Park Avenue

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This article is about the avenue in Manhattan. For other uses, see Park Avenue (disambiguation).
Park Avenue
Park Avenue 01.jpg
A view down Park Avenue facing the MetLife Building
Other name(s) Park Avenue South, Union Square East, Fourth Avenue
Former name(s) Fourth Avenue
North end 132nd Street in Manhattan
Fordham Road in the Bronx
South end Astor Place/Cooper Square in Manhattan
Major Deegan Expressway in the Bronx
East Lexington Avenue
West Madison Avenue

Park Avenue is a wide New York City, United States (U.S.) boulevard[1] that carries north- and southbound traffic in the borough of Manhattan, and is also a wide one-way pair in the Bronx. For most of the road's length in Manhattan, it runs parallel to Madison Avenue to the west and Lexington Avenue to the east. Park Avenue's entire length was formerly called Fourth Avenue—the title still applies below 14th Street[2]—while between 17th Street and 32nd Street the title Park Avenue South is used, and the section between 17th Street and Broadway/14th Street is called Union Square East. In the Bronx, Park Avenue runs in several segments between Major Deegan Expressway and Fordham Road.[3]

History[edit]

Park Avenue on the Upper East Side
The railroad tunnel in 1941

Park Avenue was originally known as Fourth Avenue and carried the tracks of the New York and Harlem Railroad starting in the 1830s. The railroad originally built an open cut through Murray Hill, which was covered with grates and grass between 34th and 40th Street in the early 1850s. A section of this "park" was renamed Park Avenue in 1860. In 1867 the name applied all the way to 42nd Street. When Grand Central Depot was opened in the 1870s, the railroad tracks between 56th and 96th Streets were sunk out of sight and, in 1888, Park Avenue was extended to the Harlem River.

In 1936 the elevated Park Avenue Viaduct was built around the station to allow automobile traffic to pass unimpeded. In October 1937, a part of the Murray Hill Tunnel was reopened for road traffic. Efforts to promote a Grand Park Avenue Expressway to Grand Concourse in the Bronx were unavailing.[4]

A tradition was introduced in 1945 as a memorial to American soldiers killed in action, whereby Christmas trees are placed in the median section each December.[5]

On May 5, 1959, the New York City Council voted 20–1 to change the name of Fourth Avenue between 17th and 32nd Streets to Park Avenue South.[6] In 1963 the Pan Am Building was built straddling Park Avenue atop Grand Central Terminal, between the automotive viaducts.

On March 12, 2014, two apartment buildings near 116th Street, 1644 and 1646 Park Avenue, were destroyed in a gas explosion. At least eight people are known to have died and many more are missing.[7]

Route[edit]

The road that becomes Park Avenue originates as the Bowery. From Cooper Square at 8th Street to Union Square at 14th Street, it is known as Fourth Avenue, a 70 foot (21 m) – wide road. Above 14th Street, it turns slightly east of north to align with other avenues of the Commissioners' Plan of 1811. From 14th Street to 17th Street, it forms the eastern boundary of Union Square and is known as Union Square East; its southbound lanes merge with Broadway for this distance. From 17th Street to 32nd Street, it is known as Park Avenue South. Above 32nd Street, for the remainder of its distance, it is known as Park Avenue, a 140-foot-wide boulevard.

Between 33rd Street and 40th Street, the left-hand northbound lane descends into the Murray Hill Tunnel. Immediately across from 40th Street, the center lanes of Park Avenue rise onto an elevated structure that goes around Grand Central Terminal and the MetLife Building (formerly the PanAm Building), carrying each direction of traffic on opposite sides of the buildings. The bridge, one of two structures in Manhattan known as the Park Avenue Viaduct, returns to ground level at 46th Street after going through the Helmsley Building (also referred to as the New York Central Building or 230 Park Avenue). The IRT Lexington Avenue Line runs under this portion of the street. Once the line reaches Grand Central, it shifts east to Lexington Avenue.

As Park Avenue enters Midtown north of Grand Central Terminal, it is distinguished by many glass-box skyscrapers that serve as headquarters for corporations such as JPMorgan Chase at 270 Park Avenue and 277 Park Avenue, UBS at 299 Park Avenue, Citigroup, Colgate-Palmolive, and MetLife at the MetLife Building.

From Grand Central to 97th Street, Metro-North Railroad tracks run in a tunnel underneath Park Avenue (the Park Avenue Tunnel). At 97th, the tracks come above ground, rising onto the other Manhattan structure known as the Park Avenue Viaduct. The first street to pass under the viaduct is 102nd Street; from there to the Harlem River the railroad viaduct runs down the middle of Park Avenue. Prior to July 2010, the eleven intersections between 46th Street and 56th Street were without the city's usual pedestrian crossing signals and overhead gantry-mounted traffic lights because the railroad tunnel ceiling, which is also the street, is not thick enough for their poles' foundations. (These intersections did however have upright pole-mounted traffic lights prior to 2010, but there were no pedestrian signals. After 2010, standard gantry-mounted traffic lights and countdown pedestrian signals were installed.)[8][9]

In the 1920s the portion of Park Avenue from Grand Central Terminal to 96th Street saw extensive apartment building construction. This long stretch of the avenue contains some of the most expensive real estate in the world. Real estate at 740 Park Avenue, for example, sells for several thousand dollars per square foot.[10] Current and former residents in this stretch of the thoroughfare include Blackstone Group co-founder Stephen Schwarzman, former Morgan Stanley executive Zoe Cruz, private equity investor Ronald O. Perelman, John D. Rockefeller Jr., Vera Wang, and others. James Cash Penney lived at 888 and Leonard Bernstein at 898.

Park Avenue ends north of 132nd Street, with connections to the Harlem River Drive. The name is continued on the other side of the river in the Bronx by the street just east of the railroad.

Administration[edit]

The flowers and greenery in the median of Park Avenue are maintained by the "Fund for Park Avenue". The begonia was specifically chosen by the Fund's gardeners because there is no automatic watering system and the floral variety is resilient under hot sun rays.[11]

Businesses[edit]

Park Avenue Viaduct, 2008

The following institutions are either headquartered or have significant business presences on Park Avenue:

In popular culture[edit]

  • In the 2012 film The Avengers, the climax takes place on the Park Avenue Viaduct.
  • On the TV series The Odd Couple, Felix Unger and Oscar Madison live at 1049 Park Avenue.
  • The PBS documentary Park Avenue: Money, Power and the American Dream sheds light on gap between the impoverished people living on Park Avenue in the South Bronx and the extremely wealthy living at 740 Park Avenue in Manhattan.

Gallery[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

Notes

  1. ^ Christopher Gray: Streetscapes/903 Park Avenue, at 79th Street in The New York Times, May 12, 2002
  2. ^ New York City Geographic Information Systems map
  3. ^ New York City Geographic Information Systems map.
  4. ^ "Park Avenue Express Highway (NY 22, unbuilt)". Nycroads.com. February 14, 1935. Retrieved October 8, 2012. 
  5. ^ Kilgannon, Corey (December 3, 2010). "Park Ave. Christmas Lights Go Up, and Xiao Ye Closes". The New York Times. 
  6. ^ Charles G., Bennett (May 6, 1959). "Sign Ban Is Voted on Two Avenues". The New York Times. p. 41. Retrieved July 31, 2010. 
  7. ^ Santora, Marc and Rashbaum, William K. "Rescue Effort in East Harlem Yields Only More Victims". New York Times. Retrieved 13 March 2014. 
  8. ^ Neuman, William (September 22, 2007). "It’s a Deal: Help for Park Ave. Pedestrians". The New York Times. Retrieved February 24, 2012. 
  9. ^ Goodman, Jillian; Rovzar, Chris (July 7, 2010), "City Finally Installs Crossing Signals on Park Avenue Above Grand Central", New York, retrieved February 24, 2012 
  10. ^ Rogers, Teri Karush (October 9, 2005). "Peeking Behind the Gilded Walls of 740 Park Ave.". The New York Times. Retrieved August 15, 2007. 
  11. ^ Pollak, Michael (July 16, 2006). "Why Yellow Takes the Wheel". The New York Times. Retrieved July 31, 2010. 

External links[edit]