North of 96th Street: The Upper-Upper East Side

Manhattan Luxury Rentals - Upper East SideIt’s not a boundary you’ll find on any map, but any Manhattanite will tell you that the stretch of 96th Street east of Central Park is one of the brightest and longest-standing borders in Manhattan real estate. With the ultra-prosperous Upper East Side on the downtown side and East Harlem on the north, 96th Street marked a long-standing class boundary as much as a dividing line between two neighborhoods. But, thanks in large part to a host of new luxury rentals on the upper reaches of the Upper East Side, the bright line along 96th Street is looking notably less distinct these days -- and two culturally rich neighborhoods have started to look more alike. Call it the upper Upper East Side if you like, but the changes along the northern part of the Upper East Side are unmistakable and undeniable. The Upper East Side, in other words, is moving uptown.

New affordable housing development has helped, but an increase in high-end rental offerings and improved entertainment and dining options, especially in areas close to Central Park, have done much to move Upper East Side luxury a little further uptown. While these two neighborhoods remain distinct and distinctive -- for all the changes in Upper East Side real estate, no one is going to mistake 105th Street for 75th Street anytime soon -- the blurring of this old real estate border has opened one of Manhattan’s longest-standing debates. What, really, is in a name?

Increasingly, the answer appears to be "not much," at least in terms of the new luxury rental listings that have sprouted in what was once an area largely without high-end apartment listings. From 1481 Fifth Avenue, a promising new development all the way up on East 120th Street, to the posh Hampton Court, at 333 East 102nd Street, East Harlem is now home to a host of new construction luxury rentals that would be very much at home on the Upper East Side. Another building exemplified by this trend is 1667 Lexington on East 105th Street, which opened on April 1st and was more than half full by April 8th.

Real estate truisms and old-school borders don't disappear overnight, of course. But the New York City real estate market is the New York City real estate market, which means that frontiers -- and new spaces for new luxury real estate -- are always going to be in demand. The impact of this trend is already in evidence on the Upper West Side, where a host of new UWS luxury rentals have opened in former frontiers such as Lincoln Square and Morningside Heights, as well as along the former hinterlands of the far west side. Admittedly, the acronym UUES -- you know, for “Upper-Upper” East Side -- could use some work. But this is Manhattan real estate -- old boundaries can start to look old awfully quickly, and new luxury rental apartments can quickly make old-school NYC real estate wisdom look, well, old.