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Around the Block: Upper West Side

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For many New Yorkers, the mere mention of the Upper West Side sends them into paroxysms of yawning. Some refer to the area -- which stretches from Riverside Drive to Central Park West and from Lincoln Center north to around 100th Street -- as a virtual suburbia: sidewalks filled with strollers and jogging mommies; avenues lined with characterless big-box stores; oversized, unremarkable restaurants (though the latter is slowly changing).

ZABARS58VW.JPGSure, it might not be the most exciting neighborhood, but the UWS is one of the city's most livable -- and family-friendly -- areas, thanks not only to its variety of housing, but also to its sheer number of amenities. It lays claim to not one, but two of the city's largest, most popular parks: Central Park and Riverside Park. Some of the best grocery/specialty food stores are practically all in a row along Broadway: Fairway, Citarella, Zabar's and Barney Greengrass. And unlike the neighboring Upper East Side, the UWS is serviced by not one, but two subway lines: the B and C along Central Park West and the 1/2/3 along Broadway.

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The Ansonia

Some of the city's most recognizable prewar residential buildings are here, too: The Dakota at 72nd St. and CPW (home to John Lennon); The Beresford at 81st St. and CPW (with residents including Jerry Seinfeld); and The Ansonia at Broadway and 73rd St. (where "Single White Female" was filmed).

 

Much of the rest of the neighborhood is made up of townhouses and prewar buildings housing "classic six" apartments (that's a two-bedroom with a formal dining room and :a "maid's room"), with prices averaging $1,200 per square foot.

Apthorp_ParkingGarage79th St.jpgIn fact, you can buy into one such iconic prewar building: The Apthorp (390 West End Ave.), where Nora Ephron and Cyndi Lauper once rented enormous, stabilized apartments, is becoming a condo. The conversion however, hasn't been going smoothly, with some tenants refusing to vacate and its two developers, Mann Realty and Lev Leviev's Africa-Israel, fighting rather publicly. Despite the controversy and general uncertainty surrounding the project, it'll cost you big bucks to live in this landmark: On the market is a 3,331-square-foot four-bedroom, 4 1/2-bath unit for $7.5 million (with common charges of $3,427), or $2,250 per square foot.

TheOlcott32JA.jpgOther conversions of historic buildings include at left, The Olcott (27 W. 72nd St.), a former hotel built in 1925 that features grand Art Deco touches, and the nearby Apple Bank Condominium (2112 Broadway), which has housed a bank in its lobby since 1928. In the former, you can pick up a 723-square-foot one-bedroom, one-bath unit for $965,000, or a four-bedroom penthouse with terrace for $12.5 million. In the latter, an 1,839-square-foot one-bedroom duplex with 21-foot ceilings has seen its price slashed from $3.5 million to $2.6 million.

Further north on Broadway, Avonova (219 W. 81st St.) is the conversion of an elegant 1911 Beaux Arts building into 115 one- to three-bedroom residences. Currently, eight units are for sale, averaging $1,360 per square foot, including a two-bedroom, two-bath residence priced at $1.98 million.

921_10738_The_Harrison__205_West_76th_Street_069487a45472_zoom.jpgNew-construction condos are rarer on the UWS, given that much of the neighborhood is landmarked. But a handful of ground-up buildings in what would be considered "prime" UWS -- the 70s and 80s from CPW to West End Ave. -- are rising. Robert A.M. Stern's The Harrison (205 W. 76th St.) promises green living in its 132 residences -- the project is anticipating LEED silver certification. Residents can take advantage of a 35,000-square-foot Equinox club and Equinox's Fitness Lifestyle, which promises extra services like in-room spa treatments. Since sales started in summer 2007, 89 of its units are in contract at an average of $1,500 per square foot. Still on the market: a 532-square-foot studio for $765,000 and a two-bedroom, two-bath unit for $2.05 million.

Nearby, another green building is going up at 200 W. 72nd St. at Broadway. Yet to be named, the project will have 196 luxury rental apartments, ranging from 680-square-foot studios to 1,600-square-foot three-bedrooms, plus five floors of retail. The 19-story glass tower, which boasts high-efficiency plumbing, electrical systems and appliances, is applying for LEED Silver certification upon its completion, set for the end of this year.

535 West End Ave POOL  by Patrik Lo.jpgAnot
her newbie is 535 West End Ave., a 20-story tower rising near 86th Street that's being designed in a prewar style, according to its developer, Extell. That means details like herringbone floors, traditional moldings and fireplaces, and La Cornue ovens in the custom kitchens. The full-service building will have a pool (shown), billiards room and "pram storage" (how swellegant!). Of the 22 full- and half-floor residences, only a handful remain, priced at around $2,600 per square foot. Which means a flexible four-bedroom will run you $9.25 million, or you can spring for the massive 6,637-square-foot six-bedroom, 6 1/2-bath for $25 million.

arielEAST1.jpgSlightly more affordable digs can be found at the upper end of the neighborhood, in the 90s. The sister buildings Ariel East (2628 Broadway) and Ariel West (245 W. 99th St.), designed by Cook + Fox Architects and Cetra/Ruddy, average around $1,200 per square foot. (Shown is Ariel East.) While the tall, glassy towers might look a bit out of place in the otherwise fairly low-rise area (one is 37 stories; the other is 31 stories), the project isn't hurting for buyers, thanks in part to its large, family-friendly apartments and amenities like an indoor pool and a La Palestra club. Out of a collective 137 units, only 13 are still available, including a four-bedroom, three-bath condo for $2.85 million at Ariel West, and a two-bedroom, two-bath residence at Ariel East for $1.95 million.

Most other projects in that area are conversions:100 West 93rd St., near Columbus Avenue, with studios and one-, two- and three-bedrooms priced at under $1,000 per square foot; 314 W. 100th St., between Riverside Park and West End Avenue, with one- to three-bedrooms averaging $950 per square foot; and also going for about $950 per square foot are units at 220 W. 93rd St., including a 1,728-square-foot two-bedroom priced at $1.65 million. (There's also the troubled Park Columbus rental-to-condo conversion at 101 W. 87th St., which was to have been completed this year but where construction has halted and the on-site sales office has closed.)

And while many things have long made UWS living desirable, eating out there hasn't one of them. In fact, the area has largely been a culinary wasteland -- until recently, that is. Several restaurants have opened in the last few months that address what the UWS had been lacking -- tasty, affordable, mildly exotic cuisine in a groovy setting. Enter BarBao and Fatty Crab.

Interior 3 lores.jpgVietnamese-fusion Bar Bao (100 W. 82nd St., 212-501-0776) opened late fall in a rather shaky economy, yet managed to gain a foothold in a neighborhood not known for adventurous dining. The summer rolls ($8 and $9) and spicy beef salad ($12) are reliable staples, but it's the quirkier apps -- the daikon duck hash, made with a poached egg and shredded duck; crispy sweetbreads seasoned simply with salt and pepper; and the sizzling cuttlefish with a spicy salsa verde (all $12) - that keep the locals coming. Entrees like the iron pot chicken and vermicelli noodles with pork belly are also crowd favorites, but, as the waiters will warn you, watch out for the chili peppers. A good late-night option in an area dominated by fratty Irish bars, BarBao, which stays open til 2 a.m. Thursday through Saturday and has a warm, loungey atmosphere, mixes up Asian-inspired cocktails like the "Jane Fonda," a blend of rum, ginger liqueur and lime.

FattyCrab45.jpgPetite West Village favorite Fatty Crab (2170 Broadway, 212-496-2722) recently opened a larger space near 77th Street, and executive chef/owner Zak Pelaccio also expanded the menu. The deep red walls, dark wood tables and mural of Kuala Lumpur are the perfect backdrop to the spicy Malaysian menu, which includes sweet-and-sticky chicken wings, crispy shrimp and pork wontons, mussels swimming in a super-peppery broth and for those who can handle it, the signature steamed and fried Fatty Duck. Items are gently priced gently, with snacks from $6-$12, noodles and rice dishes from $14-$22 and specialties from $14-$25. A 13-seat bar serves up some seriously inventive cocktails like the Sinner's Buck, made with Mekhong, a Thai spirit that tastes similar spiced rum. Come spring, hours will be extended and there will be outdoor seating.

And if you're after simple, tasty Italian fare, Nonna (520 Columbus Ave., 212-579-3194) is a good bet, with red-sauce dishes priced right. The rustic décor complements classics like pasta carbonara, pappardelle (freshly made) with mushrooms and spaghetti with meatballs.
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Nonna is also family- and wallet-friendly: Sunday through Thursday, you can get a salad or antipasti and your choice of pasta for just $14.95. And most bottles of wine are $30 and under (try the Aglianico, a nicely balanced Italian red). And most desserts are around $5: We recommend the creamy, slightly citrusy panna cotta. -- Jennifer Ceaser

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