Split personality: East and West face off in a tale of two very different Upper East Side cultures

Blair Waldorf (played by Leighton Meester), an iconic Upper East Sider in “Gossip Girl.”
Blair Waldorf (played by Leighton Meester), an iconic Upper East Sider in “Gossip Girl.”

On any given morning, Lululemon-clad women collide with Champion-wearing ones; juice shops are as packed as fast food joints in a land divided: The Upper East Side. Two-faced, or two-sided, if you will, the neighborhood is split into two distinct areas: The Über-ritzy side west of Lexington Avenue (think live-in maids, private drivers and “Gossip Girl”) and the less-than-luxe side east of Lex (the land of bodegas, never-ending Second Avenue Subway construction and empty storefronts on First Avenue).

This “Tale of Two Upper East Sides,” is a very Manhattan twist on the epic hip-hop battle — a story of East vs. West. According to the real estate web site CityRealty, the average sale price of a co-op or condo west of Lexington Avenue was $3.64 million last year, more then double the $1.27 million average east of Lexington.

Further highlighting this divide: While education levels are nearly identical on both sides of the subway tracks, the average household income is also nearly double in the tony area, according to Revaluate, a company that specializes in housing and neighborhood data: $300,427 vs. $155,839.

It’s not just a question of disparity; it’s an attitude, too. “I don’t even really know what east of Lexington Avenue looks like,” said John Patrick, founder of architecture and design talent agency Above the Fold, who lives west of Lex. “Although, I will say the view driving down York Avenue to Sutton Place is quite beautiful.”

There are more subtle prejudices as well. Take Paola’s Restaurant, an Italian eatery at 1295 Madison Avenue, which caters to an Upper East Side clientele. According to a local resident, it’s the kind of place where “fancy Upper East Siders go when they aren’t being fancy.”

Owner Paola Bottero, who lives in the low 90s off Park Avenue, is no stranger to the divide — Paola’s Restaurant was housed on 84th between Second and Third avenues for 26 years. She supports unity, describing her establishment as equal-opportunity, with “wonderful clientele on both sides of Lexington.”

However, free delivery ends at Lexington Avenue; anyone living to the east must pay a delivery charge. Bottero explained: “Yes, we deliver to our neighborhood free of charge, but east of Lex  does incur a small fee.” This can be defended simply as geographically based, but those east of the tracks are penalized.

And not everyone is for unity. “No self-respecting resident between Park and Fifth Avenue would go east of Lexington unless they’re going to the New York Hospital for Special Surgery for an emergency operation,” said Avenue’s society columnist R. Couri Hay, who has lived in the tonier side of the nabe. “Although you wouldn’t get a nosebleed going east, there’s no question that even my King Charles Cavaliers wouldn’t cross past the Park Avenue Armory. And when your dogs know, you know to turn around to head back towards the park.”

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