October 15, 2008
Exploring the East 70s between Park Avenue and 3rd Avenue
Many people explore the Upper East Side by walking through the east 70s closest to the park, near Fifth and Madison, but try venturing through the area east of Park Avenue. Lexington Avenue, along with 3rd Avenue, features a greater mix of stores and cafes than the wealthier avenues to the west and a more lively street life. I find Lexington and 3rd more comfortable for me personally, and by extrapolation, for all members of social classes below that of extravagant and inherited wealth. Due to the crisis in the financial world, I'm not eager to run into those people, but I'm aware they will venture into a few of these places I'm about to describe.
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I once worked in this neighborhood, and each day I would arrive by the 6 train at the 77th Street stop. It's a busy station, primarily because of the proximity of the Lenox Hill Hospital across the street, and in the morning great hordes of unsmiling people pour out of the station, trudging up the subway stairs like the drones in Fritz Lang's Metropolis. Emerging at the street level, however, one is greeted with the comforting smells of fresh pastry emanating from the two shops that flank the station - Hot and Crusty, and Pick-a-Bagel. At least they provide affordable coffee for the masses up here.
If you would want to treat yourself to something special, forego these immediate pleasures for the elegance of Payard Patisserie & Bistro (NOW CLOSED) down the street. Payard is simply the best patisserie in New York, in my opinion, and the atmosphere is very Old New York, but with a pronounced French accent.* Or grab a coffee and brioche to go and wander over to 169 E. 71st to pay respects to the building used for the exterior shots in the movie Breakfast at Tiffany's.* Around the corner on 3rd Avenue venture into Gracious Home, the place New Yorkers go for home furnishings.
The residents of the neighborhood are particularly attentive to dressing up their townhouses for Halloween, and interspersed with the spooky visual gags, seasonal plants, pumpkins, and mums dress the balcony planters and steps. Notice the nice florists that dot the neighborhood as well as the popular local gourmet food stores, Butterfield Market on Lexington and Citarella on 3rd Ave.
Walking around this area is recommended when visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Frick, the Whitney, or the eastern sections of Central Park. After I walked around the neighborhood today, I wandered over to the park via 79th St. and then walked south through the park to 59th and 5th Ave. It was a beautiful day in early autumn for one of the best walks anywhere.
* A good compare-and-contrast of the Upper West Side and the Upper East Side would be to visit Cafe Lalo on the Upper West Side for lunch or coffee and then visit Payard (CLOSED) on the Upper East Side for the same. Both are great, but the NY-French vibes are very different and reveal much about their respective neighborhoods.
Images by Walking Off the Big Apple from Wednesday, October 15, 10 a.m. to 12 noon. See my park pictures from today at the set on Flickr WOTBA.
For more about Truman Capote's novella, Breakfast at Tiffany's, please see the post Mapping Holly Golightly: Walking Off Breakfast at Tiffany's.