In Praise Of Uptown: Why To Go Above 14th Street

by Christie Grimm · November 23, 2016

On a weekly basis, I find myself making the same joke. Nothing good ever happens above 14th Street. And with the exception of Bergdorf's and Barneys (and I'm not talking about that new sad excuse for a store in Chelsea), my given audience of the day usually agrees.

Perhaps it's because I spent four years, four long years with the length of four long lifetimes, at university on the Upper Upper West Side deadzone that is Morningside Heights, but there can be such a boring air that descends upon all things downtown distant.

And true, the uptown horseshoe that straddles Central Park is often understood as the place one goes to settle down, raise children, and wait for death. But, what the storied yet youthful village may boast in unadulterated fun, the nosebleed section of Manhattan boasts in plenty else.

In an almost unfair way, New York is the most New York on the Upper Directional Sides. It's smart, it's cultured, it's diverse, it's a Woody Allen people seem to overlook the scandaled past of. A place where the short-term stickiness of the "hottest new thing" bears not even an initial adhesive moment.

Take the latest performance of Jaap van Zweden conducting Tchaikovsky at the Philharmonic. A Saturday night. Eight o'clock. And Lincoln Center is filled to the brim with young couples making a night of it, old couples doing the usual, wealthy patrons with season tickets, music lovers come special for a treat. Upper class, middle class, non-class. Every type of person New York holds as their own.

Dressed in such a fashion that forgets trends, fancying more refined, tried and tested ensembles that speak to the elegance of an evening of enjoying classics - from Wagner to the headlining Russian Romantic himself. To sit in concert like many a fancy person throughout history has before you - your thoughts playing upon an orchestra of notes and instruments, with leitmotifs to guide your way and beckon you back from distraction.

But don't confuse the "traditional" display for something stuffy or stagnant, as situated between these two compositional masters is the arrangement of a newcomer, a composer still just in her twenties, yet bright with accomplishments and promise as an audience jumps to its feet in ovation.

While cool kids aplenty kill hours in Soho hungrily awaiting the glossy, overhyped silliness that is Sadelle's - those who know what's up wait ten, fifteen minutes at the most for a table at Barney Greengrass, where the bagels are better, and the salmon just as delicious, if not more.

Tina Fey once joked that “If you walk around the Upper West Side, you will never ever see a truly good-looking person. If you’re on 14th street you might be like ‘Oh I bet that girl’s a model.'”All I'll say to this? Something I find myself thinking every time I'm north of home? Well, it's not not true. And how great is that! Sure you may be a Tribeca 3 - potentially even a Tribeca 4, if you just got your hair blown out. But no matter how uncertain the market, with a flat exchange rate that's always in your favor, that translates comfortably to an Upper West Side 7. You're basically turning heads.

All this to say, while it may not have the bad boy appeal of the unorganized, knotted ball of string that are the mean streets of downtown, Uptown is pretty great, maybe even the best. It's where you're definitely your best you. So while you may not be ready to retire there, giving this older sibling neighborhood a second chance is certainly in your best interest.

[Photos via @oscardelarenta@bernalarevalo@grubstreet]