An Elite ZIP Code Becomes Harder to Crack 

Mar 21, 2007

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The Postal Service, which mapped out social class four decades ago by separating people into ZIP codes, is about to give a new dimension to the adage “there goes the neighborhood.” This summer, ZIP code 10021 on the Upper East Side will become even more exclusive.

About 50,000 Manhattanites, including Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, David Rockefeller, Rupert Murdoch, Ronald Perelman, Spike Lee, Tom Wolfe and Gay Talese, will be cast from the ranks of 10021 residents.

They will be relegated instead to one of two new ZIP codes, either 10065 (60th to 69th Streets, from Fifth Avenue to the East River) or 10075 (East 76th Street to East 80th).

The redefined 10021 will shrink to about 40 percent of its original size and run from the north side of East 69th Street to the south side of East 76th.

That even cozier enclave in and around Lenox Hill will boast the homes of Pat and William F. Buckley Jr. and the residents of 740 Park Avenue, including the billionaires David Koch and Stephen Schwarzman, who collectively helped elevate that address to what the journalist Michael Gross proclaimed was “the world’s richest apartment building” in his book “740 Park.”

“I think ZIP codes matter a great deal, at least as much as area codes, and possibly much more,” Mr. Gross said.

They’re especially important, he said, to those New Yorkers who now have to adjust to their changed circumstances. “Their ‘deuxième’ ZIP code will be shoved in their face every day when they look at their mail,” Mr. Gross said, spelling out the French word for second-place.

The Postal Service denies any social agenda, insisting that growth in population and in new addresses necessitated the change, which was reported Monday in The New York Sun and which promises to be a godsend to stationers. Although the die is cast — officially the shift takes place July 1 — former 10021 residents whose engravers cannot meet the deadline will be granted a grace period.

In contrast to the existing 10021, the more elite version will, according to the 2000 census, be more densely populated (125,000 people per square mile versus 85,000) and will have a higher median household income ($84,000 compared with $75,000).

But 10065 will count a higher share of doctoral degree holders than the revamped 10021, and will have a higher median home value.

With the proliferation of e-mail, ZIP codes may not have the cachet they once did. What’s more, a number of smaller ZIP codes on the East Side, West Side and downtown now report higher median household incomes than 10021, whose residents, nevertheless, contributed more to presidential candidates in 2004 than those of any other ZIP code.

Still, with the coveted 212 area code (or 917 for cellphones) harder to come by, what’s left to hold on to?

“The truth is, there are some people whose whole identity is their ZIP code,” said Michele Kleier, the president of the real estate brokerage Gumley Haft Kleier.

“I don’t think everybody is going to move out of 80th Street, but obviously this is the most famous and most desired ZIP code in the city and in America,” she said.

Mr. Talese said, “The first thing you think of is your stationery.”

“But it’s not like an elite number and now you’ve been demoted,” he said. “We still have the 212 area code, don’t we?” (He does.)

Mr. Wolfe was equally sanguine. “I’ll try to take it like a man,” he said.

Mr. Bloomberg, too, seemed unfazed and typically even-handed. “The mayor doesn’t favor one ZIP code over another,” his spokesman, Stu Loeser, said.

Howard J. Rubenstein, the public relations executive, lives in 10028, just over the existing 10021 border, and he countenanced calm. “The same people will be invited to all the fancy parties,” he said, “and the fund-raisers surely will find their addresses.”


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