Grade “A” Fancy’s Karen McBurnie and Jon Hammer continue as our guides, revealing overlooked aspects of the New York they love.
Sutton Place has been one of the ritziest addresses in the city for many decades, but back in the 1920s and 1930s wealth and poverty lived cheek by jowl on this handful of quaint streets overlooking the East River. The indispensable WPA Guide to New York City (1939) tells us, “Here drying winter flannels are within fishpole reach of a Wall Street tycoon’s windows, and the society woman in her boudoir may be separated only by a wall from the family on relief in a cold-water flat.”
This strange proximity was the subject of a 1935 Broadway hit, Dead End written by Sidney Kingsley. Two years later the play became a movie of the same name starring Sylvia Sydney, Joel McCrea, Humphrey Bogart, and a mob of teen toughs billed as The Dead End Kids. Featuring Huntz Hall and Leo Gorcey, the Kids’ appearance had a realistic dramatic impact that netted the boys a series of pictures which became the long running Bowery Boys franchise. Sadly, compared to Dead End these later pictures, as Slip Mahoney himself might put it, stink.
The river drew rich and poor alike to this neighbourhood, the poor folk to jobs at the local slaughterhouses, the wealthy for easy access to their yachts docked below their penthouses high on the bluff. That all changed when construction of the FDR Drive leveled the meat packing plants and severed the connection between the water and Sutton Place, leaving luxury apartment buildings and townhouses lining a string of secluded streets, five of them ending in vest pocket parks, collectively known as Sutton Park.
These tiny parks are wonderfully quiet, hidden little oases, with some of the most beautiful views of the East River and Queensboro Bridge. Fans of Woody Allen’s Manhattan will find the setting very familiar.
At the end of East 57th Street we find this rather mysterious gent. He is a modern copy of a bronze from 1634 by Baroque master Pietro Tacca. The original was nicknamed Il Porcellino (The Piglet) by his hometown, Florence, Italy. This handsome warthog dates from 1972 and must be very grateful to the late Hugh Trumbull Adams, a local philanthropist, for installing him at this swanky location.