Sitting next to the United Nations a small neighborhood that has a lot going on under its shell.
Turtle Bay’s longtime residents say the area’s location, bound by the FDR Drive, Lexington Avenue, 42nd and 53rd streets, gives them the ideal Manhattan experience with a subdued flair.
Nearly 200-year-old town houses are juxtaposed with modern high-rises; mom-and-pop stores, bars and ethnic restaurants share blocks with Duane Reade drugstores and Starbucks.
“It’s more quiet and homey” than other parts of midtown, said Kaitlyn Stott, 42, an Australian native who has been living in the area with her boyfriend for almost a year. “It caters to everyone in the area.”
The neighborhood is recently appealing to young residents, especially new families, experts said.
They are in part attracted to a slew of new bars and restaurants along Second Avenue just outside Turtle Bay, such as the wine bar Bottle & Bine at 1085 Second Ave. at 57th Street, which opened in December.
“All of these nice, hip restaurants have come and now people realize there are fun places to check out,” said Xan Garcia, who owns the Cornerstone Tavern at 961 Second Ave. and 51st Street.
However, like in all New York City neighborhoods, Turtle Bay is not without room for improvement. Transportation, for example, can be a problem for people who live and work closer to the East River and away from the Lexington Avenue subway stops and Grand Central Terminal, which is just west of the area on 42nd Street.
“The transportation infrastructure was supposed to be dealt in part with the construction of the Second Avenue subway and who knows when that will be done,” said Richard Eggars, chair of Manhattan Community Board 6, which covers Turtle Bay.
But for what it lacks in train access, the area makes up in cultural diversity, noted Bill Curtis, president of the Turtle Bay Association, a 59-year-old nonprofit civic group.
Being in the shadow of the U.N. means residents can taste menus from various parts of the globe. Indian restaurant Bukhara Grill at 217 E. 49th St., Turkish eatery Sip Sak at 928 Second Ave. and Ethos Gallery 51 at 905 First Ave. are just a few of the popular international dining spots among Turtle Bay’s visitors, workers and residents.
“You get to see, interact and be part of this mixture every day,” Curtis said.
The diversity also extends to Turtle Bay’s residential side.
Andrea Saturno-Sanjana, a real estate agent with Citi Habitats who specializes in Turtle Bay, said it has several micro-communities.
“There’s quite a range,” she said of the local housing stock.
Home-seekers can find everything from town houses in the Turtle Bay Gardens Historic District, which date back to the 1860s and are located between Second and Third avenues and 48th and 47th streets, to the 50 United Nations Plaza, which opened last year and has units with 11-foot ceilings, along with a 75-foot swimming pool and other luxurious amenities.
Aside from the luxe new developments, affordability compared to other parts of Manhattan has been a major draw for new residents, according to neighborhood experts, but real estate prices have been rising in recent years.
According to StreetEasy, the median sales price in Turtle Bay rose from $672,500 in 2012 to $935,000 in 2015. The median sales price for Manhattan borough-wide last year was $990,000, the listings site found.
Rental prices have been more stagnant. The median rental price in Turtle Bay was $3,100 in 2012 and went up to $3,195 in 2015, StreetEasy reported. The median rent for all of Manhattan last year was $3,200, according to the site.
Sales prices reflect the neighborhood’s increasing popularity. To cope with its growing density, residents are working to make sure they aren’t struggling with extra garbage and noise, according to Anne Saxon-Hersh, 69, an advocate for the area’s recreational space, Dag Hammarskjold Plaza.
Friends of Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, Saxon-Hersh’s 23-year-old nonprofit, recently received $675,000 in funds from the City Council to renovate the site, which is located at Second Avenue and East 47th Street.
“[The plaza] needs paint and needs a do-over,” she said.
In addition to serving as the neighborhood’s park, the plaza is also used for events like the Wednesday greenmarket, and the free, family-friendly Oktoberfest, which is happening on Oct. 10 from 1-4 p.m.
Mark Bench, an art surveyor who lives in the Upper West Side, travels across town every week to buy his groceries from the greenmarket because he enjoys its friendly atmosphere.
“The market is full of character,” he said as he picked out veggies on a recent Wednesday afternoon. “I bring colleagues here all the time.”
Turtle Bay is bordered to the west by Lexington Avenue and the east by the FDR drive, according to StreetEasy. It sits between East 42nd and 53rd streets.
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