Bearing practically no resemblance to Broadway proper (and featuring 100% fewer pedestrian plazas), West Broadway is like many other SoHo streets. Where it differs is in the table after table featuring different works of art, often being sold by the artists themselves. These tables sit right outside several high-end stores, boutiques and studios, and while some buildings specifically prohibit setting up in front, many others don't seem to mind. I specifically didn't take many photos with the artwork since they don't seem to take too kindly to people reproducing their work without buying it.
Unique for the Upper East Side, this block is populated by mostly older apartment buildings. The dark street has narrow sidewalks that are made even narrower by all the trash bins and trees. The eastern end of the block is capped off by a large condo building and a church.
Across 1st Avenue, there are two handsome buildings. The southernmost is home to a liquor store called Baccus which has wrought iron detailing and stain glass windows. Across the street a building which appears to be a restored bank or post office or restaurant and now houses some medical offices. Their twin detailing play off each other nicely, though few other buildings in the area are as nice.
As with many east side dead-end streets this one is reserved for expensive apartments, private schools and some unique park space. I'm always fascinated by these end-of-the-line roundabouts. We're so used to the standard midtown intersections that it's easy to forget that they all terminate abruptly on either side of the island.
The Glenwood Luxury Apartments take up most of the space on the north side of the street while the south side is a mixture of schools and housing. 2/3rds down the street John Jay Park can be found, though it's not directly accessible from 76th Street itself, you can wander north towards Cherokee Place to get in. As the park rises higher and the elevation of the street dips lower to meet the FDR, the street switches to a pattern of paving stones. At the end of the block a large planter surrounds a typical double red light "dead end" marker. I was surprised that you could walk along a narrow sidewalk on the FDR, separated from the quick-moving traffic by only a small metal barrier. Not exactly the most comfortable stretch of sidewalk in the world, but I guess if just have to get to 78th street and you're terribly opposed to the west side of John Jay Park, then this is the place for you.
Having written about 499 other blocks, it's often surprising what streets I've neglected to photograph thus far. Astor Place was certainly high on that list. It's possible that I'm in the neighborhood so often for other reasons that I'll often forget that it's not on the site. Now, to be fair this post is mostly covering the public square that is bound by 9th street, Broadway, Cooper Square and not Astor Place the street (which begins at Broadway and ends at Cooper Square). So, to those puritanical cartographers out there, I apologize.
Named, of course, after John Jacob Astor, once the wealthiest man in the United States, the square has been home to many different institutions over the years. The Subway station below the intersection features tera cotta plaques of beavers to commemorate the fur trade from which Astor got his riches. While the neighborhood isn't immune to redevelopment, historic buildings like the Cooper Union Hall have been able to stand the test of time. At one point the Square was home to two Starbucks locations, though that's since been paired down to a more reasonable one.
Two notable items in the center of the traffic islands include Tony Rosenthal's sculpture named "The Alamo" and a recreation of an original 1904 NYC Subway entrance directly to the north. Both are popular landmarks for meeting up.
K-Mart has its only Manhattan outpost in Astor Place, and even has a gaudy Subway-accessible entrance in its basement. There aren't too many other chain stores in the area, partially because there isn't enough space. A few bodegas and local shops line the northern end, and The Public Theater and The Astor Place Theater take up much of Lafayette Street south of the square, leaving only a small spot for Walgreens (previously Barnes and Nobel and Astor Wine & Liquor). Besides, the wide open streets allow for some rather stunning views up and down the avenues. The size of the intersection is almost perfect. It's not so big that it turns into Times or Union Square, but not so small that it's forgotten about (well, except by me, it seems).
It's unfortunate that, for many, this is their first or only experience of SoHo. Crowded, noisy, filled with mediocre brands, in many ways it's not all that different from Times Square – well, minus the pedestrian plazas. I can only hope that tourists who start here find their way down the side streets so they can experience a different side of what can be a very quiet neighborhood.
A classic (but endangered) mural on the corner of Prince and Greene starts off this block. Depicting cast-iron architecture in a 2-D painting, the mural could be covered up if the owner of the adjacent lot decides to pullet up the single level building on the corner. The surrounding buildings mostly echo the vintage architecture.
A common thread in SoHo are the hanging signs. Practically every store front features a perpendicular hanging sign with some high-end brand emblazoned across it. Fittingly enough The SoHo Building, which sits comfortably between these storefronts, has unique signage which has each letter of its name jutting out from the building, causing the sign to change as you walk by. Also unique is the metallic subway map embedded in the sidewalk in front of the building. First installed in the mid-1980's, the map isn't exactly accurate, but it's a fitting homage to the steel tracks which run below much of the town.