By any other name

Straus Park was so named for Isadore and Ida Straus, who went down with the Titanic, in 1912. Prior to that, the area, bordered by 106th and 107th Streets, Broadway and West End Avenue, was known as Bloomingdale Square, for Bloomingdale Road, the former name of Broadway. Photo: Richard Khavkine



Sometimes I don’t know where I live. Oh, I don’t mean it that way. I know my address. It’s on West 97th Street, on the Upper West Side. At least that’s how I always describe my neighborhood. I am an Upper West Sider. I live on the Upper West Side.

The UWS is defined as extending from 59th Street to 110th, between Central Park and the Hudson River. I never give it a second thought. However, it seems I might also live in Manhattan Valley. According to Wikipedia and most other sites, Manhattan Valley runs from Broadway to Central Park West, and from 96th Street to 110th Street. One site, however, says Manhattan Valley comprises 100th Street to 110th Street, Broadway to Central Park West. Yet a third site claims it is 96th Street to 110th Street from Amsterdam Avenue to Central Park West.

The Park West Neighborhood History Group says that Manhattan Valley is a piece of the Bloomingdale area that centers along Manhattan Avenue from 104th to 110th Street. Go figure! And so, I also live in the Bloomingdale area. This local history group calls the area from 96th Street to 110th Street, from the Hudson River to Central Park West, Bloomingdale. The area was once known as the Bloomingdale District, and the history group wants this name to be used again.

The Ninth Avenue El was principal in developing what the History Group calls the Bloomingdale Community. It was built in 1878 and 1879 by seven men and a team of horses. In 1903, it was the last el in New York to go electric, and in 1940 it was closed.

The name Bloomingdale is still used by some to refer to the part of the Upper West Side, the location of old Bloomingdale Village, which extended from 96th to 110th Street and from Riverside Park east to Amsterdam Avenue. In 1907, the greenspace at the intersection of Broadway and West End Avenue, and 106th and 107th Streets, now called Straus Park, was designated as Bloomingdale Square. Getting complicated? You bet!

In any case, the neighborhood, whatever boundaries you decide to use, includes The Bloomingdale School of Music and the Bloomingdale branch of the New York Public Library. The name Bloomingdale comes from Bloemendaal, a town in the tulip region of Holland. It consisted of farms and villages known as the Bloomingdale Road. In 1899, after being widened and paved, Bloomingdale Road was connected to and became an extension of Broadway.

Some restate companies never know what to call all these neighborhoods of the Upper West Side. And there are those who feel that calling the area Bloomingdale is confusing because Bloomingdale’s Department store is on the East Side. Well, no wonder the confusion. I am totally confused myself. So where do I live? I suppose I live in all three neighborhoods: the Upper West Side, Manhattan Valley and the Bloomingdale area. I am a member of BAIP (Bloomingdale Aging in Place), and I use the Bloomingdale branch of the library.

Nevertheless, if you ask me where I live, it’s The Upper West Side.