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Upper West Side – Neighborhood Series

The Upper West Side – A neighborhood with humble roots, humbler residents, a lively vibe, and amazing attractions. It has always been welcoming and accepting of all kinds of people, and this intrinsic hospitality permeates the “aura” of the neighborhood.  

Geography

The Upper West Side, a Manhattan borough, is “sandwiched” between Central Park (from the east side) and Hudson River (from the west), that’s if we consider the Riverside Park part of the neighborhood. On the north side, the neighborhood borders Central Harlem, with its boundary marked by 110th Street. The southern edge is 59th Street, connecting the neighborhood with Hell’s Kitchen. 

History

The Upper West Side was not actively populated, not even by the native Indians. The Dutch arrived in the 1600s and started calling the neighborhood Bloomingdale, the English version of Holland’s “Bloemendaal,” which was part of the tulip region. But an active martial engagement with the natives prevented any further expansion. Bloomingdale Road (parallel to nowadays Broadway), which contributed a lot to the growth of the neighborhood, was finished in 1707

The neighborhood developed further under the English. Aristocrats built country seats all over Manhattan, and the neighborhood got its fair share as well. But despite a sparse population, the neighborhood remained mostly undeveloped, even after the war of the revolution. In 1904, the development of the subway triggered business development on Broadway, as well as the development of high-end apartment buildings. 

The remnants of its diverse population are visible throughout the neighborhood. 

Origin Of The Name

Part of the neighborhood was and still is called Bloomingdale, which has Dutch roots. All that’s known about the origin of the name is that it was “familiar” in the nineteenth century and was coined by a journalist from the neighborhood. The reasoning behind the name takes little imagination to decipher, as it is situated on the upper west side of Central Manhattan. 

Main Attractions Of The Neighborhood

This dense neighborhood is home to a wide variety of food establishments, many with interesting and “delicious” ethnic roots. 

  1. Carmine’s Italian Restaurant – Upper West Side (2450 Broadway): Carmine’s boasts a gorgeous eating area and a great selection of Italian dishes. It offers generous family-size platters perfect for large groups.
  2. Jacob’s Pickles (509 Amsterdam Ave): It’s another heavily (and positively) reviewed food establishment famous for its fried chicken biscuit sandwiches, Southern-style cooking, its Jewish menu, and of course, the pickles. 
  3. Naruto Ramen (2634 Broadway): If you are a fan of anime and have seen Naruto, you might just go in for the name. But this quaint “otaku haven” also offers amazing Japanese food. 
  4. El Mitote (208 Columbus Ave): For Mexican food lovers, this is one of the few great spots. But even more beloved than the food is the lively and open-air setting.
  5. The Dead Poet (450 Amsterdam Ave #2): One of the best dive bars in the neighborhood, well-known for its literary theme and Irish drinks. 

    There are many buildings in the neighborhood with rich histories and amazing architecture. Some of them are:

  6. The Juilliard School (60 Lincoln Center Plaza): Julliard is one of the most famous (if not the most famous) performing art schools in the world,  thanks to its mention in numerous movies. The building itself is impressive and memorable. 
  7. The Empire Hotel (44 W 63rd St): Built as a 15-story hotel in 1922, it’s famous and recognized for its massive red neon sign. The hotel got a lot of attention due to the show Gossip Girl.  
  8. Ansonia (2109 Broadway): Currently Ansonia Condominium, was once one of the most thriving hotels in Manhattan and a site for several historic and famous events. 
  9. The Dakota (1 W 72nd St): The beautiful 1881 building that got its name for the Dakota Territory (due to its remoteness) is better known for John Lennon’s assassination. 
  10. El Dorado (300 Central Park West): It’s a beautiful luxury cooperative quite recognizable thanks to its twin tower structures. It offers a stunning view of the Central Park reservoir. 

    The Upper West Side offers a wide variety of one-of-a-kind attractions. 

  11. Central Park: The fifth-largest park in the city is home to a wide variety of activities and stunning views. It’s over a century old and part of Manhattan Island’s history. 
  12. American Museum of Natural History (200 Central Park West): Built in 1869, this is the largest museum of Natural History in the world. It’s spread out over 17 acres and contains at least 34 million specimens. 
  13. Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts (Lincoln Center Plaza): It’s the top-performing art center, not just in the neighborhood but the city as a whole. And it’s massive: 30 indoor and outdoor facilities sprawled over 16.3 acres. 
  14. Metropolitan Opera House (30 Lincoln Center Plaza): Even though it’s part of the Lincoln Center, this opera house has its own distinct identity as one of the most beautiful opera houses in the world (despite being one of the youngest).
  15. Riverside Park South (Riverside Blvd): Part of the longer Riverside Park, this park offers amazing views and makes for an amazing walk.  

What Is Upper West Side Known For?

  • For the West Side Story film, both 1961 original and the newer Spielberg version. 
  • The Juilliard School – Arguably the most famous performing arts school in the world
  • Two park borders: Central and Riverside Park
  • Lots of fun attractions
  • Celebrity residents like Jerry Steinfeld, Tina Fey, and Tony Shalhoub

Population 

The Upper West Side is a heavily populated neighborhood. This 1.9 square mile neighborhood is home to about 214,744 people. Interestingly, the population of this neighborhood has a 3.5 year higher life expectancy than the NYC average. 

Interesting Facts About Upper West Side

  • Ansonia, one of the most famous buildings in the neighborhood and once the “grandest” hotel in all of Manhattan, was home to one of the most well-known scandals in baseball history: The Black Sox Scandal
  • What’s currently Columbia University was once home to Bloomingdale Insane Asylum which operated between 1821 and 1889.