Upper East Side

By TJ Johnson

Bang for your buck—words you wouldn’t think when describing the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Considering a move to the Upper East Side? You’ll definitely be in good company

In the 1920s, The New York Times described the East Side as “a string of pearls: Each pearl is a double block of millionaires, and Madison Avenue is the string.” Like everything else about New York, the Upper East Side has been altered by time. But there are few places in the city where memory is as intact as on the blocks bounded by the East River, Fifth Avenue and East 59th and East 96th Streets.

Until the close of the Civil War, this was the part of New York where the fashionable gathered to escape city summers—the counterpart of today’s Hamptons. Mansions in park-like settings followed the shore of the East River all the way to Harlem. The Boston Post Road (now Third Avenue), made access to the city below Canal Street convenient, and summer residents with lots of leisure time traveled downtown on steamboats. By the late 1860s, with Central Park now opened, the summer houses were converted to year-round use for pioneering commuters and, a few years later, the coming of elevated railroads opened the area to working-class people.

Society had its heyday on the East Side between 1895 and the outbreak of World War 1. The state of American architecture was superb at the time, and the super-rich had the financial resources to buy the best. Years have passed, of course, with many changes to these East Side streets. Nevertheless, an air of privileged—often luxurious—lifestyle still prevails. The neighborhood continues to be what it has been for nearly a century: New York City’s elite enclave where families like the Rockefellers and Kennedys once called home.

High-end shops and galleries line the streets of the Upper East Side. And for those who need a break, there are great restaurants on nearly every corner. But more than anything, the Upper East Side is noted for their museums showcasing some of the most important works in the world. Better known as Museum Mile along 5th Avenue it’s worth a day just exploring the beautiful paintings, sculpture, and other works of art.

If shopping is your thing then the Upper East Side is the place to be! With the iconic Barneys on Madison Avenue, and Bloomingdales just a block away, as well as Louis Vuitton, and Hermès to name a few, you’ll be in retail heaven!

The Metropolitan Museum of Art is an absolute treasure and boasts over two million works of art that span thousands of years. Also not to be missed is the Breuer (part of the MET) that mainly focuses on modern and contemporary art.

The Guggenheim Museum Make your way to our next stop simply known as The Guggenheim. Often described “the museum of non-objective painting” with such a large collection, they had to send Frank Lloyd Wright a letter to commission the design of the building. The museum has continually expanded over the years and has remarkable retrospectives of major modern artists. One of my favorite paintings there is the Yellow Cow by Frank Marc.

Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum Part of the Smithsonian Institution, it is located in the Andrew Carnegie mansion. The Georgian-style mansion was designed in 1903 on the northern fringe of the well-heeled stretch of 5th Avenue. The richly ornamented rooms of the mansion sometimes compete with the exhibitions; the conservatory is particularly pleasant. The museum is steadfast on showing only historic and contemporary design.

The Jewish Museum This renovated museum holds the country’s largest collection of Judaica. Besides permanent and rotating exhibits, it has classrooms, a delightful kosher café, and an attractive book and gift shop.

Fine Fare
Now it’s time to grab a bite to eat! So many restaurants to choose from.

Boqueria If you enjoy tapas, I would recommend this place where the food is always amazing along with great ambiance.

Caffe Buon Gusto Feeling like having some Italian food? There are many to pick from but this is my favorite. Pastas are absolutely terrific!

Tao Uptown In the mood for Asian then a must is this eatery for their excellent cuisine and amazing service.

Café Boulud And if it’s French your wanting, there’s no place like this elegant restaurant. Chef Daniel never disappoints.

Believe it or not, there are actually great price points for everyone in the Upper East Side. There are your Art Deco and luxury apartments, breathtaking townhouses, and beautiful pre-war co-op buildings.

My team and I have several listings available one of which is truly amazing. The first is apartment 9D, a beautiful, prewar one bedroom residence at 155 East 91st Street. The layout here is absolutely perfect. Accenting the flow of the apartment are the picture-frame moldings, tray-beamed ceilings, and gorgeous hardwood floors; the asking price is $685,000. You’ll find Bosch appliances and an amazing Smeg oven in the windowed eat-in kitchen. The asking price if $685,000. An apartment of this caliber would easily go for over a million in Greenwich Village.

The Upper East Side is an amazing place to reside. If you feel that it sounds right for you, my team and I are here for all your buying and renting needs. Like I said, there is a price point for everyone with apartments starting as low as $350,000 all the way up to an $88 million Townhouse.

Thelonious “TJ” Johnson is a licensed broker with Brown Harris Stevens, has teamed up with Ogden Starr, and enjoys sharing his tips on his favorite city. If you are looking for a residence in the Upper East Side—or anywhere else throughout Manhattan—contact him for any of your buying or selling needs. Visit

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