Friday, July 22nd, 2011

Murray Hill: Frat City?

New Yorkers with self-respect try to avoid the Murray Hill scene at all costs. It's been universally branded as a Manhattan's frattiest neighborhood, a place where the newly graduated roam free in backwards hats and do keg stands and attempt to avoid being Iced. But is this really the case? Are the residents up on Murray Hill really the frattiest of the fratty, or is it all just an exaggeration borne out of the casual disdain with which more established citizens view the kids today?

The New York Observer, in a 2005 survey called "Welcome to Murray Hell!," offered a glimpse into a strange land where collegiate attitude was all around and frat fashion the style. The paper noted that:

"…the guys have their own carefully coordinated uniform: a simple business suit and chunky silver watch by day, and a classic college-T-shirt-and-khaki-shorts getup by night (though it’s worth noting that some of them have taken to wearing seersucker shorts more recently). Many of them wear baseball caps, others go for the cropped-locks-and-hair-gel look, which they accessorize with smug smiles and the occasional hand-me-down BMW."

The Observer checked back again in 2008, and the Times took a tour early this year. There's even a popular viral song about the 'hood on YouTube.

But is it the frattiest neighborhood in town? We asked Curbed founder Lockhart Steele if he could think of any another area that was similar. "It's with great remorse that I tell you that no neighborhood in New York City compares to Murray Hill. Some will say Yorkville can be considered Upper Murray Hill, but those sort of folks have spent too much time in Yorkville and not enough in Murray Hill to think that," he said.

We staked out a Pinkberry in Murray Hill this week and found that in one hour, 20 people entered the store with college t-shirts (we counted fraternity, sorority, and university apparel as college-tees). Compare that to the East Village Pinkberry, where we only saw 9 college tees (3 of which were NYU).

For further research, we did what every local frat boy in trouble is scared to do—call up the nationals for help. Matt Glick, a New York based leadership consultant for Alpha Epsilon Pi said of his members, "Most often they end up in Murray Hill or places like Stuy Town."

So even the frats themselves identify with Murray Hill. But Scott Sitman, a 23 year old City transplant who decided to set up shop in the East Village, sees things differently. He told us, "I went to a big university in the midwest that has large a large east coast population (i.e. Jews), so naturally I know a lot of people in Murray Hill. I think a main reason young people live there is because the quality of life is relatively high, for a price kids just out of college can pay. Plenty of people I know live in dope apartments on like the 30th floor of a brand new building. Many buildings have doormen and it's a pretty safe neighborhood, so I feel like it's an easier transition to city life, compared to, say a dank and grimey 5th floor walk-up on Avenue C. And I guess that's fair enough."

He doesn't think that "fratty" is a fair description of Murray Hill, but he does make sure to note the fact that "college kids flock there after they graduate, many of whom are used to broing out 3 nights a week and watching a shit ton of sports…. But to each his own."

Murray Hill's main drag is the crowded strip of bars down Third Avenue populated by a striped, buttoned-down black out drunk crowd. There's even Exchange Bar and Grill, where patrons buy their drinks from a "drink stock market." It's pretty much designed to attract that young hotshot summer associate crowd looking to impress their with their newly learned Goldman Sachs skills.

The Joshua Tree, the most widely known bro-bar in Murray Hill, says that each week it runs through about "80 cases of bottled beer [24 bottles each] and 20 kegs." That's over 2,000 orders of beer per week. No other bar that we reached out to would tell us how much beer they actually sold. Most of them declined to reveal their numbers out of fear that they would be giving away the profits for a private business. So it says something that The Joshua Tree has enough bravado that they would be willing to tell us about their serious coin and beer drinking capabilities —it's a total frat move.

38 Comments / Post A Comment

Louis Fyne (#2,066)

I spent a year+ at 35th and Lex, I would agree with the quote about high quality of life at a low cost. I doubt I went out in Murray Hill more than once every other month. It was abysmal.

I've never understood the high brow complaint, really. If you think it's all mindless douchebaggery wouldn't you generally prefer that mindless douchebaggery to be concentrated in one are that you can easily avoid rather than dispersed widely? It's like my feelings towards LA.

camelface (#4,600)

@Louis Fyne Yeah, but they put LA on the other side of the country. You could unknowingly stumble into Murray Hill

Niko Bellic (#1,312)

@Louis Fyne It's thinking that living on 30th floor of a doorman-and-elevator building is "higher quality of life" than living in a 5th floor walk up on Avenue C (or in fact, it's today's equivalent somewhere farther away) is what makes one a frat boy. Does anyone really think I (for one) live in Williamsburg because I can't afford to live in Murray Hill or on Upper East Side or some shit like that?

Louis Fyne (#2,066)

@Niko Bellic Touche. By quality of life, I meant more intangibles such as walking to work in midtown, access to friends uptown and downtown and generally not having smoke from loud a-holes outside Piano's drifting into your window until 4 AM.

I've never actually lived in a managed building, but I do know for many people, particularly females, a doorman is a significant improvement to their perceived safety and quality of life. I'm not really in a position to judge that.

Also, I read the quotes as saying people live in MH because it's cheap, I don't think anyone anywhere is saying you live in the WB because you can't afford MH/UES.

Joey Camire (#6,325)

@Niko Bellic They probably think you live in WB because you don't have class, not money. Making assumptions.

Niko Bellic (#1,312)

@Joey Camire Ah, don't worry. They have already raised the towers of safety and "high quality of life" for themselves here in WB. Thanks to this economic downturn, they are still mostly empty, but they'll fill them up eventually I suppose. I can already hear people in uniform yelling "may I help you?" from across the street at everyone who passes by without a proper button-front or a polo. It's that "high quality of life" just waiting to wash over this side of East River too!

flossy (#1,402)

@Louis Fyne Referring to women as "females" means you are probably the Murray Hill demographic anyway, so.

Louis Fyne (#2,066)

@flossy I edited it from 'girls'…so you are probably correct.

HiredGoons (#603)

I saw dudes with lacrosse sticks and seersuckers on Bedford Ave last night.

I really, really hope they were being ironic.

boyofdestiny (#1,243)

@HiredGoons Is ironic that much better?

Aloysius (#1,808)

@HiredGoons. Those damn yupsters.

Niko Bellic (#1,312)

@boyofdestiny Ironic would be worse. It's actually all right either way as long as it's just a bravely executed isolated incident for whatever stupid reason. That's New York to me. It's when it's done in a massive effort to "fit in" (or claim status) that it starts stinking the place up with small town shit.

HiredGoons (#603)

@Niko Bellic: I was being sarcastic.

Niko Bellic (#1,312)

@HiredGoons I know, but I wouldn't pass on my opportunity to rant over such a technicality!

HiredGoons (#603)

@Niko Bellic: I love the internet!

ericdeamer (#945)

That photo is amazing.

@ericdeamer : Oh dear God yes. The guy on the left doing the cleavage-stare is the equivalent of a cherub in the corner of a Botticelli.

This is pretty cool, though.

Mary Murray's most famous "party" took place during the early days of the Revolutionary War. On September 15, 1776, the Battle of Manhattan began at Kips Bay, as five British warships surprised the untrained colonial troops under the command of General Putnam and Aaron Burr and sent them scattering northwest in disorderly retreat. British troops followed close behind, hurling insults at the undisciplined behavior of the Americans.

According to legend, Mary Murray invited the British commander General Sir William Howe and his men to rest at Belmont and enjoy a pot of tea. Their time spent in the company of Mrs. Murray and her charming daughters allowed the Americans to escape. The next day, they would triumph over the British in the Battle of Harlem Heights.

Neopythia (#353)

"I went to a big university in the midwest that has large a large east coast population" (Read: He went to Michigan.)

Louis Fyne (#2,066)

@Neopythia Or Wisconsin, or Indiana, or any other Big Ten school really.

migraineheadache (#1,866)

@Louis Fyne The other day I decided that the ratio of Michigan to Ramones shirts was a good barometer for neighborhoods. I was thinking of the East Village though.

Joey Camire (#6,325)

Agreed, it's super fratty, I bought a couch from someone there who said they would give me the couch on a friday but called and cancelled cause his new one wasn't delivered and "guy, the gators are playing tomorrow, I need a couch kid."

But, that said, I still support keg stands and icing. Keeps things interesting on all accounts.

Louis Fyne (#2,066)

@Neopythia Or Wisconsin, or Indiana, or any other Big Ten school really.

semiserious (#2,430)

I'm still amazed that anyone thinks any part of Manhattan can be considered unsafe, at least relatively speaking.

Anyway, I was in New York last weekend and ended up spending a night in the LES. It might not have been "super fratty" but still had that whiff of recent grads and NYU kids trying to recreate college parties by dancing to ironic hip hop from the late 90's to mid '00s. This what at four different bars, and I kind of had to give up after some music shuffler played the Fresh Prince theme song back-to-back with Smells Like Teen Spirit. Not so sure about New York anymore.

Lockheed Ventura (#5,536)

@semiserious The Frat Zone runs from 34th Street to Canal these days, although Murray Hill is still likely the most obvious.

Niko Bellic (#1,312)

@semiserious All of a sudden Lower Manhattan Expressway doesn't sound like such a bad idea anymore. Turning Village, SoHo, and LES into what's became of Bronx sure seems like it would be an improvement at this point.

semiserious (#2,430)

@Niko Bellic @Lockheed Ventura Lets just say, I'm from Miami and was still shocked at the number of flipflops in bars.

MollyculeTheory (#4,519)

Ooh, ooh, can we do Park Slope next?

brooklynbee (#8,273)

Er, a long long time ago (15 years) I briefly lived in Murray Hill, but back then it was 90% homeless people and Bellevue escpaees. Not frat boys.

SeaBassTian (#281)

@brooklynbee I believe you're thinking of Kips Bay which had an eerie derelicts might rape me vibe when I lived there 20 years ago. Murray Hell always had a bit more suburban flavor as if Hicksville was magically transported to the East River… Inevitable, really!

mmmark (#4,458)

"Oh, shut up, New York." — Chicago

6h057 (#1,914)

When did The Awl turn into Gawker?

Shanna (#18,760)

Well its not exactly Manhattan, but Hoboken is a pretty "fratty" scene, and perhaps one that rivals the Joshua Tree crowd. Just with a little more muscles and hair gel. I haven't lived there in about six years, but I doubt much has changed. I can also attest to the Murray Hill fratness, but it's just two different genres of what one might consider frat.

creasmankenneth (#19,015)

Murray Hill, seriously?

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