Bordered by 53rd Street and 59th Street between First Avenue and the East River, Sutton Place is a small, quiet alcove in the middle of a large bustling city.
Taking a stroll through the neighborhood, one can immediately feel the elegance of the cul-de-sac community. However, hidden behind the rows of townhouses and tree-lined streets, lies a tumultuous history of highs and lows that have continued to shape the neighborhood even today.
It all started in 1875 when Effingham B. Sutton purchased the piece of land between 57th and 58th streets. He used his new property to construct a row of brownstones – a development that launched the early beginnings of this neighborhood.
Progress in the neighborhood stalled at the start of the 20th century when a wave of poverty and substandard tenements swept this waterfront area under the Queensboro Bridge. A number of street gangs formed, including the infamous Dead End Kids, who inspired several films and Stanley Kingsley’s 1935 play, Dead End.
By the 1920’s, the tides started to change with the arrival of several wealthy American socialites, notably Anne Harriman Vanderbilt and Anne Morgan. Their newly built, grand townhouses overlooking the East River were followed by the construction of high-end co-ops and luxury apartment buildings that were completed after the Great Depression.
This trend would continue as older, affluent residents decided to make Sutton Place their longtime home. The likes of I.M. Pei, Kenneth Cole, Sigourney Weaver, Marilyn Monroe, and Ban Ki-moon, among many others, have all lived in the neighborhood.
While the community has traditionally been a stark contrast to the vibrant and trendy feeling in some other neighborhoods, recent construction has brought in more organic food stores and other businesses that appeal to a variety of age groups and types of people.
For those interested in finding an apartment in Sutton Place, though, be ready for a hunt. Beyond the sticker shock that comes with New York real estate in general, the area is incredibly small and has very little turnover, two factors that make it especially difficult to find a place in this coveted, unique neighborhood.