The Upper East Side, of all places, attracts bargain hunters
Nancy Raia and John Buechler in their apartment on E. 74th St.
The building where Raia and Buechler found a large one-bedroom apartment for $650,000.
They’re moving on up — for lower rent.
The Upper East Side, long known for Park Ave. princesses and stay-at-home stroller moms, is drawing millennials and childless working-class couples who’ve been priced out of the boroughs.
“I always pictured the Upper East Side as stuffy (and) meant for a much older and wealthier age group,” says Kathleen Curtis, 23, who just moved to the neighborhood after finding other areas far too expensive.
Sure, she wanted to live in Chelsea or near Union Square, but rents in those trendy neighborhoods now exceed those in the area bounded by E. 70th and 91st Sts. and First and Second Aves.
“When you get priced out, it becomes apparent that Manhattan has pockets that are affordable, and the Upper East Side certainly is one of them,” says Jonathan Miller, CEO of appraisal firm Miller Samuel, who crunches the rental numbers for Douglas Elliman.
“Neighborhoods that aren’t exactly hipster-oriented still become a destination because they’re more affordable,” he adds.
“Affordable” isn’t a word often used to describe the Upper East Side. What Miller means is that the neighborhood’s prices have been relatively stable while many other parts of the city have become playgrounds for the 1%.
Kathleen Curtis, 23, a young professional who works in advertising and just leased an apartment on 91st street this month.
In 2000, the average Upper East Side rent was $1,709 — and since then it has risen just 7.3%, to $1,834.
Meanwhile, some other neighborhoods are pricing out working people. In Brooklyn Heights and Fort Greene, for example, the average rent jumped from $933 to $1,474 — a whopping 58% — according to the city controller’s office.
During the same period, average rents in Astoria went from $882 to $1,185, a 34.4% increase.
“The prices on the Upper East Side today verses a decade ago haven’t changed all that much, whereas Brooklyn rose more steeply,” says Miller.
Even the Upper West Side, which has geographic and economic similarities to the Upper East Side, has gone up 13.8% since 2000.
Sale prices tell another part of the story. The median sale price for apartments in the area is about $1.25 million; in Park Slope, it’s $1.2 million.
Stores are coming in, and now it’s gotten a little hipper. We actually stay here at night and avoid the $25 cab ride downtown.
As the prices get more attractive, the old-money stereotype fades, says Miller. “People tend to pigeonhole the Upper East Side as Park and Fifth Aves., but you actually have a pretty broad range of housing stock and various levels of affordability,” he tells the Daily News.
It’s not the first time that young couples and singles have embraced the area, which is no longer your grandfather’s Upper East Side.
During the 1970s and ’80s, the neighborhood’s relative stability attracted urbanites who didn’t want to flee to the suburbs. Later, millennials sought out places like Chelsea and Tribeca — and the boroughs — in pursuit of the hipster lifestyle.
Now the area is back for buyers and renters priced out elsewhere, like 30-year-old Nancy Raia.
“We found a large one-bedroom with plenty of space for $650,000,” says Raia of her new home on E. 74th St. between First and Second Aves.
She’s loving her new neighborhood.
Curtis’ apartment offers space and light, with the right price. ‘I always pictured the Upper East Side as stuffy (and) meant for a much older and wealthier age group,” she said.
“Stores are coming in, and now it’s gotten a little hipper. We actually stay here at night and avoid the $25 cab ride downtown,” adds Raia, who has become such a regular at the Uva wine bar on Second Ave. — thanks, in part, to its Meatball Mondays — that she doesn’t need to trek to her former West Village haunts.
Curtis, a 23-year-old Westchester native who really wanted to live downtown, provides a similar case study on the rental side.
She knew she’d need a roommate to live in the city, but she didn’t want to spend more than $1,200 a month — and landed in a fifth-floor walkup on E. 91st St. between First and Second Aves. for $1,195.
But the best part about this neighborhood is that you’re living in the heart of the city.
“You’ve got a bank on every corner, and there’s a supermarket on every block,” says Joanna Siegel, a broker with Douglas Elliman who sells apartments only on the Upper East Side with her partners Matt Siegel and Diane Kramer.
“You have everything readily available, and you don’t have that in other places of the city.”