Nearly three years after the Second Avenue subway opened, the neighborhood has grown in appeal. Residents say it was worth the wait.
Living In … Yorkville, Manhattan
Brittainy Newman/The New York Times
The opening of the Second Avenue subway on Jan. 1, 2017, did more than add a couple of stops on the Q train to Yorkville.
“There’s sort of a renaissance going on,” said Neal J. Blangiardo, 49, a psychologist who works and teaches in the fields of public health and sexuality. For the past 11 years, he has lived on the southern edge of Yorkville, which by most definitions stretches from Third Avenue to the East River and from East 79th Street to East 96th Street, though some area residents peg its starting point as far south as East 72nd Street.
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By The New York Times
“The Q line rockets up Yorkville” in appeal, Mr. Blangiardo said. “The subway stations are just beautiful, and now we find many smaller shops doing high-end foods from around the world.”
He chose his apartment because of a lingering memory of “a gorgeous Beaux-Arts building” he had admired 15 years earlier, when he worked in the neighborhood. His wife, Sarah Chu, now 42, already lived in Yorkville and agreed that it was her favorite neighborhood, too.
“There’s a sense of safety, of community, of diversity, and it’s quiet in the evening,” Mr. Blangiardo said. “It’s really kind of got it all.”
He and Ms. Chu, a member of the local community board and a policy adviser for the Innocence Project, bought a large one-bedroom that had once been a two-bedroom on the fifth floor of a walk-up co-op building. Six years ago, they had a daughter, and a year later they bought the apartment next to theirs, a one-bedroom that had once been a three-bedroom. Both were “reasonably priced for Yorkville,” which also caters to more affluent “captains of industry,” Mr. Blangiardo said. Now they have four balconies and river views. Their daughter attends public school nearby and often plays at Carl Schurz Park.
A spacious plaza leads to Carl Schurz Park, which stretches from East End Avenue to the Esplanade along the East River, and from East 84th to East 90th Streets.Credit…Brittainy Newman/The New York Times
Sandra Shapiro, 52, who has lived in a high-rise rental building near First Avenue with her husband, Larry Shapiro, 55, since the 1990s, said the Q line brought commuting relief to her two sons when they were in high school. “It literally changed our lives,” she said, saving her sons long walks to the Lexington Avenue line and then transfers to other trains.
But it also brought a lot of construction, as developers who had been waiting for the completion of the subway — a drawn-out process that took many years — knocked down some of her favorite shops and started erecting more apartment buildings. “I have four high-rises going up around me,” said Ms. Shapiro, who became a stay-at-home mother after a career in the fashion industry.
She and Mr. Shapiro, who works in textiles, considered moving to the suburbs, but found the Yorkville public schools to be invaluable to her older son, who needed special-education classes. So they stayed in their one-bedroom, one-and-half-bathroom apartment, with a dining room they converted to a second bedroom, for less than $5,000 in rent. Both sons are now in college, where they didn’t have to adjust to bunk beds, she said.
As for the construction, Ms. Shapiro has watched her neighborhood go through many cycles and knows the development spurt will give way to new stores. “It’s making a big circle,” she said.
Odette Petersen, 77, lives in an apartment overlooking East 81st Street. She and her husband discovered it while walking along First Avenue in 2005, seeking a new home after selling their co-op on East 72nd Street. “It was getting too noisy,” she said. “We just started to walk north. We wanted something comparable, but not as noisy. We like apartment living, but not old buildings.”
They found a 34th-floor apartment that could be converted into a two-bedroom, with a terrace and “so much light” in a sleek 1980 building with “a pool and a million conveniences.” They were surprised it was a rental building.
“We figured we’d just take it and move in six months,” she said. “Fourteen years later, we’ve been out looking with a broker twice, but we got attached to our terrace and our indoor pool.” The building recently renovated its gym and created a playroom, as many “starter families” are moving in, largely because of the new transportation available.
“The Second Avenue subway is huge,” said Ms. Petersen, who has two adult daughters and has worked in a variety of jobs. “We suffered for a long time” as it was being built, she added. “I always said, ‘What are they bothering for?’ But now we find that the Q train takes us everywhere” — including directly to Times Square, Herald Square and Union Square. “It’s much more pleasant.”
What You’ll Find
Because of zoning laws, most buildings on Yorkville’s side streets are five or six stories tall, including many walk-ups that were once tenements, recalling a time when working-class immigrants from countries like Germany, Hungary and Ireland flocked there for housing and employment in such industries as beer brewing and cigar manufacturing.
2 EAST END AVENUE, NO. 7A | A two-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bath co-op with an eat-in kitchen, a marble master bathroom, a washer-dryer and a river view, in a 1910 converted lighting factory with a full-time doorman and a fitness center, listed for $2.495 million. 917-749-6522Credit…Brittainy Newman/The New York Times
Historic townhouses and luxury apartment buildings are also part of the mix, mostly along the avenues, where tall buildings are permitted. The Second Avenue subway, which has stops on East 86th and East 96th Streets (as well as East 72nd and East 63rd Streets to the south), has brought gleaming new stations filled with space-age entrances, impressive mosaics and numerous escalators.
“Yorkville no longer feels like a frontier neighborhood,” said Carolyn B. Joy, a broker with Brown Harris Stevens. “They went through a war, a war of the intrusion of construction. But it’s done. Nobody even remembers.”
Major developers started to assemble sites for high-rises as many as 10 years before the subway was scheduled to open, said Robert Lemle, whose German-immigrant grandfather started the family business, Copperwood Real Estate, in 1921. (The company now owns about a dozen rental buildings in the area.) Partly inspired by the new subway, Mr. Lemle transformed two 1905 tenement buildings into a single luxury rental building with an elevator, which allowed him to remove the fire escapes as he restored the original curved-brick-and-terra-cotta facade. The building, on East 78th Street, won the 2019 Yorkville Heritage Award, given by the Friends of the Upper East Side Historic Districts.
530 EAST 90TH STREET, NO. 2L | A two-bedroom, one-bath co-op with partial park and river views in a building with a 24-hour doorman, a live-in super and laundry facilities that is part of Gracie Gardens, a four-building cluster with a courtyard and common garden, listed for $735,000. 917-292-7063Credit…Brittainy Newman/The New York Times
The Friends group “has a more expansive concept of the geography than real estate agents have,” said Rachel Levy, the executive director. Recently, the organization published a book about Yorkville that includes a few buildings in the East 60s, as well as many spots designed to serve immigrants, including houses of worship like St. Joseph’s Church on East 87th Street, built in 1884 by the German community, where the German-born Pope Benedict XVI led a prayer service in 2008.
What You’ll Pay
Through early September, the average sales price for a Yorkville apartment in 2019 was $1.368 million, and the average sales price for a one-bedroom was $757,942, said Ms. Joy of Brown Harris Stevens, based on her company’s analysis.
Overall prices had been climbing for the last several years, “as more people saw that the opening of the Second Avenue subway line was in sight,” she said, but the average dipped this year, from $1.494 million in 2018, “because real estate elsewhere is going down.”
The neighborhood “has been attractive lately, because it’s still considered a place where you get more for your money than in almost any other area,” Ms. Joy said. “Now it’s more livable and comparatively inexpensive.”
509 EAST 88th STRET, NO. 2D | A one-bedroom, one-bath co-op with a windowed kitchen and two basement storage units, in a five-story building with a laundry room and bicycle storage, listed for $365,000. 646-246-8949Credit…Brittainy Newman/The New York Times
While new construction and renovations have brought higher prices, plenty of lower-priced apartments in older walk-up and elevator buildings remain. The least expensive of the 361 listings on StreetEasy as of Oct. 1 was a co-op studio in a 1958 elevator building on East 85th Street, offered for $244,900. The most expensive was a five-bedroom, five-and-a-half-bathroom, full-floor condo in a 2017 building, listed for $35 million.
As of Oct. 1, there were 474 rental listings, ranging from a $1,750 studio on East 81st Street to a $21,500 four-bedroom townhouse on East 84th Street.
Although many well-known stores and eateries have closed in recent years, the neighborhood still has plenty of “fun little restaurants that offer quality food, mom-and-pop shops, an intimacy that a lot of Manhattan has lost,” said Maria Manuche, a real estate agent with Compass.
The turnover has been happening for decades, said Franny Eberhart, president of the Friends organization, as populations disperse and “demands change.”
She remembered the Elk Candy Company, which closed its brick-and-mortar store in 2006. “I’m in conservation, and I wish that the candy was still there, but things are going to change,” she said. A wide variety of food is available now, she said, including Belgian, Thai, Chinese and Mexican.
Among the restaurants that recall historic Yorkville are Schaller & Weber, which sells German food; Heidelberg Restaurant; and the Budapest Café (a.k.a. Andre’s Cafe & Bakery). All are on Second Avenue near East 86th Street, the area’s commercial core.
A Fairway Market on East 86th Street and a Whole Foods Market on Third Avenue near East 87th are also cited as amenities by many residents. The former Elaine’s, a legendary Second Avenue gathering spot for authors and celebrities until the 2010 death of its owner, Elaine Kaufman, is now a restaurant called the Writing Room.
Recreation areas include Carl Schurz Park, a 15-acre park between East End Avenue and a promenade along the river, with a playground, two dog runs, walking paths and gardens. Asphalt Green, north of the park, is a nonprofit sports and fitness facility with an Olympic-size pool, a gym and other amenities. The Yorkville Library, on East 79th Street, built in 1902 and on the National Register of Historic Places, is the first public library funded by Andrew Carnegie in New York City.
P.S. 290 Manhattan New School is in the neighborhood, with 586 students in prekindergarten through fifth grade. On state tests, 90 percent of students met standards in English, versus 46 percent citywide; 88 percent met standards in math, versus 47 percent citywide.
P.S. 151 Yorkville Community School, which opened in 2009, has 481 students in prekindergarten through fifth grade; 65 percent met state standards in English and 66 percent met the standards in math.
Two private schools, the Chapin School and the Brearley School, both for girls in kindergarten through 12th grade, are also in the neighborhood, and several other public and private schools are nearby.
The ride from Times Square to the East 86th Street Q train stop takes about 15 minutes. The East 96th Street stop adds another two minutes. The Lexington Avenue line, which can be a long walk for some residents, has stops on East 86th Street for the 4, 5 and 6 trains and on East 96th for the No. 6.
The M31 bus runs up and down York Avenue; the M15 bus runs up First Avenue and down Second, and several buses run on Third Avenue. The M79, M86 and M96 travel crosstown.
Wealthy New Yorkers began building country estates in Yorkville in the 18th century, but the only one still standing is Gracie Mansion, according to “Shaped by Immigrants: A History of Yorkville,” published by Friends of the Upper East Side Historic Districts. Known today as the official residence for New York City’s mayor, Gracie Mansion is a Federal-style house built in 1799 by Archibald Gracie, a Scottish immigrant and shipping magnate. In 1942, Fiorello H. La Guardia became the first mayor to live there. Free tours are offered on Mondays by reservation.
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