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Middle of the UWS: Fun activities, gorgeous homes in the 80th streets

Homes on West 89th Street on the Upper

Homes on West 89th Street on the Upper West Side of Manhattan Photo Credit: Homes on West 89th Street on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. (Anthony Lanzilote)

The Upper West Side’s story of the high-demand area between West 80th and West 89th streets is an alluring one.

The massive changes and gentrification that it experienced in recent decades attracted all types of businesses and residents, allowing the area to benefit from its transformation.

It is teeming with bars, restaurants, big name chain stores and boutiques, all coexisting and providing an eclectic mix of entertainment for those who reside within this 10-block radius.

And a turn down one quiet brownstone-filled street offers a quick escape from the clanking cutlery and chatter that saturate the avenues — a characteristic that makes it one of the city’s most sought after areas to live.

This stretch of streets is punctuated by five main corridors, each with their own distinct personality.

To the east is Central Park West, the scenic strip framed on one side by the rocky, tree-filled edges of Central Park and on the other by high-rise apartment buildings.

Columbus Avenue is the next corridor over, known for its cafes, bistros and restaurants, many of which offer outdoor seating in the summer, as well as its small boutiques like Purdy Girl and Mint. Next is Amsterdam Avenue, another main street dotted with restaurants and boutiques.

Broadway is the spine which cuts the area in half. It is well known for its chain retail establishments, although a number of smaller businesses mingle among the big names.

To the west of Broadway, a short walk over to West End Avenue is like stepping into a seperate neighborhood as this strip is more residential and filled with mid-rise buildings and churches. The next one over is Riverside Drive, an even quieter strip overlooking the famed Riverside Park.

In addition to being bordered by two stunning green spaces, this enclave’s tree-lined blocks and elegant pre-war, detailed architecture make it a lovely area for an afternoon or evening stroll.

“All of the different architecture is spectacular and any block you live on you have a subway within two walking blocks,” said Mitchell Hall, an associate broker at Corcoran’s West Side Gallery who moved here in 1982.

Hall says the real estate goes quickly and the area pulls in every demographic far and wide.

“I get a lot of people from New Jersey and Long Island looking to move here,” he said.

The area is also known for its artistic denizens ranging from the literary to the performing arts. The area has been home to stars including a young Tom Cruise, Jerry Seinfeld, Sarah Jessica Parker and Robert Downey Jr., according to vrbo.com.

This stretch is also located within a few designated historic districts including the Upper West Side-Central Park West Historic District, the Riverside Drive Historic District and the Riverside-West End Historic District.

A walk about the neighborhood flaunts the family-friendly, laid back vibe as hellos are exchanged between residents while caretakers and mothers push strollers, young singles and couples walk their dogs and doormen give a cheery greeting to building residents.

"That’s the one thing I like about it, people know each other here. It’s residential; it’s not suburbs either and it’s not like midtown or downtown," Hall said. "There is a sense of community here."

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THE BASICS

TRANSPORTATION

-- 1 train to 86th Street
-- B/C trains to 81st and 86th streets
-- M5 on Riverside Drive
-- M86 on 86th Street
-- M10 on Central Park West
-- M7 and M11 on Columbus and Amsterdam avenues
-- M104 on Broadway

SCHOOLS
-- P.S. 9, 100 W. 84th St.
-- Louis D. Brandeis High School, 145 W. 84th St.
-- The Dwight School, 291 Central Park West
-- The Calhoun School, 433 West End Ave.

LIBRARY
NYPL St. Agnes Library, 444 Amsterdam Ave.

POST OFFICE
United States Post Office, 127 W. 83rd St.

CRIME
The 20th Precinct covers the Upper West Side neighborhood. It is located at 120 W. 82nd St. The NYPD’s CompStat report shows how safe the neighborhood has become. There were three murders in 1990 and two in 2012.

Robbery numbers were high in 1990 at 978; in 2012 robbery numbers fell by 90% to 94. Burglary numbers have also decreased significantly in the past two decades. There were 1,305 burglaries in 1990 compared to 105 in 2012.

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TO EAT
You will never run out of dining options in this part of the Upper West Side as it is populated with bistros, bars and upscale restaurants, all offering a diverse selection in terms of food and atmosphere.

Bodrum, 584 Amsterdam Ave. This swanky Mediterranean restaurant gets its namesake from the city of Bodrum, Turkey. Enjoy dishes like Baba ghanoush, a charred smoky eggplant mashed with extra-virgin olive oil and tahini, lamb tagine and a selection of kebabs. 212-799-2806.

Bistro Citron, 473 Columbus Ave. This part of the Upper West Side wouldn’t be the same if it didn’t offer a spot where locals and visitors alike could dine on French cuisine in a softly lit space decorated with vintage French posters and crisp, white tablecloths. 212-400-4901.

Café Lalo, 201 W. 83rd St. Putting aside the fact that it was featured in the movie, “You’ve Got Mail,” just the outside ambience of Café Lalo attracts passersby. Inside, the establishment offers an array of beverages, pastries and sandwiches along with Belgian waffles and salads. 212-496-6031.

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TO PARTY
Cava Wine Bar, 185 W. 80th St.
Blending Cuban, Dominican and Puerto Rican cuisine with its selection of international wines, this trendy spot is perfect for a night out. Patrons can take in the various wines as well as the sensual art of Jorge Namerow, the current artist being showcased as part of its multiple yearly exhibitions. 212-724-2282.

Prohibition, 503 Columbus Ave. Go back to a forbidden time in this upscale watering hole as you sip on original signature cocktails such as The Bootlegger, Flapper’s Delight or The Roaring Twenties. Live music is featured nightly with no cover charge. 212-579-3100.

The Dead Poet, 450 Amsterdam Ave. Booze and books: what better place to score a signature drink and fit in time with friends than at an establishment that celebrates the spirit of former famous poets and writers. A library of classic works of literature is also featured where patrons can sign out a book to take home. 212-595-5670.

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TO SHOP
Though saturated with popular chain retail establishments, the Upper West Side manages to hold its own with a range of small boutiques.

Mint, 448 Columbus Ave. Mint’s collection of casual, colorful trendy wear makes it a popular shopping destination on the Upper West Side. It carries designers such as Alice + Olivia, Gorgana, My Tribe and Susana Monaco, to name a few. 212-362-6250.

A Time for Children, 506 Amsterdam Ave. This boutique is bound to have that unique item for any kid, from a toddler to a preteen. It also offers feel-good spending as 100% of the boutique’s profits go to The Children’s Aid Society of New York. 212-580-8202

Frank Stella Clothier, 440 Columbus Ave. This upscale men’s clothing company boasts brands like Mason’s, Grand Sasso and Haspel, along with its own brand. 212-877-5566.

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TO DO
Children’s Museum of Manhattan, 212 W. 83rd St.
Offering interactive exhibits and programs for children, this museum aims to provide the little ones with knowledge about various cultures, science, health and fitness and the arts. 212-721-1234.

Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History, 81 Central Park West. Since it’s hard to get a breathtaking view of the night sky in the city, The Hayden Planetarium makes up for that. The 429-seat theater uses a Digital Dome Projection System to showcase a scientifically accurate 3-D map of the observable universe. Their ongoing space show, “Journey to the Stars” plays every half-hour each day. 212-769-5200

Riverside Park At Riverside Park, you can take a kayak or canoe tour, or find some Zen while practicing yoga as cars whiz pass on the Henry Hudson Parkway. The four-mile stretch of lush green space, which extends all the way up to 158th St. along Riverside Drive, also offers dog areas, fitness equipment and running tracks. Stop by the grand Soldiers’ and Sailors’ monument at W. 89th Street, which commemorates civil war Union Army troops. 212-408-0264.

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THE BUZZ

As with any neighborhood undergoing gentrification, many businesses rise and fall in the ebb and flow of changes. This part of the Upper West Side has seen its share of businesses close, and it’s not only happening among the small businesses.

High-end brand Coach shuttered its doors in January and now Aldo Shoes is moving into its old location at 2321 Broadway.

According to racked.com, there is another Aldo store at 2345 Broadway, but it will be transformed into an outlet until it closes in June.

According to westsiderag.com, a neighborhood favorite, Good Enough To Eat, located at 483 Amsterdam Ave., was almost lost as it its lease is up and isn’t set to be renewed. But the restaurant recently announced that it will move to 85th Street and Columbus Avenue, where it will open on June 13.

Avventura, a glass and home décor store located at 463 Amsterdam Ave. was also slated to close its doors after 27 years but just last week the store found a new benefactor who was able to save it. It will remain open and new management will take over at the end of June.

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Q&A with Drew Dvorkin

Former English teacher Drew Dvorkin opened the Dead Poet Bar on Amsterdam Avenue in 2000 to bring people together in a comfortable setting, similar to what he encountered in English pubs when he studied abroad during college.

The bar pays homage to acclaimed and since passed writers and poets, and it brings in locals, young professionals and college students alike, many of whom share his love for literature.

There’s even a library of 300 to 400 books customers can check out.

How has the neighborhood responded to your bar?
People love it. This is my creative outlet so it’s important to me that people have a good time when they come here. I love when I see someone with a pint of Guinness in one hand and a book in the other — it tells me that they get it. It’s not the biggest bar, it’s not the prettiest bar but we’ve had a good run for 13 years because there’s no pretense. It’s a come-as-you-are place.

What do you appreciate about this area?
It doesn’t have a stuffy atmosphere; it’s very welcoming here. It’s a peaceful place. When you walk down the street you see lots of smiling faces.

What do you envision for this neighborhood’s food/bar scene in the next few years?
I see less fine dining and more social gathering spots for this area. Thirteen years ago when you went to bars, you wouldn’t eat there; you’d eat dinner somewhere else. That’s all changed now. I see more establishments where people can socialize in a laid back setting.
 

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