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NYC Grid is a photo blog dedicated to exploring New York block-by-block and corner-by-corner. Each post covers a new street or feature with a focus on the mundane and ephemeral.



1st Ave Between 74th St and 72nd St

Like many of the other posts this week, I went down here early in the morning - before rush hour - and was intrigued by the people I encountered. Many, if not all those that I saw had an air of accomplishment and purpose as they walked- as if they all belonged to some special 'pre-dawn' club. The nature of commuting in Manhattan in the morning creates a flow, a stream of people into the centers of commerce - in midtown and downtown. When one reaches the outer edges of the island such as around here, every person is fighting to go the same way, to catch the same bus, to hail the same cab. The occasional individual going east, or north has to fight an endless barrage of bodies as they struggle past the iPodded masses. 

There are some really great street-level examples of architecture here, and despite the large glass towers taking over, it's still quite charming and filled with the feeling of 'neighborhood'. Up here I encountered a second 'Hands On' toddler music studio...something I had previously found on 50th Street. I can't say I know anything about this company first-hand, but I think it's a fantastic idea. My journey for today's post took from south from 74th to 72nd, which of course landed me smack dab at the corner where I first encountered the new Duane Reade logo which garnered so much blogosphere attention a few weeks back. 

Off-topic a bit, I've encountered an interesting side effect of the city's layout while creating content for this site. The dichotomy between the natural patterns in which people walk and the density in which commercial and residential real estate is distributed are completely at odds with each other. With some notable examples, streets are typically more residential, while avenues are more commercial. It seems quite obvious, I know. But, since the format of "NYC Grid" is one which individual streets, the longer blocks (segments of east/west roads in between two avenues) get the most coverage while shorter north/south avenue blocks (such as today's) get relegated to far more infrequent postings; both because there's fewer of them in Manhattan and because it has been harder to write extensively about such short stretches. Unfortunately avenues tend to be the most heavily traveled and contain some very interesting commercial spaces. Since my recent trek down to the Financial District, I've begun covering blocks which run longer than one street - a format that I believe will lend it self to creating more engaging avenue posts such as this one. So I suppose from now on, it'll be up to me to balance the longer, yet less dense street posts with shorter, more dense avenue posts.


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55th St Between 1st Ave and 2nd Ave

An unassuming block, this stretch of 55th Street has plenty of architectural goodies to keep one occupied. Maybe I was just in a good mood, but I really enjoyed the variety of classic and modern touches this street offered. Nothing is particularly noteworthy, at least not in the scope of THIS city. I was a bit perplexed by the need for a bike lane on what seemed like a very quiet and roomy one-way thoroughfare. I'm afraid I can't offer much more commentary than that today, but that's bound to happen now and then with some of these blocks.


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1st Ave Between 64th St and 62nd St

Lenox Hill is a quickly changing neighborhood. The once endless rows of low-rise apartments are now more frequently being interrupted by towering glass obelisks. Perhaps hurt most by the development are the small shops the line this stretch of 1st Avenue - while it could be argued that the new condos still provide a place to live for residents (not necessarily the SAME residents) - many of these buildings are not replacing the ground floor retail with anything substantive (save for a bank or two).

I shot the photos for this post very early in the morning as people made their way to work. It wasn't quite yet rush hour, so the streets were still fairly quiet. One of my favorite features of this part of town is the view one has of the 59th Street Bridge from many, many blocks away.  The same goes for the Roosevelt Island Tram. It's always amusing to watch people see it pass by for the first time as they exclaim "what the hell is that??"


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Whitehall St to Broadway Between Bridge St and Bowling Green

Normally, I would say this entire stretch of street is dominated by the overwhelming presence of the U.S. Custom House. Except in reality it's dominated by double-decker tour buses picking up and dropping off passengers. As a result of all the visitors the street is lined with vendors selling everything from hot dogs to your standard I Love NY shirts. Luckily, as you walk around to the front of the Custom House the vendors clear up and Bowling Green is allowed to spread out without any interruption. The square benefits from the lack of buildings near Battery Park, and thus the abundant sunshine. 

This was the first time I had encountered the new Bowling Green Subway entrance. I don't mind it so much, but it does make me wonder what it is about glass and steel that city planners find so interesting as building materials. I guess it's the same concept of 'contrast' that exists in all forms of art and design, but it's use in city architecture has gone way beyond the point of "cliché". New York City in particular has seemingly picked this 'style' as it's official one for all street furniture (see the new bus stops and bike parking stands for a good example). I guess it was only inevitable that the MTA join in. Though, I find this particular re-design to be a bit of a shame.  The old entrance at this station had a really charming element which made it appear to be "popping" out of the ground.

For me, glass has never been an interesting building material. I certainly don't think it's any more interesting to look at a glass structure than it is to look at a stone one. Everyone pretty much understands that glass can be and is incredibly strong...they need to stop using it as if they're proving something. The Lever House on Park Ave and the United Nations Headquarters on 1st Ave spearheaded that whole 'Glass Curtain' thing almost 60 years's almost a little depressing to see how much progress has slowed (at least visually) since then. Even the Freedom Tower, though unique in how it treats shape and form, uses the same glass curtain visual we've seen for decades.

However, I will admit there's something to be said about how the new Bowling Green entrance looks when bookended by a green park and a massive Beaux-Arts building. Now THAT'S contrast.


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Hanover Sq to Old Slip Between Stone St and South St

It was inevitable that while documenting lower Manhattan I was going to end up with a confusing post title like the one seen here. Allow me to explain: Starting at Hanover Square I walked south-east down the street and, after one block, found it transformed into Old Slip (arguably more a public court surrounded by two one-way roads) which terminates at South St (with the FDR hovering above). If that still makes no sense, you can refer to the map below.

Unlike the other obscure blocks in the Financial District which I covered earlier in the week (and will again in the future) this is much more of a destination for tourists (but not really, so calm the hell down). It's pretty close to the South Street Seaport promenade, so it's not unthinkable to imagine people stumbling into Hanover Square to catch a glimpse of India House or other buildings. Conversely, it's interesting to come into the clearing of the Square from the maze of streets to the north. There's a sense of open-ness and relief as you can once again see the sunlight and water.

Old Slip Park is home to a handsome building which houses the New York City Police Museum. I was interested in visiting the place, but alas, it ain't free.

I don't know what it is about Hanover Square, but it seems to be THE place for insurance companies as both HIP and Guardian had major headquarters sitting down there.

I'm a big fan of the waterfront down here. Sure, it's littered with people and the endless whirr of helicopter tours. But the view can't be beat as you circle around the tip to the Staten Island Ferry terminal.


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86th St Between 1st Ave and 2nd Ave

This stretch of 86th Street could probably best be classified as 'transitional'. Walking further east towards Carl Schurz Park is more a residential vibe while going the other way, towards Lex, drops a whole bunch of commercial entities in your lap. Arguably, it's a nice median. It's easy here to avoid the crowds that gather a few blocks to the west (where Best Buy, Victoria's Secret and a plethora of other chains live) while still feeling like you're not stuck in the sticks.

None of the buildings here seem particularly recent- at least nothing that looked newer than 30 years old. I wonder how long that will last considering how quickly the blocks around it are being revamped.

The Gristedes here had a giant pear covered in graffiti and bird shit. That ranks up there on my "favorite things" list.


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