Are you thinking of moving to the Upper West Side of Manhattan?
New York’s Upper West Side has been my home since 2009. I’ve seen the neighborhood change since I began living here, and undoubtedly, like all other areas of the city, it will continue to evolve. For the most part, I talk about why I love my neighborhood and how proud I am to be a West Sider. And overall, it’s beautiful and an easy place to live. But I feel compelled to share the aspects that I don’t like, so you can make an educated decision if this nabe is on your short list. Below are the not-so-great things you should know before moving to the Upper West Side.
There’s a concentration of chain stores.
Admittedly, convenience comes into play. Not having to schlep to another borough, over the bridge, or under a tunnel to Jersey really does make the city more livable, and I can promise you that New Yorkers shop Target and Pottery Barn too. However, when the cityscape of a neighborhood starts to lose its character because indie stores are forced to close their doors due to exorbitant rent increases, and the only businesses that can afford to pay $100k a month are the chains and big boxes, something’s got to give. Sadly, the Upper West has a large number of chains that aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.
And…way too many banks.
You’ll never run out of places to keep your money on the Upper West.
DNAinfo wrote about the issue way back in 2012, when there were 70 banks between 54th and 96th Street. (Not sure what the exact count is now, but there are way too many within a few blocks of my apartment.) The number isn’t getting smaller either. Ugh.
It’s not a food destination…but it’s getting better.
When it comes to restaurants, the neighborhood hasn’t caught up to many other areas of Manhattan and Brooklyn, but it’s trying. Local UWS favorites like Amelie, Cibo e Vino, Jacob’s Pickles, and Salumeria Rossi will hopefully continue to thrive. With the closing of top culinary players like Ouest, Dovetail, Telepan, and Mermaid Inn, just since I moved here, the upscale restaurant scene seemed to be dwindling for a bit. But we have a few newer players such as Dagon, Élea, and Miriam. That said, for great quality and value, I often prefer to head downtown for a meal.
At times, the neighborhood can be too quiet.
Particularly above 86th Street where I live, sometimes the streets tend to be ultra quiet at night and early in the morning. Living in a busy city like New York, finding solitude can be challenging, but not so much on the Upper West. If you’re the ultimate city dweller looking to live in the thick of the action, then this area of town probably isn’t for you. That said, it’s refreshing to know that you can live in Manhattan and other than a few sirens and day-to-day sounds, find peace and quiet.
Certain longtime West Siders, who made the neighborhood cool, have moved on.
Some UWS residents outgrow their apartments and leave for the suburbs after child number two is born, but countless denizens have migrated across the river to Brooklyn or uptown to Washington Heights as well. The Upper West has long been home to artists, writers, musicians, and other creative types, and although some still reside here, many have flown the coop for more square footage at the same price, private backyards, and as sad as it is to say, more soul. All that said, some of that creative energy has shifted, following former Upper West Siders to their next home.
In some sections, grocery stores are lacking.
If you live close to 72nd Street, you’re within a quick walk of Fairway, Trader Joe’s (if you can get in the door), and Citarella. But for other West Siders who aren’t within a stone’s throw of 72nd, grocery shopping choices are slim to none. The area’s Food Emporiums have closed their doors leaving my neck of the woods and the Lincoln Center area of town with few choices for staples. There’s a Whole Foods at Columbus Circle (good by subway). Then there’s another at 97th and Columbus and a Trader Joe’s at 93rd and Columbus, but there’s no great way to get to these stores from where I live, except walking for about 15 or 20 minutes or taking a taxi. Thank heavens for Zabar’s, which is only about a 10-minute walk for me.
The West Side is darker and colder than the East Side.
Nora Ephron said it. “I’ll tell you something else I’ve noticed about the East Side: It’s sunnier, it really is, I don’t know why, the light is just much lighter on the East Side of town than the West. What’s more, it’s definitely warmer over here in winter because it’s farther from the frigid blasts of wind coming off the Hudson River.”
And, I have to tell you, as someone who’s lived on the Upper East and Upper West, I think Nora Ephron was right. The winds can be wicked on the Upper West Side, especially the blocks between between West End Avenue and Riverside Drive. My solution is to avoid walking toward the Hudson River in January and February. But in the warmer months, it’s glorious along the Hudson.
Despite all of the above, I still love my neighborhood.
Have a question about moving to the Upper West Side? Post it in the comments!