42nd Street (Manhattan)
looking west from Seventh Avenue (2004)
|Other name(s)||Lincoln Highway (west of Broadway)|
|West end||West Side Highway|
|East end||FDR Drive|
42nd Street is a major crosstown street in the New York City borough of Manhattan, known for its theaters, especially near the intersection with Broadway at Times Square. It is also the name of the region of the theater district (and, at times, the red-light district) near that intersection. The street has held a special place in New Yorkers' imaginations since at least the turn of the 20th century, and is the site of some of New York's best known buildings, including (east to west) the United Nations, Chrysler Building, Grand Central Terminal, Times Square and the Port Authority Bus Terminal.
The corner of 42nd Street and Broadway, at the southeast corner of Times Square, was the eastern terminus of the Lincoln Highway, the first road across the United States, which was conceived and mapped in 1913.
For much of the mid and late 20th century, the area of 42nd Street near Times Square was home to activities often considered unsavory, including peep shows. A comedian once said, "They call it 42nd Street because you're not safe if you spend more than forty seconds on it."
Lloyd Bacon and Busby Berkeley's 1933 film musical 42nd Street displays the bawdy and colorful mixture of Broadway denizens and lowlifes in Manhattan during the Depression. In 1980, it was turned into a successful Broadway musical, which was revived in 2001. In the words of the Al Dubin and Harry Warren title song, on 42nd Street you can find:
- Little nifties from the Fifties, innocent and sweet,
- Sexy ladies from the Eighties who are indiscreet,
- They're side by side, they're glorified,
- Where the underworld can meet the elite
- Naughty, Gawdy, bawdy, sporty, Forty-second Street!
From the late 1950s until the late 1980s, 42nd Street, nicknamed "The Deuce", was the cultural center of American grindhouse theaters, which spawned an entire subculture. The book Sleazoid Express, a travelogue of the 42nd Street grindhouses and the films they showed, describes in detail the unique blend of people who made up the theater-goers,
depressives hiding from jobs, sexual obsessives, inner-city people seeking cheap diversions, teenagers skipping school, adventurous couples on dates, couples-chasers peeking on them, people getting high, homeless people sleeping, pickpockets...
while the street outside the theatres was populated with:
phony drug salesman ... low-level drug dealers, chain snatchers ... [j]unkies alone in their heroin/cocaine dreamworld ... predatory chickenhawks spying on underage trade looking for pickups ... male prostitutes of all ages ... [t]ranssexuals, hustlers, and closety gays with a fetishistic homo- or heterosexual itch to scratch ... It was common to see porn stars whose films were playing at the adult houses promenade down the block. ... Were you a freak? Not when you stepped onto the Deuce. Being a freak there would get you money, attention, entertainment, a starring part in a movie. Or maybe a robbery and a beating.
In the early 1990s, city government encouraged a clean-up of the Times Square area. In 1990, the city government took over six of the historic theatres on the block of 42nd Street between Seventh and Eighth Avenues. In 1993, the Walt Disney Corporation bought the New Amsterdam Theatre, which it renovated a few years later. Since the mid-1990s, the block has again become home to legitimate theatres and mainstream movie theatres, along with shops, restaurants and attractions that draw millions to the city every year. This area is now co-signed as "New 42nd St" to signify this change.
(from East to West):
- United Nations, First Avenue
- Tudor City apartments, First Avenue
- Ford Foundation, between First and Second Avenues, former site of the Hospital for the Ruptured and Crippled (now known as the Hospital for Special Surgery)
- News Building (formerly the New York Daily News Building), Second Avenue
- Chrysler Building, Lexington Avenue
- Chanin Building, Lexington Avenue
- Pershing Square, Park Avenue
- Grand Central Terminal, Park Avenue
- One Vanderbilt (planned), Vanderbilt Avenue
- New York Public Library Main Branch, Fifth Avenue
- Bryant Park, between Fifth and Sixth Avenues
- W. R. Grace Building, between Fifth and Sixth Avenues
- University Optometric Center, between Fifth and Sixth Avenues
- SUNY College of Optometry, between Fifth and Sixth Avenues
- One Bryant Park, Sixth Avenue
- Bush Tower, between Sixth and Seventh Avenues
- Times Square, Broadway and Seventh Avenue
- Port Authority Bus Terminal, Eighth Avenue
- Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises ferry terminal, Twelfth Avenue
Every New York City Subway line that crosses 42nd Street has a stop on 42nd Street:
- Times Square – 42nd Street / Port Authority Bus Terminal (1 2 3 7 <7> A C E N Q R S trains)
- 42nd Street / Fifth Avenue – Bryant Park (7 <7> B D F M trains)
- Grand Central – 42nd Street (4 5 6 <6> 7 <7> S trains)
There are two subway lines under 42nd Street. The IRT 42nd Street Shuttle runs under 42nd Street between Broadway/Seventh Avenue (Times Square) and Park Avenue (Grand Central). The IRT Flushing Line begins at 41st Street/Seventh Avenue, runs between 41st and 42nd from Sixth Avenue to Park Avenue, curves onto 42nd Street between Park and Lexington Avenues, and continues under the East River to Queens. Each line stops at Times Square and Grand Central; the Flushing Line also stops at Fifth Avenue.
Additionally, MTA Regional Bus Operations's M42 bus runs the length of 42nd Street between the Circle Line Sightseeing Cruises ferry terminal on the Hudson River and the headquarters of the United Nations on the East River. The 42nd Street Crosstown Line streetcar used 42nd Street.
In popular culture
- Blumenthal, Ralph, Times Square Revival?, in N.Y. Times, Dec. 27, 1981, p. SM9 (ProQuest Historical Newspapers The New York Times 1851–2006 (1923–Current File)) (Scanned Image PDF), as accessed Sep 6, 2010 (alternative link to N.Y. Times website and abstract, both as accessed Sep 6, 2010).
- Landis, Bill and Clifford, Michelle. Sleazoid Express: A Mind-Twisting Tour Through the Grindhouse Cinema of Times Square New York: Simon & Schuster, 2002. ISBN 9780743215831. pp.2-7
- Levine DB (September 2007). "The hospital for the ruptured and crippled moves East on 42nd street 1912 to 1925". HSS Journal 3 (2): 131–6. doi:10.1007/s11420-007-9051-6. PMC 2504267. PMID 18751783.
The new Hospital for the Ruptured and Crippled was built on 42nd Street between First and Second avenue. It is currently the location of the Ford Foundation.
- Bianco, Anthony (2004). Ghosts of 42nd Street: A History of America's Most Infamous Block. New York: HarperCollins Books, ISBN 0-688-17089-7. A detailed history that focuses primarily of the Times Square Theater District from the beginning of the 20th century through its successful revival/restoration in the late 20th Century. Excerpt from amazon.com
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to 42nd Street (Manhattan).|
- 42nd Street: A New York Songline – virtual walking tour
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