York Avenue and Sutton Place are the names of a relatively short north-south thoroughfare in the Yorkville, Lenox Hill, and Sutton Place neighborhoods of the East Side of Manhattan, in New York City. York Avenue runs from 59th to 91st Streets through eastern Lenox Hill and Yorkville on the Upper East Side. Sutton Place and its southern extension runs through their namesake neighborhood along the East River and south of the Queensboro Bridge, with Sutton Place South running from 53rd to 57th Streets and Sutton Place from 57th to 59th Streets. The street is considered among the city’s most affluent, and both portions are known for upscale apartments, much like the rest of the Upper East Side.
Addresses on York Avenue are continuous with that of Avenue A in Alphabet City, starting in the 1100 series and rising to the 1700 series. Addresses on Sutton Place vary.
The greater Sutton Place neighborhood, which sits north of the neighborhood of Turtle Bay, runs from 53rd Street to 59th Street and is bounded on the east by the East River and on the west by either First Avenue or Second Avenue. Sutton Square is the cul-de-sac at the end of East 58th Street, just east of Sutton Place; Riverview Terrace is a row of townhouses on a short private driveway that runs north from Sutton Square.
Sutton Place encompasses two public parks overlooking the East River, one at the end of 57th Street and another at the end of 53rd Street. The 57th Street park, named Sutton Place Park, is separated by an iron fence from the landscaped grounds behind One Sutton Place South, a neo-Georgian apartment building designed by Rosario Candela. The property behind One Sutton Place South was the subject of a dispute between the building’s owners and the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation. Like the adjacent park, the rear garden at One Sutton Place South is, in fact, cantilevered over the FDR Drive, a busy parkway at Manhattan’s eastern edge that is not visible from most of Sutton Place.
In 1939, city authorities took ownership of the property behind One Sutton Place South by condemnation in connection with the construction of the FDR Drive, then leased it back to the building. The building’s lease for its backyard expired in 1990. The co-op tried unsuccessfully to extend the lease, and later made prospective apartment-buyers review the legal status of the backyard and sign a confidentiality agreement. In June 2007, the co-op sued the city in an attempt the keep the land, and on November 1, 2011, the co-op and the city reached an agreement in which the co-op ended its ownership claim and each side would contribute $1 million toward the creation of a public park on the land.
The street that became York Avenue and Sutton Place (and further north, Pleasant Avenue) was proposed as an addition to the Commissioners’ Plan of 1811 for Manhattan, which designated 12 broad north-south avenues running the length of the island. The geography of Manhattan left a large area on the Upper East Side east of First Avenue without a major north-south thoroughfare, so Avenue A was added to compensate. Sutton Place, the name that applied to the whole street at the time, was originally one of several disconnected stretches of Avenue A built where space allowed, east of First Avenue.
In 1875, Effingham B. Sutton constructed a group of brownstones between 57th and 58th Streets. The earliest source found by The New York Times using the term Sutton Place dates to 1883. At that time, the New York City Board of Aldermen approved a petition to change the name from “Avenue A” to “Sutton Place”, covering the blocks between 57th and 60th Streets. The block between 59th and 60th Streets is now considered a part of York Avenue.
Sutton Place first became fashionable around 1920, when several wealthy socialites, including Anne Harriman Vanderbilt and Anne Morgan, built townhouses on the eastern side of the street, overlooking the East River. Both townhouses were designed by Mott B. Schmidt, launching a career that included many houses for the wealthy.) Very shortly thereafter, developers started to build grand co-operative apartment houses on Sutton Place and Sutton Place South, including several designed by Rosario Candela. Development came to an abrupt halt with the Great Depression, and the luxury apartment buildings on the lower part of Sutton Place South (below 57th Street) and the northernmost part of Sutton Place (adjacent to the Queensboro Bridge) were not developed until the 1940s and 1950s.
In 1928, a one-block section of Sutton Place north of 59th Street, and all of Avenue A north of that point, was renamed York Avenue to honor U.S. Army Sergeant Alvin York, who received the Medal of Honor for attacking a German machine gun nest during World War I’s Meuse-Argonne Offensive.
Residents of Sutton Place include writer Ève Curie, architect I. M. Pei, designer Kenneth Cole, and actress Sigourney Weaver. Former residents include Consuelo Vanderbilt Balsan, C.Z. Guest, Peter Lawford & Patricia Kennedy Lawford, Lillian Gish, Aristotle Onassis, Freddie Mercury, Michael Jackson, Bill Blass, Bobby Short, Percy Sutton, Irene Hayes, Elsie de Wolfe, Joan Crawford, Raj Rajaratnam, Richard Jenrette, Marilyn Monroe and her then husband Arthur Miller, Mildred Natwick, Maureen O’Hara, and former New York Governor Mario Cuomo.
One Sutton Place North, a townhouse at the northeast corner of Sutton Place and East 57th Street, was built as a residence for Anne Harriman Vanderbilt, widow of William K. Vanderbilt. Next door, the official residence of the Secretary-General of the United Nations is a five-story townhouse that was built in 1921 for Anne Morgan, daughter of financier J.P. Morgan, and donated as a gift to the United Nations in 1972.
The auction house Sotheby’s is headquartered on York Avenue.
1983 – Scarface had a scene in which Tony Montana (Al Pacino) was on the telephone in the now-defunct 60th Street Heliport, now used as a dog run.
1984 – On his album New Sensations, Lou Reed, in the song “High in the City”, sings: “Let’s not walk down Sutton Place; you know everybody there’s got Akitas.”
1986 – In the film Legal Eagles, the villain, Victor Taft (Terence Stamp), resided on Sutton Place.
1987 – In Oliver Stone’s film Wall Street, an excited broker (Sylvia Miles) offers to show Bud Fox (Charlie Sheen) some apartments on Sutton Place once she realizes how wealthy he is.
2000 – In the film Almost Famous, Patrick Fugit’s character is seen sprinting down Sutton Place.
2007 – 50 Sutton Place South was one of the buildings used to film American Gangster.
2008 – Sutton Place is mentioned in season 3, episode 2 of the TV series Mad Men. Set in 1963, it’s where the new British CFO finds an apartment when he arrives in New York to run the advertising agency.
2008 – Sutton Place is the location of the home of the main character in Mary Higgins Clark’s novel Where Are You Now?. Clark owns an apartment in the neighborhood, and in several books her characters occasionally dine at Neary’s, an actual Irish bar and restaurant located on East 57th Street between First and Second Avenues.
2013 – Vampire Weekend’s song “Hudson”, on their album Modern Vampires of the City, contains the line “But I was born on Sutton Place”.