Bond Street & 64th Street, Southwest Corner

Thursday, June 3, 2010

"72nd Street Divide"

A personal observation, though not one about me:

Anyone who walks with any frequency on any of the longer avenues in Manhattan for any great distance notices — how could one not? — that the character, the visual character, of the passing streetscape is relatively consistent for a while, then gradually, or sometimes rather abruptly, changes character, only to change again a half a mile later, or a mile, or sometimes two miles.

Tenth (Amsterdam) Avenue & 57th Street, Southeast Corner
(2006 above, 2010 below)

This segmentation into stretches of different character is surely associated with the sequence of neighborhoods that the avenue passes through, but I suspect that this is not always a very close association, especially when the avenue, or a particular stretch of it, marks a boundary between neighborhoods rather than their spine.

And sometimes the sense of continuity extends through more than one, indeed through several neighborhoods, though someone paying close attention would be able to discern neighborhood specificities within the more largely sensed continuity.

So, for me anyway, Broadway seems of a piece from its foot at Bowling Green up to Vesey Street (no surprise that), but then the next segment, to my eye, runs from Vesey all the way up to Union Square (though of course there are differences along the way, for instance, passing through the "cast iron" district between Canal and Houston).

I don't want to make to much of this, and there's probably not much danger of that, since I don't know what to make of it, but I don't want to let these more peripheral, vaguer perceptions pass unremarked either — there might be something there.

As there seems to be on Tenth Avenue, which has always — well, for 20 years — seemed to be all of a piece from around 14th Street on up to 72nd Street, despite the sequence of neighborhoods along the way.

And then at 72nd Street, with very little preluding, the character of the avenue changes rather dramatically, and stays rather intensely itself up to, say, 86th Street, after which it begins to dissipate, enough so that the transition, if that's what it is, at 96th Street isn't nearly as abrupt.

This may be just because, so far, Tenth Avenue is just far enough west to not partake so strongly of the sequence of neighborhoods that runs up of the center of the island, but not so far west as to have the flavor of Eleventh Avenue or West Street.

So that the segmentation of character is less marked than on, say, Eighth Avenue.

And it may be that Tenth Avenue is a weak boundary between the neighborhoods to either side of it below 72nd Street, but shifts gears at that point and becomes a spine, a main artery, above 72nd (along with Columbus — which reminds me that, due to the one-way plan, Tenth is the spine for uptown traffic, Columbus the spine for downtown traffic).

And that above 86th Street, or more certainly 96th Street, it's losing its central character again.

As I said, this is just how it seems to me, and it seems pretty vague too, but let's keep it in mind, if only towards the back of our minds, huh?

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