Greeters saw unusual sights at the Upper East Side in Manhattan, courtesy of New York City Council Member Ben Kallos, who represents the eastern part of the Upper East Side – from Lexington Avenue to the East River, from 100th to 55th Streets.
Representing Kallos was Adam Roberts, an Upper East Sider himself, who took us to unexpected places as he shared historical morsels. In the early 1800s, the neighborhood was made up of country estates. Fifty years later, the arrival of poor German immigrants transformed the area into an overcrowded tenement district. Before long, the neighborhood flourished and became more middle class. The 1980s brought an influx of Yuppies – young, urban (and wealthy) professionals. Now the area is a favorite of families with children.
Upper East Side apartments today are considered reasonably priced relative to Soho or Tribeca. This affordability has attracted a younger crowd along with trendy shops and restaurants that will start pushing the prices of apartments back up!
At 339 East 94th Street, we saw where President Obama lived when he studied at Columbia University. At 179 East 93rd Street was the one-bedroom apartment of the Marx Brothers’ family: mother, father, Groucho, Harpo, Chico, Zeppo, Gummo, two grandparents and a cousin. Living with ten people might have inspired the madcap hysteria of their comedies, including films Duck Soup and A Night at the Opera.
Adam had intriguing facts at his fingertips. In 1799, a country estate at 88th and East End Avenue was built by Archibald Gracie and called Gracie Mansion. It was in the elegant Federal style, but in 1823, Gracie sold it to pay his debts. In 1942, Mayor Fiorello La Guardia made Gracie Mansion the official residence of New York City’s mayors.
Moving down a few streets, we came to 185 East 85th Street. This was the home of the family from the famous TV show, The Jeffersons. For ten years America loved George and Louise Jefferson, an affluent African-American couple in New York City. The show was so realistic, tourists would come to the building asking to meet George Jefferson.
At 78th and First Avenue, Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David were at a Korean food market when they decided to write a TV show about “nothing.” Seinfeld ran from 1989 to 1998, winning award after award after award – or as Jerry might say, “Yadda yadda yadda.”