As I drove into the city on Sunday, I exited the Henry Hudson Parkway at 95th Street, and thought how much I love the Upper West Side of Manhattan. I took a photo as I was stopped at a red light at 95th Street and West End Avenue and thought how different this part of Manhattan is from other neighborhoods. The Upper West Side (or UWS as it is known in real estate) has always been family friendly and one that has attracted young urban professionals who are well aware of the area’s reputation for home of the intelligentsia. Artists, writers, and those who shape the cultural landscape of New York have claimed the UWS as home. I can remember Dick Cavett, who I thought was the smartest comedian and late-night host ever, talking about his home on the Upper West Side. His wife was a well-known actress and I thought them the epitome of sophistication and witty conversation. When I was stopped again at Amsterdam Avenue and 96th Street, making a turn east so I could get down to Michael’s apartment, I was again struck by the images of just that small stretch of road that I could see out my car window and that you can see here. The church, the trees as far north as you can see, the blue sky, and the architecture of the buildings that is true to the development of this area over a very long period of New York’s history.
The Upper West Side is the neighborhood that is between the Hudson River on the west and Central Park on the east. Fifty-eighth street to the south (Columbus Circle) and the northern border is always a matter for argument, depending on where you just rented an apartment. Some say 110th Street but there are areas north that have recently begun to gentrify so the boundary will surely move north. There is a wonderful book, Upper West Side Story by Peter Salwen. I read it years ago and I’m guessing it’s out of print now but it is an interesting history of an area that was home to F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, Leonard Bernstein and John Lennon to name just a few. Of course there was the Bloomingdale Lunatic Asylum at 116th Street that was placed there originally because it was “so far north that no one would ever go there.” Columbia University is at that site now.
There are many things about the UWS that I like (besides the fact that Michael and Allison live there), not the least of which is the West Side Community Garden that I visited last weekend. It is a peaceful and serene small green space that is well used by area residents, some reading, some just sitting, some tending their garden plots, and others like me walking through admiring the amazing tulips. There’s Zabar’s, Barney Greengrass the Sturgeon King, too many restaurants and deli’s to mention, Citarella and Fairway (which I would drive to just to food shop), and always the chance of seeing a famous person!
I don’t write this as an advertisement for New York City but to share my enthusiasm for the area. It is a comfortable neighborhood that is guarded by Michael and Allison’s cat, Tesla, who sits and watches progress on roof gardens, dog walkers, films that are shot in the area, and people enjoying the beautiful spring weather. Like Tesla, I am determined more than ever to notice the little things that make each city, town, village, or area unique. Fortunately I have the time and a new camera.