Is Upper West Side safe? Traditionally, it doesn’t have the reputation for being the coolest neighborhood in Manhattan, NY, which is the best known of the five boroughs although not the most populous. That’s Brooklyn, baby!
In the past two decades, the Upper West Side has become hipper and cooler and much more attractive. But is it safe?
Is West The Best?
That’s the question this article aims to answer for you. There are great options for families and young professionals on the Upper West Side but it is all in vain if the neighborhood isn’t safe.
In general, the Upper West Side is a hip place that is still good to raise a family. A residential neighborhood which is a quiet blend of tranquility and diversity.
Before discussing the details of to answer “is Upper West Side safe?”, you should get acquainted with the neighborhood.
The Best-Known Borough
Manhattan is the borough everyone pictures when they think of the New York City they have seen in television and the movies. Shows like ‘Friends’ and ‘NYPD Blue’ and movies like ‘Taxi Driver’ and ‘Home Alone Two: Lost In The City’.
NYC is actually composed of five boroughs. The five boroughs are Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx and Staten Island. Manhattan is one of two boroughs which are islands. The other is – you guessed it – Staten island!
The Upper West Side is a neighborhood on the island of Manhattan. It’s where Seinfeld lived! You can even have a cup of coffee in the diner that they used to represent the facade of the local coffee shop ‘Monk’s’ on the show. The diner is called Tom’s Restaurant and it’s located on One Hundred Twelfth Street and the infamous Broadway, near Columbia University.
The Upper West Side’s borders start at Fifty-Ninth street to the south and to the north, One Hundred Tenth Street. To the east is Central Park and to the west is the Hudson River.
The Law Of Attractions
The Upper West Side offers many, many cultural and recreational attractions and activities. Endless adventures await you on the Upper West Side. Here’s a list of some of the finest, most exciting attractions the Upper West Side has to offer.
The Upper West Side is home to many appreciated cultural performing arts institutions.
Lincoln Center is a performing arts complex that is so massive it has its own address: Lincoln Center Plaza! It was built in the fifties and sixties by John D. Rockefeller, a patron saint of New York City.
Lincoln Center encompasses the most famous New York performing arts organizations, including the Met Opera, the New York Philharmonic and the New York Ballet Company. You may recognize the complex from the Natalie Portman film ‘Black Swan’, directed by Darren Aronofsky.
Another fantastic performing arts venue, albeit much, much smaller, is Symphony Space, on Eighty Sixth Street and Broadway. Inside Symphony Space sits two stage houses, one named after Leonard Nimoy from Star Trek! Beam me up to Symphony Space, Scotty!
Symphony Space hosts over six hundred events annually and also supports literacy programs and performing arts curriculums.
Finally, it’s stretching it to say this last place is on the Upper West Side, but it’s a legendary landmark nearby and thus worth mentioning. Apollo Theater on One Hundred Twenty Fifth Street and Broadway. Timeless artists have performed here during its over a century long history, including Duke Ellington, James Brown, Bob Marley and Guns’N’Roses.
You may recall Apollo Theater from the television show “Showtime At The Apollo’ or the famous amateur night, which has turned out quite a few performers who would go on to be famous pros in their fields, including Ella Fitzgerald and Jimi Hendrix.
If you’re in the market for some laughs, West Side Comedy Club is an amusing venue that has hosted the likes of Jerry Seinfeld. The club is located on West Seventy-Fifth Street.
An intimate little venue that features a plethora of well-known acts and musicians that is also on Seventy-Fifth Street is The Beacon. It’s a pleasant atmosphere in which to enjoy some of your favorite live acts. The former movie palace opened in nineteen twenty nine.
Probably one of the best museums in the whole world is on the Upper West Side, directly across from Central Park. It’s the American Museum of Natural History. The most accessible entrance is on Eighty First Street.
The American Museum of Natural History opened in eighteen seventy one and is the first of its kind. Even to this day, it’s where all the kids go to see dinosaurs! Not to mention exhibits from all across the world. It’s a massive, fascinating place, not to be missed.
Inside the museum you can also find the Hayden Planetarium, where astrophysics is brought to life. The planetarium opened in nineteen thirty five, believe it or not, Ripley.
On the Upper West Side you can also wander into the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, the New York Historical Society Museum, the Museum of Art and Design and the Children’s Museum of Manhattan.
But you don’t have to just go to the museum or the thee-ay-ter. You can do what most normal people would prefer on a rainy afternoon or a weekend after dinner: Go to the cinema!
There are a few great cinemas on the Upper West Side. Loews Eighty-Sixth Street Six is the best mainstream cinema where you can catch the big hits, superhero flicks and movies everyone is talking about.
Your other multiplex option is the AMC Lincoln Square Thirteen, near Lincoln Center. Inside Lincoln Center is the Walter Reade Theater, a cozy little art-house exhibitor. Lincoln Center also hosts film festivals showcasing world cinema, such as the Romanian new wave festival.
But what match for cinema is nature? Upon the Hudson River that borders the Upper West Side you will find Riverside Park, the best park that isn’t Central Park.
Riverside Park is four miles long and five hundred feet wide. It was established in Eighteen Seventy Two and runs from Seventy Second Street to One Hundred and Fifty Eighth Street. Over eighty blocks!
Fun Fact! Twenty blocks in Manhattan is about equivalent to one mile. There’s an easy way to measure your distances!
In Riverside Park you can admire a multitude of species of wildlife, not to mention the bird sanctuary. The park also features numerous monuments to figures like Eleanor Roosevelt and Joan Of Arc. And you may not be able to confirm what lies in Grant’s Tomb, but you can visit it. True story!
Riverside Park is no run for the money with Central Park, of course. You can enter Central Park all along the Upper West Side. The attractions in the world famous Central Park are too numerous to list, you will just have to explore them for yourself!
Shopping is funtastic on the Upper West Side! Plenty of familiar brands to choose from which will make you feel comfortably at home.
There is a Trader Joe’s for a wide selection of diverse flavors. You got Marshalls department store, Sephora, Laytner’s Linens and Home and even Lush!
At Columbus Circle, brands such as Coach, H+M, Swarkovska and Whole Foods await your patronage.
In addition to all those, Nordstrom and a curated farmers and flea market called The Grand Bazaar.
And spotted aplenty all across the Upper West side are unique boutiques, one of which is actually called Unique Boutique. Magpie is an eco-friendly gift and decor shop. Funky furniture from a French retailer named Roche Bobois. You are sure to find something to match both eclectic and mainstream tastes.
Culinary Delights Of The Upper West
The Upper West Side is known for a lot of delicacies, first and foremost, probably, the pastrami on rye. This is just one of the staples of the Upper West Side diet.
Where can you taste the best pastrami on rye bread sandwich on the Upper West Side? That’s a point of contention. Some say Andy’s Deli, others swear by Barney Greengrass. Hey, I’m swearin’ here! Try ‘em both and decide for yourself.
Another great place to try that is a gem of the official New York City snack – the hot dog – is on the Upper West Side. On Seventy Second and Broadway to be exact. It’s called Gray’s Papaya. The name derives from the specialty ‘papaya drink’ offered to wash down the high quality, low priced treats. Three bucks is low priced in New York City.
Bagels are another staple of the Upper West Side. You can have a bagel with cream cheese, lox, salmon. Or any combination thereof, not to mention a roast beef sandwich. The possibilities are endless.
Bagels are the perfect nosh and the perfect place to get bagels on the Upper West Side is absolutely Absolute Bagels. But many Upper West Siders will argue you over to Zabar’s.
Let’s talk about Zabar’s. You are not a real resident of the Upper West Side if you don’t shop at Zabar’s Bakery and Deli on Eighty First Street and Broadway. Zabar’s has been featured on ‘Friends’, in ‘You’ve Got Mail’, ‘The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’, ‘Manhattan’, ‘Mad About You’ and many more.
The culinary touchstone was founded in nineteen thirty four. Beyond bagels, at Zabar’s you can stock up on the best cold cuts, cheeses, olives, fresh ground coffee, smoked fish and – well, the list goes on and on….
Best of the Rest-aurants
A number of famous food and drink establishments call the Upper West Side home.
Tavern On The Green is probably one of the most notable Upper West Side establishments. It opened in 1934, briefly closed after seventy five years, and reopened in 2014. Musicians, actors and other prominent individuals have all graced the tables at Tavern on The Green, including Grace Kelly and former Beatle John Lennon.
Tavern on the Green is located in Central Park. It has been seen in the movies ‘Ghostbusters’ and ‘Wall Street’, and on ‘Seinfeld’.
Overall, the Upper West Side is a smorgasbord of tastes and flavors and so many new places have opened in the past twenty years that it’s almost too numerous to mention. Classics include Carmine’s and Broadway Diner. New spots worth testing are Taqueria 86 and Red Farm.
Education Of A Lifetime
Upper West Siders are a bunch of smartypants! Because there are so many great private and public schools, students and academics live on the Upper West Side. Three of the most well regarded and renowned schools are situated on the Upper West Side.
First and foremost is Columbia University, an Ivy league institution with a striking, breathtaking classical campus. It has been in existence since Seventeen Fifty Four and not one but seven founding fathers of the United States have served there as faculty.
At Lincoln Center, there’s more! Yep! Juilliard School is housed in the Lincoln Center Complex. Juilliard is one of the premiere performing arts universities in the world. It was established in nineteen hundred and five and alumni include William Hurt, Kevin Spacey, Jessica Chastain and Bebe Neuwirth.
Finally, to prep your kids for Juilliard, you can send them to Laguardia High School for the Performing Arts! It’s located on Seventy Fifth Street and Amsterdam Avenue. Laguardia was the inspiration for the television series ‘Fame’ and famous graduates include Timothee Chalamet, Jake Gyllenhaal and, believe it or not, Ripley, Nicki Minaj!
With all the television series and movies that this article has called out as taking place on the Upper West Side, you could probably arrange your own little mini-movie tour around the area. Who knows, maybe end up living near some famous landmark from a great film!
You might even spot one of the celebrity actors or musicians who have been in those movies or graduated from one of the aforementioned educational institutions. Many celebrities reside on the Upper West Side, making it a perfect neighborhood for celebrity spotting.
They include Demi Moore, Matt Damon, Tina Fey, Al Pacino, Denzel Washington, Diana Ross, Steve Martin and Yoko Ono! One tragic landmark on the Upper West Side is the Dakota building where Ono used to live with John Lennon. It is the building in front of which Lennon was shot and killed by Mark David Chapman, ‘Catcher In The Rye’ fan.
Hanging Your Hat
What good is a safe neighborhood if you can’t afford to live in that neighborhood? Here’s a look at rental and housing options on the Upper West Side, along with some helpful demographical statistics.
The most common types of New York City apartments are micro apartments, convertibles, studios and one-bedrooms.
Rental prices range from two thousand two hundred for a studio to close to seven thousand for a three or four bedroom apartment.
Housing prices, if you are purchasing, range from eight hundred thousand for a studio to six million for a four bedroom apartment.
Upper West Side is considered an ideal neighborhood for singles, young professionals, families, retirees and LGBTQ+. The population of the Upper West Side is just over two hundred thousand. Two thirds of the residents rent as opposed to owning.
The median household income is close to one hundred forty thousand and nearly fifty percent of residents have a masters degree or higher. Upper West Side really is considered one of the best places to live in New York City.
But Is Upper West Side Safe?
With a super-low crime rate, Upper West Side is considered one of the safest and best neighborhoods to live in New York City. Only the Upper East Side is considered safer.
Crime rates have continued their general decline in recent decades on the Upper West Side. There has been a sixty three percent decline in murders. It has the lowest car theft rate and second lowest burglary rate in the city.
Per capita crime rates are also low. Car thefts especially plunged the most, by merely one hundred percent. More than ninety percent of residents report feeling pretty safe or very safe. They report that police in general are very visible.
In most categories, the Upper West Side can safely be called ‘very safe’. A little later, you will hear a little more from residents.
Public Transportation: How Do I Get Around?
Although not technically midtown, the Upper West Side is very central and you can get to and from the Upper West Side with ease on numerous subway lines and transportation options.
The commute to Wall Street, where many young professionals who reside on the Upper West Side work, is just thirty to thirty five minutes by public transit. And Wall Street is all the way at the end of the island!
The world famous Rockefeller Center, arguably the center of the city that calls itself the center of the world, is just twenty minutes by public transit!
There is a subway line which will undoubtedly get you straight where you need to go anywhere in the five boroughs, or take you to an easy, free connection to a line which will.
The main line on the Upper West Side is the one, two and three lines. Line One is the local, which stops about every seven to eight blocks. The two and three are express trains which stop every twenty five to thirty blocks. The A, B, C, and D lines also operate on the Upper West Side.
You can buy a single ride metrocard, a day pass, a weekly pass, or even a metrocard which will last all month. The cost decreases with each increase in the time period the card is valid.
You don’t have to have a designated metro card issued like in many countries. The metrocard can be generated anew each time you purchase it, or you can charge up your existing one.
What Do The Residents Say?
Fun. Accessible. Hipster. Wealthy. Green. These are just some of the words that come to residents of the Upper West Side to describe their home turf.
Residents say the Upper West Side has a great community vibe that you rarely find outside of the suburbs. There are lots of families and dogs, great access to parks, and fantastic pharmacies and cafes. Neighborhood-y but with the convenience of a metropolis.
All those statements are definitely an accurate assessment of the Upper West Side in New York City. In fact, residents really have nothing but positive things to say about the Upper West Side.
The only real complaints are about the size and expense of tiny apartments and loud construction. None of which affect safety.
A General New York City Safety Refresher
Of course, New York City is a major metropolitan with a reputation for being crime-ridden, thanks to many movies and series. But it’s way less ‘Gotham City’ than it used to be. Bruce Wayne can rest tonight.
In general, all the safety rules apply for any big city. Avoid tourist areas. Beware of pickpockets. Be aware of your surroundings. Stay away from unlit streets at night. Keep your wits about you.
In other words, do your best impression of a New Yorker!
Good Luck finding a great apartment on the Upper West Side and enjoying all its attractions in a safe, pleasant atmosphere! Hope this article has left you feeling ready.
Native New Yorker. Travel addict. Hardcore thinker. Analyst. Pop culture fanatic. I live in Queens with my wife Linda and our dog Clemenza.