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Health Buffs Prefer Calmer, Bike-Friendlier UWS Over UES

By Amy Zimmer | July 17, 2013 7:04am
 Some say the UWS has a calmer feel and is bike-friendlier than the Upper East Side.
Upper West Side v. Upper East Side
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MANHATTAN — Picking a neighborhood to call home doesn't just come down to finding the right apartment. It's also about how shops and street life shape one's lifestyle. As New Yorkers have become increasingly health-centric, DNAinfo New York has looked at how neighborhoods stacked up with their health-conscious counterparts.

Upper West Side v. Upper East Side

Bookended by Central and Riverside parks, the Upper West Side is a jogger's dream, said Rory Bolger, who plans to run the New York City Marathon for the first time this year.

Before Bolger went into real estate, he was a personal trainer, nutritional coach and a manager of an Equinox gym on Wall Street. Now, the Hell's Kitchen resident and Citi Habitats agent is hoping to move back to the Upper West Side, where he previously lived and where he had easy access to a healthy lifestyle.

"I'm working back into getting into my old ways of diet and exercise," Bolger, 40, said.

Fitness options ran the gamut, from free kayaking on the Hudson at West 72nd Street to one of the city's biggest fitness and most exclusive centers: the 140,000-square-foot Reebok Sports Club, at West 67th Street and Columbus Avenue, which includes a pool, rock climbing, outdoor track and spa, Bolger said.

And he appreciated the West Side's easy access to the Hudson River bike path — even though he likes to bike in traffic.

Across town, the Upper East Side also has its share of fitness-oriented venues, like SoulCycle, the Asphalt Green Recreation Center and there's free rowing with the East River C.R.E.W. at East 96th Street.  

But the distance between Central Park and the East River waterfront — which is crumbling and in need of an overhaul — is much further and the premium to live near Central Park on the East Side is greater than on the West Side, Bolger said.

"[The Upper West Side is] not as fast-moving as the Upper East Side. It's definitely the slowest moving of the [uptown] neighborhoods because it's not as built up," Bolger added. "The Upper West Side has a calming effect."

Vegan and organic places abound in both neighborhoods: Spring Natural Kitchen, Peace Food Cafe, Juice Generation, Café Blossom, and there are several gluten-free restaurants and wine bars such as Sambuca and Cesca, Bolger noted.

The Upper East Side has the Vegan Divas bakery, which opened by pastry mogul Francois Payard's wife Fernanda Capobianco. It also has one of the most health-crazed condos — with its own juice cleanse from Organic Avenue — at 515 East 72nd St. And the Elixir Juice Bar recently signed a lease at 1371 Third Ave., near East 78th Street, to bring its organic juices and cleanses and "superfood" smoothie line and grab-and-go foods.

The smoothies and raw-food set also have a second Juice Press in the neighborhood, which opened on Madison Avenue and East 92nd Street this month. But the Upper West Side isn't far behind: the Juice Press, which is in the midst of a major expansion to have 14 shops by the end of the year, recently opened an Upper West Side spot on West 82nd Street and Columbus Avenue and plans to add a second one some 11 blocks south at West 71st Street.

While neither neighborhood has any stations in this initial rollout of the city's bike share program, which only extends to 59th Street, the Upper West Side last year transformed Columbus Avenue to be more bike-friendly and its community board recently approved extending the bike lane for 32 blocks, so it will stretch from 59th to 110th Street.

"[The community board] is beginning to discuss a complementary lane on Amsterdam [Avenue], where speeding is a huge issue, and to add more to the network," said Transportation Alternatives' director of bike advocacy Caroline Samponaro.

The Upper East Side's community board has tended to take a harsher stance on bicycle riding, at one point mulling over a plan to require cyclists have licenses.

"I think the Upper East Side has a stereotype of being less bike friendly," Samponaro said. "In some ways that's true."

She noted, however, that the board recently voted overwhelmingly to support bike improvements to the approach of the 59th Street Bridge.

"My sense in both neighborhoods is that the community boards are shifting to reflect the public demand for safer streets," she said.

Overall, rents were comparable in both areas, according to an MNS report from last month. 

The average non-doorman studio rented for $1,974 a month and one-bedrooms for $2,716 a month on the Upper East Side, compared to the Upper West Side's $2,056 a month for studios and $2,723 a month for one-bedrooms.