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HomeUpper East SideIs old-world Yorkville the new Williamsburg?

Is old-world Yorkville the new Williamsburg?

Yorkville real estate now attracting millennials

 

No one really went to Yorkville to hang out, in my experience. Rather, everyone hanging out there lives there, as some have for decades. Millennials may be changing all that.

Jason Nong, 23, moved in July to Yorkville from Stuyvesant Town near the East Village downtown. His commute to 52nd Street and Fifth Avenue for his job at a private equity firm takes just 20 minutes by the Q line. Up here, “it’s not crowded,” Nong said. It’s “peaceful, livable.”

Yorkville covers roughly 20 blocks carved out of the Upper East Side between Third Avenue and a 15.2-acre park that runs against the East River. It is a place where people live and friends visit friends.

This is looking more like a new Williamsburg.

The streets are busy, not with tourists or restaurant connoisseurs, but with children dribbling basketballs, high schoolers going to watch a movie and business people returning home from meetings in another part of town. Recent college grads and young professionals are coming, too. This is looking more like a new Williamsburg.

 

Yorkville real estate now attracting millennials

Old world Budapest meets young Yorkville.

Shiny Q train versus closed L Train

Ironically, as New Yorkers fret about the pending L train closure (for 15-month repairs, the city says) to the trendy Brooklyn neighborhood, the opening of the shiny Q line on Second Avenue has brought more attention to the old neighborhood of Yorkville.

The train is quite empty heading downtown in the evenings from 86th Street. Nearly everyone has come home to Yorkville on the train, and the streets grow calmer. Only the few visitors are leaving.

Yorkville versus Williamsburg

On a weekend night, Williamsburg’s side streets can have the same quietness as Yorkville, with the notable absence of a feeling of being lived in. Some shiny condo buildings and new restaurants that fit a certain mold of young New York cluster around Bedford Street station. More people are leaving. The L train back toward Eighth Avenue, Manhattan, is packed on a Saturday night.

“If you want a studio or a one-bedroom [it’s better] here” than downtown, Nong said.

“Williamsburg is still more hipster” and artistic, said Nong, who has never lived in the Brooklyn neighborhood. “Up here it’s still more families. You see more families, you see more people pushing strollers.”

“If you want a studio or a one-bedroom [it’s better] here” than downtown, Nong said.

But he said some of his friends, a few years out of school, are increasingly looking at apartments in Yorkville. “If you want a studio or a one-bedroom [it’s better] here” than downtown, Nong said.

Vestiges of Eastern European and German culture

If Williamsburg is, in a sense, the New World, then Yorkville is the Old World being rediscovered for its richness. Vestiges of an eastern European and German immigrant population from a century ago dot the streets, from bakeries to churches.

There’s a bright, red-lettered “BUDAPEST” cafe and restaurant at the southwest corner of 85th Street and Second Avenue. Alternatively called Andre’s Cafe and Bakery, the Hungarian restaurant serves freshly baked chocolate rugelach, stuffed cabbage and Hungarian wines. A mix of what appear to be some tourists and more locals fill the narrow seating area — dessert tables on the left along the brick wall, entrees served at tables on the other side.

A few blocks south are two Hungarian churches. To the east is the 125-year-old Zion St. Mark’s Evangelical Lutheran Church that also hosts some German-language only film screenings. Around the corner from the church is Heidelberg, one of the oldest family-run German restaurants in the country.

In between such historical monuments is the growing influence of the new New York.

Yorkville real estate now attracting millennials

Heidelberg rediscovered

Old New York pressed against new New York

A few storefronts down from Heidelberg is Five Mile Stone, a two-floor bar that lets its live music performances seep out onto the sidewalks. Present and former college students can enjoy Insomnia Cookies at 82nd Street. Irving Farm Coffee Roasters opened in 2016 at Third Avenue and 81st Street., a 1,700-square-foot outpost of what are now nine New York City locations.

“I love all the bars and the restaurants,” Nong said, adding he’s been to the Hungarian bakery a couple times. Yorkville “has very hip restaurants but it’s not crowded like the East Village is.”

About Archibald Gracie

But not all the history is purely Old World. Multiple store signs allude to a “Gracie” like some feudal duke who oversaw a European town and its farms. There’s “Gracie’s Corner Diner,” “Gracie Mews Diner” and “Gracie’s Wines.”

Archibald Gracie was in fact a Scottish merchant who built Gracie Mansion at East 88th Street and Carl Schurz Park. It became the official New York City mayor’s residence nearly 76 years ago in 1942 when Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia and his family moved in. Mayor Michael Bloomberg declined to keep the tradition. Today, Mayor Bill De Blasio has moved in and allows tours on Mondays.

Yorkville is known for being old and not hip.  Then again, so was Williamsburg.

Evelyn Cheng

Evelyn Cheng

Evelyn Cheng covers financial markets for CNBC.com.
Evelyn Cheng