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Here's to the many faces of Murray Hill

The Mercantile Building, bottom left, is an old

The Mercantile Building, bottom left, is an old Art Deco skyscraper. (Nancy Borowick) Credit: The Mercantile Building, bottom left, is an old Art Deco skyscraper. (Nancy Borowick)

Murray Hill, between its blocks of brownstones, variety of popular nightlife spots and historical landmarked buildings, has a much wider appeal than its common frat-boy-and-family-only reputation.

Adjacent to Kips Bay and Gramercy, the very safe Manhattan neighborhood is also close to the United Nations headquarters.

The nabe plays host to numerous cultural centers, ethnic food stores and 19 diplomatic missions, giving it an international feel.

One such institution popular in Murray Hill is the Scandinavia House, which is home to the American-Scandinavian Foundation and is popular among locals for its children’s exhibit and film showings.

“Murray Hill is called a hidden gem, but we don’t want to be hidden anymore,” says Kate Erickson, who handles Scandinavia House’s press and social media.

“Murray Hill is such a residential neighborhood … so you really have to have something wonderful to pull people in,” she added.

Many cite high foot traffic as a help to local businesses, which in turn helps the relatively affordable Murray Hill real estate market prosper. According to Trulia.com, a real estate website, Murray Hill has a 19.3% lower median sales price than Manhattan’s overall average and an 18.55% lower than average price per square foot for homes, making it an increasingly popular neighborhood. Elise Ehrlich, a licensed real estate saleswoman for Halstead Property and two-decade-long resident of Murray Hill, says her neighborhood is gaining in favor.

“We seem to be getting hotter,” says Ehrlich. “It’s always been residential, but Murray Hill is becoming much more popular.” She added that the area is favorable for its prevalence of different types of housing.

“It’s been a bit of a boom,” she says. “One bedrooms, two bedrooms, brownstones, high-rises … it has everything. It’s a great market to buy [into].”

Though Murray Hill is home to flagship branches of famed institutions like Wolfgang’s Steakhouse and JJ Hat Center, recently opened outlets of other New York stores such as Fairway Market in nearby Kips Bay and 16 Handles frozen yogurt have proved popular. Whether you’re looking for a new favorite haunt or a place to call home, consider Murray Hill.

“New York is always growing and people are exploring new neighborhoods, and Murray Hill is not exactly new,” says Erickson. “But recently \[it\] has organically grown into something different.”

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Find it:  As with many New York nabes, the boundaries of Murray Hill are often argued. The most narrowly defined boundaries of the Manhattan neighborhood are 34th Street to 40th Street between Madison Ave and Third Avenue, but some consider 30th Street as the southern perimeter and all the way to the East River as Murray Hill as well.

THE BASICS

TRANSPORTATION
Getting to and from Murray Hill is not a difficult task.

Multiple bus lines serve the area, and when the Second Avenue Subway is finished, the 6 train will no longer be the only source of underground service.

Trains
The recently renovated 33rd Street-Park Avenue station is your best bet, with the 6 train stopping at all times and the 4 during late night hours. Nearby Grand Central Terminal is about nine blocks north and serves as a main subway hub.

Buses
M15, M34, M34A, M101, M102, M103, BxM7, BxM7a and BxM10

CULTURE
Murray Hill boasts libraries and museums for people with wide-ranging interests:
-- The Morgan Library and Museum, 225 Madison Ave. at 36th St.
-- American Kennel Club Library, 260 Madison Ave.
-- Burns Archive, 140 E. 38th St.
-- Romanian Cultural Institute in New York, 200 E. 38th St.

SCHOOLS
-- P.S. 116, 210 E. 33rd St.
-- The Churchill School & Center, 301 E. 29th St.
-- Murray Hill Academy, 111 E. 33rd St.

CRIME
The 17th Precinct at 167 E. 51st St. covers Murray Hill, which has historically been considered a safe area.
According to the NYPD CompStat report, the precinct reported a 66% decrease in murders between 1990 and 2012.

POST OFFICE
115 E. 34th St. (between Lexington and Park avenues)

TO EAT
Though some report Murray Hill as lacking in great food spots, locals in the predominantly residential area can choose from a wide variety of restaurants, ranging from classic delis to exciting ethnic joints.

-- Villa Berulia, 107 E. 34th St. Celebrating its 32nd anniversary this year, this Italian-Croatian spot boasts a modern twist on classic Dalmatian coast cuisine. Traditional dishes such as Buzara, a seafood stew, keep locals coming back for more, 212-689-1970.

-- Don’s Bogam BBQ and Wine bar, 17 E. 32nd St. Looking for Korean barbecue in a fun atmosphere? Try Don’s Bogam, where Chef Woo Kim and crew cook up classics like galbi, marinated rib eye steak, and Japchae — sweet potato noodles with vegetables. Wash it down with a glass of wine from their extensive list, or try Soju, a Korean liquor, 212-683-2200.

-- Wolfgang’s Steakhouse, 4 Park Ave. Though this elegant steakhouse now has seven locations in the U.S., the flagship restaurant is located in Murray Hill in the former dining room of the Vanderbilt Hotel. The porterhouse is consistently a crowd favorite, 212-889-3369.

TO PARTY
Whether your nightlife preference is a dive bar or an upscale wine lounge, you can find your new hangout in Murray Hill.

-- Park Avenue Tavern, 99 Park Ave. With the slogan “enter as strangers, leave as friends,” this well-lit bar and restaurant offers self-service taps available by reservation for private parties of up to 20 guests, $5 cocktail specials during brunch and an extensive selection of brews, 212-867-4484.

-- The Cash Bar, 58 3/4 E. 34th St. Hard to find, but fun to discover, the secretive Cash Bar is hidden behind a now out-of-service ATM in a sports pub. Its name derives from a Plexiglas case displayed in the center of the bar with $1 million in cash. Sip one of their well-crafted, old-fashioned cocktails, such as the sweet Lira (Campari, Sweet Vermouth, orange peel and soda) or one of their Presidential-themed cocktails, like the JFK or George Washington, while you gaze longingly at the Benjamins,info@itsthecashbar.com.

-- Vino 313, 201 E. 31st St. If you consider a glass of wine the best way to end a stressful day, Vino 313 has you covered. The relaxed ambience and friendly staff make Vino 313 a perfect spot to enjoy a drink with friends while munching on Brussels sprouts with bacon or sliders, 212-725-8466.

-- The $3 Tavern, 613 Second Ave. One of the best dive bars in Murray Hill, play air hockey, watch a game on the small TVs, or dance to the wide-ranging music — think ’80s pop and Top 20 beats — at the $3 Tavern. Especially popular among a younger crowd for its cheap drinks, the bar also has a patio, great for warmer months, 646-455-0813.

TO SHOP
-- Pookie and Sebastian, 541 Third Ave. Indulge your girlie side at Pookie and Sebastian’s Murray Hill location. The store, named after two Yorkies, will become your go-to store when you need a flirty outfit in a pinch. Complete your look with Pookie and Sebastian’s head-turning accessories, 212-951-7110.

-- The Complete Traveller Antiquarian Bookstore, 199 Madison Ave. Book collectors frequent this shop, which specializes (as the name implies) in antique books on exploring and traveling. Think first editions of vintage books from around the globe, 212-685-9007.

-- Nuthouse Hardware, 202 E. 29th St. Though technically located a block away from the boundaries of Murray Hill, if you are in the area, this family-owned, 24-hour hardware store is a must-visit. From basics like WD-40 and plywood to nuts, bolts, doorknobs and paint, anything you need is almost guaranteed to be found here, 212-545-1447.

TO DO
-- Pure Power Boot Camp, 38 E. 32nd St., 3rd floor. Warning: not for the faint of heart or those averse to sweat. Let “drill officers” at this fitness center kick you into shape in one of their intense sessions, which uses training techniques from former U.S. Marines,212-414-1886.

-- St. Vartan’s Park, between First and Second Ave. and E. 35th to 36th St., provides a small but serene respite from the surrounding area. The recently renovated playground is often bustling with local kids.

TAKE A TOUR
Between the multiple United Nations embassies and the prevalence of international stores, Murray Hill has a lot to see. Check out NYCWalk.com for a Murray Hill walking tour that focuses on the architecture and history of the nabe. Both a two-and-a-half and three-and-a-half hour tour are offered, and the itinerary includes stops at Robert Murray’s farm and the Union League Club.

THE BUZZ
Though Grand Central Terminal and even Penn Station are not too far from Murray Hill, transit is often considered a problem for the nabe.

The Second Avenue Subway, consisting of a new T train and an extension of the Q line, is eagerly awaited by those in Murray Hill.

The project has had some setbacks, including funding problems, but the first phase is set to be completed in December 2016.

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Q&A with Marc Williamson -- Tip of the hat to neighborhood biz

Marc Williamson, 42, grew up in Queens but has worked for over 20 years as a managing partner at JJ Hat Center, a Murray Hill institution since 1911.

What changes have you seen in the neighborhood in your 20 years working there? You always see businesses come and go, but some of the old-world businesses have disappeared, like the small old-fashioned diners, the shoemaker stores are gone. Time changes everything, but I would not say it has changed for the worse here.

What are some positive examples of changes in businesses? There are different restaurants and hotels, which brings a different clientele.

Clearly JJ Hat Center is a success. What do you attribute this success to? We are a destination spot. Hats are a niche market. I tell people, ‘When people walk in here, they don’t ask if we sell pants.’

Overall, though Murray Hill is considered quite residential, what makes neighborhood businesses stand out? This is an age where the entrepreneurial spirit is pretty strong in New York, and Murray Hill is one of those areas where you see people giving it a shot. 

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