by Jonathan Zeller and Harrison Peck, 02/16/2011
Photo: David Black
Over the years, notable residents of Gramercy's town houses have included President Theodore Roosevelt, actor James Cagney, and scribes O. Henry, Oscar Wilde and Eugene O'Neill. In many ways, the neighborhood hasn't changed much since they left. Its center, Gramercy Park, is a remnant of a bygone era—it's a private oasis, a giant backyard for area residents' exclusive enjoyment. (There's only one other private park in New York City—at Sunnyside Gardens in Queens). The green space looks much the same as it did in the 19th century, and usually visitors must content themselves to peek through the fence at its lush greenery and impeccable landscaping. There are exceptions, however: Gramercy Park opens to the public every year for Christmas Eve caroling, and those willing to shell out for a night at the Gramercy Park Hotel receive the same access as those who pay an annual fee for a key to the park. The surrounding streets, meanwhile, have remained more or less continuously fashionable for 180 years—they're packed with notable architecture; diverse dining options like Casa Mono, Pure Food and Wine, and Friend of a Farmer; and nightlife—especially live music at Irving Plaza, The Gramercy Theatre and Jazz Standard. We bet President Roosevelt would be delighted to live there even today. —Jonathan Zeller
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