The Upper West Side: from Central Park to Riverside Park


In a past dérive (an unplanned walk through an urban environment), I started at the corner of Central Park West and 81st Street, and walked south on CPW to Columbus Circle. For this dérive, the starting location is the same, but this walk goes from one great park to another: from incomparable Central Park west to the delightful Riverside Park, on the Hudson River. This walk illustrates why the Upper West Side continues to be a top location for residential real estate in Manhattan – it’s a primarily residential neighborhood, with a variety of different types of homes, and with all the neighborhood amenities one needs to enjoy life.

Starting at Central Park West and W. 81st Street, the Museum of Natural History dominates to the south. Founded in 1869 by a group including Theodore Roosevelt, Senior (father of President Teddy) to increase knowledge of the natural world in a time when zoos were relatively rare and limited in scope, and travel to see many of the wildlife shown was impossible for nearly everyone, it is a classic – but it can be a bit jarring to modern eyes to see stuffed and preserved animals, many of which are now endangered. Teddy Roosevelt became an iconic part of the museum, donating two elephants from one of his expeditions and eventually being honored by his image in the towering statue that welcomes visitors to the main building. Walking along W. 81st, however, eventually the Rose Center for Earth and Space, housing the Hayden Planetarium as well as many interactive educational displays, can be seen through the thick August foliage. It’s quite a change from the winter, when the glowing blue globe within a transparent cube can be seen from many directions through the leafless tree branches.

Behind the museum, on this Sunday afternoon, there is a greenmarket set up, with locally grown produce, honey, cheese, and bread. These greenmarkets are a wonderful addition to New York City life, and you can find out their locations and times at

Turning west on W. 82nd, the characteristic nature of this neighborhood becomes apparent: larger stately apartment buildings on the Avenues and on the corners, and charming brownstones filling in the cross streets. The material covering brownstones is a type of sandstone from the Jurassic or Triassic eras, so having an abundance of brownstones so near the dinosaur skeletons at the American Museum of Natural History seems only fitting.

Passing Broadway, and then West End Avenue, I smile as I remember a recent conversation with an Australian looking for an apartment near Riverside Park. He wondered where all the theatres were, and eventually I had to explain that Broadway was only “Broadway” as he thought of it in the 40’s and 50’s, and that “West End” bore no resemblance to the same area in London! In fact, as you get closer to Riverside Park, the neighborhood becomes more peaceful and residential, eventually leading to the pastoral beauty of Riverside Park.

The Upper West Side holds a variety of choices for someone looking for a home – running the gamut from the stately views of Central Park or Riverside Park in the majestic buildings on Central Park West and Riverside Drive, to the quiet and sometimes quirky floor-through apartments in brownstones on quiet cross streets. I recently helped a customer find a pet-friendly home near Riverside Park (with its off-leash hours and dog runs), and was delighted when she saw the 500 square feet of outdoor space in a certain brownstone garden apartment and knew that she and her dog had found their perfect home. Everyone looking for a home in New York City deserves the same result, and with the abundance of different neighborhoods and types of residences, with patience and the help of a good broker, it should be possible.

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