, and only 10 (if that many) still available. While north of $3000/psf is far from affordable, it is of some consolation that the new additions to Metropolitan Hill are tasteful and in keeping with neighborhood aesthetics, rather than lifeless glass boxes.

Stay tuned for further updates...
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Friday, January 9, 2015

New Nabe, The Venerable "Metropolitan Hill" Is Born, Unless You Tell Me Otherwise...

On my last blog, we were trying to make sense of Upper East Side map so that each inch fell into a specific neighborhood for the purpose of making searches of the area easier, and to eliminate nameless tracts of land that just confused native and na├»ve alike. With just a few adjustments to the borders of Yorkville, Carnegie Hill, and Lenox Hill we were left with just one nameless, yet very crusty hood with no name. The borders are 77th Street to 86th Street form Third Avenue to Fifth Avenue.

Thanks to my friends over at Curbed there were numerous names generated, including the first three from the Curbed staff and more from Curbed followers:

Lululemonland (if you are wearing Champion you are in the wrong hood)
Metville Hill
CarNox Hill
Upper Crust Side
EMu (East of the Museum)
BAM (Blocks around the Met)
Central Park East
Miner's Gate (love the reference to the park entrance on 79th)

Okay, I left out a few of the more vulgar suggestions, I'll admit. I've come up with a few of my own:

Sinclair Hill (after the Sinclair Mansion on 79th + Fifth)
Madonnaville (strike a pose)
The Met
Dukesville or Duke Hill
Roth Hill (for Emory Roth, but he didn't do much right there)
Candella Hill (for Rosario Candella, who has)
Museum Mile
Spitzerland (couldn't resist and he lives on 79th)
Bloom-Burg (couldn't resist and he also lives on 79th)

But, alas, despite all the rich and famous, the mansions and the history, The Metropolitan Museum of Art dominates the Western expanse of this very regal hood, and is one of the great cultural institutions in the world! And, it's still on a hill, not to be one upped by Lenox Hill or Carnegie Hill. So, I'll say the jury is still out and we welcome all suggestions. Until then, I will call this fine neighborhood "Metropolitan Hill." Let me know if you think we should roll with this, or if you have a better idea.

A Fine Idea: Time To Realign UES Boundaries.....(A Fine Blog)
Redraw The Upper East Side's Borders So No Block's Left Behind (Curbed)
.....P.S. Just a heads up, more comments on Curbed's FB page, so can't hurt to like it.Share B

Monday, January 5, 2015

A Fine Idea: Time To Realign Upper East Side Boundaries To Make Sense Of It All Once, and For All!

Where does Lenox Hill end and where does Yorkville Begin? Is Lenox Hill's western boundary Park Avenue, or is it Fifth? If Carnegie Hill runs west from Lexington Avenue and Yorkville runs east from Third Avenue, what the heck is in the middle? These are just a few geographical questions that have confounded New Yorkers and those looking for property on the UES for years! A fine idea would be to fix this, put each inch of the UES into a specific neighborhood, and finally bring sanity to our map! Fortunately, I have an easy fix.

Currently, the "Upper East Side" is an area that covers 59th Street to 96th Street, from Fifth Avenue at the West to the river at the East. Inside the Upper East Side are three distinct neighborhoods- Carnegie Hill, Lenox Hill and Yorkville, and 4 nameless areas that are often grouped with an adjacent neighborhood, or sub-grouped into a lesser area, also named the Upper East Side. The result- confusion! Go ahead, search StreetEasy. There are two Upper East Sides- the whole Upper East, and a smaller Upper East Side which is 72nd to 86th west of Third and 72nd to 79th east of Third. Yep, mind numbing!

Here is a map With the current boundaries:
Fortunately, if you work with me here, there are simple answers for us to fix this once and for all! What we need to do is consider the character of each neighborhood, adjust 3 borders, and name one new neighborhood!

Carnegie Hill
First, we move the Carnegie Hill eastern border from Lexington Avenue to Third Avenue. The area between Third Ave and Lexington (86th-96th Street) seems to fit in architecturally better with Carnegie Hill than Yorkville. A good example would be the landmarked houses at 146-156 East 89th Street. Also, by topography, most of Third Avenue between 86th and 96th Street, is still at the top of the Hill, so it just makes sense.

Second, onto Yorkville. There is a gap between Yorkville and Lenox Hill that runs from the East River to Third Avenue between 77th St and 79th St which is another land with no name. Considering that the landmark protected Shively Sanitary Tenements are between the same streets on York Avenue, kick in P.S. 158, and these couple blocks have more of a Yorkville vibe. Hence, move the Yorkville border down from 79th to 77th, from Third Ave East and we have another problem solved.

Lenox Hill
Third, Lenox Hill. Historically, and by most reference material, the nabe runs between 60th and 77th Street, from the River on the east to a western boundary of Park Avenue. While that may be the way we traditionally see it, listing websites, for instance StreetEasy, push the western border to Fifth Avenue. The New York Times does not differentiate the neighborhood at all for sorting purposes. While StreetEasy's logic may be to simplify the search process, history gives us reason to do the same. Lenox Hill was named after James Lenox, a Scottish merchant who cobbled together 30 acres in the area in 1818 (from auction of Archibald Gracie's foreclosed property) and added to his holdings months later through three additional purchases. The tract came to be know as "Lenox Farm", and wouldn't you know it, the tenant farmhouse stood on the hill between 70th and 71st Street just East of Fifth Avenue. I think we have justification to formalize this border and slide it west to Fifth Avenue.

To Be Named Later

This leaves us with only one contiguous box of unnamed space between 77th St and 86th Street west of Third Avenue. It is an extremely wealthy area with the likes of Madonna occupying three combined townhouses between 3rd and Lex (I won't name the street in the interest of privacy), the Metropolitan Museum of Art in all her majesty on Fifth, and the former mansions of the Henry F Sinclair and James B Duke to name a few. I'll post on this new neighborhood idea next blog post, so stay tuned!

In summary, we can do this people!!! With three simple border alignments, we can finally have the map of the Upper East Side make sense, and be perfectly searchable by neighborhood. No more ambiguous unnamed no mans lands. No more missed listings or comps! No more confusion. Together we can stop the insanity......and, here is your new map:

Share B

Friday, November 21, 2014

Did Bono Really Crash A Bike In Central Park?

(Bono on Bike, Courtesy iRadio)
"It looks like we will have to do our Tonight Show residency another time - we're one man down," said a statement released by mega rock star Bono's band U-2 on Sunday night. It explained that "Bono has injured his arm in a cycling spill in Central Park and requires some surgery". That succinct explanation left out virtually every detail and left much to be desired.. Then, on Wednesday night we learned that the rock star's injuries were far more grave than we expected. Bono actually broke his arm in 8 places, the bone broke the skin, he broke his eye socket and a finger as well. Yet, the only other detail on the accident came with the injury report: he was involved in a "high energy bike accident to avoid another rider."

The lack of detail seems fishy, and reeks of a potential cover up. There are so many unanswered questions:

When did it happen?

Where exactly did it happen?

How fast was he going?

Was he going the right way? In the Central Park, that is counter-clockwise.

Sunday is a big day in Central Park. It is crowded with bikers and joggers. I spent 2 hours on the loop that day doing distance work, and it didn't happen when I was there. In this day of social media and cell phone pics and video, wouldn't a couple pictures surface somewhere on the internet? Even if nobody recognized Bono, a crash that horrific would certainly attract attention. Not one person has come forward, not a soul. It just seems improbable that Bono could go down like the proverbial "tree in the forest" and nobody would hear it.

I reached out to the 22nd Precinct yesterday. The officer on the desk said that he has 'just read about the mishap in the paper today, but he hadn't heard anything about it around the station.' He encouraged me to reach out to the Deputy Commissioner of Public Information to see if there were any police or ambulance reports from that day in the park to corroborate Bono's story. So far, I haven't received a response.

I also reached out to various bikers, messengers, and city cycling advocates on Twitter and in person. These folks have quite a grapevine and love sharing whatever they know. That also has been a dead end.

Could the bike crash story be a cover up for something more embarrassing or nefarious? It has been a wicked week for Bono with his jet door flying off, in flight, just 3 days before the park mishap. Gawker has liberally joked that perhaps someone is trying to kill Bono. Maybe, just maybe, that is happening! Or, maybe he took a tumble down the steps of his San Remo duplex and didn't want to admit it is an old-manny way to get so banged up. Odds are, recklessness was likely involved on the part of Bono or others. The possibilities are endless!

We, being me, at A Fine Blog wish Bono the speediest of recoveries and wish him well. At the same time, we, being the pedestrians, joggers and cyclists that use Central Park and our streets in general want information. Information is how we make decisions to protect ourselves, it is also how we advocate to make our community safer for all. Until there is actual evidence or corroboration of the crash story, I say it is improbable, it never happened, and it is a cover for up for something. I would be happy to be proven wrong. Give us the facts, rather than ample room for conspiracy theories!

(I will update this story as needed)

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Friday, May 2, 2014

Digging Dirt And Having A Blast At 217 West 57th

May 1st, 2014 (A. Fine)

May 1st, 2014 (A. Fine)

The Future!

And so starts our installment series on 217 West 57th Street, what will soon assume the crown of tallest residential building in North America, and in my book, the tallest tower in NYC. Yep, guess I am one of those that don't count spires! Sorry World Trade. At 1550 feet tall, 217 will take the title from 432 Park Avenue which will have held the title for the blink of an eye.
Extell has cleared the lot and begun to dig, dig, dig. In spots they have managed to dig approximately 60 feet down. According to a construction worker on the site, for those peskier spots, blasting starts today! Let's get ready to ruuummmbbllle!
Behold the wide gap between 57th Street and CPS created by both 217 and the future 940 foot condo at 220 CPS. This pedestrian view of Central Park from 57th Street is to disappear soon, so, if you don't have the big money to buy the view, have a look at it now while it is free!
217 West 57th, The Skyscraper City Super Thread (Skyscraper City)
Curbed File on 217 East 57th (Curbed)

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