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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.


Entries in Hell's Kitchen (16)


47th St Between 8th Ave and 7th Ave


After much hemming and hawing on the corner of 47th and 8th, I finally made the bold decision to walk towards Times Square. Anyone who lives in the city knows that making such a choice usually involves either a chore of necessity or some sort of masochistic death wish. Either way, before long I found myself willfully walking towards the most aggravating place in all of New York.

With a handful of Broadway theaters lining the block, this part of the street is mostly dead in the morning (when I visited), but it's safe to assume it's nothing but madness come showtime. The W Hotel near Broadway has an interesting facade, but it stands in stark contrast to some of the more classic buildings in the area. I guess that's the nature of this always-evolving neighborhood, though. The saving grace of taking 47th Street across to 7th Ave is that you're near the northern end of Times Square which isn't nearly as crowded as the middle of southern parts can be. 

Having lived here for several years and walked through this part of town more times than I wish to remember, the spectacle of the billboards and lights numbed me long ago. However, if I step back I can sometimes, for a brief moment, remember the sheer joy the first time I noticed that Hershey's had a gigantic store just for candy.


8th Ave Between 43rd St and 45th St


I love this stretch of 8th Avenue. Not because it's pretty…it isn't. Not because it's full of great examples of architecture…it's not. Not because there's a wide variety of great attractions…there isn't. But because it's a step in the right direction to get away from the Port Authority Bus Terminal and Times Square. The further away I can get from these two things, the happier I am. While engaging in this escapism, you're surrounded by a myriad of buildings ranging from brand-new eyesores to dilapidated classics which barely warrant renovation. Sure, you could argue that the Milford Plaza Hotel is a nice example of design, but you're better off looking over at skyline and at some of the buildings on nearby side streets.

This is one of the few areas where some of the classic "dirty" Times Square culture remains. Though there's a ton of commercialization and touristification to be had, you'll still have no trouble finding a porn shop, a dive bar, or some questionable electronic retailer. And really, what more does a man need than booze, naked ladies and rip-off iPods?


7th Ave Between 50th St and 52nd St

Venturing dangerously close to Times Square, these few blocks still retain some of the nauseating sparkle from The Crossroads of the World. Featuring "America's Largest T.G.I Friday's" (which seems to imply that there are larger "Friday's" out there, just not in the United States), you shouldn't expect much to enjoy from this neck of the woods. Some older buildings remain, but their unique features are either neglected, hidden, or so high up as to not warrant noticing.

When I can, I avoid this part of town entirely – not due to any new-found fear of SUV terrorism (though, it's a nice excuse), but like any level-headed New Yorker avoiding tourists is like a game; a game you automatically lose if you set foot in Times Square. 


31st St Between 9th Ave and 8th Ave

This is a street of extremes. On one side you have a handful of utterly unremarkable structures, while on the other you have the imposing, history, and record-breaking James Farley Post Office building. Taking up two entire blocks, the city's largest post office claims to have one of the longest rows of Corinthian colonnade in the world – though I've found some sources that claim otherwise. Either way, it's an impressive building. Built by the same architects who designed the original Penn Station, which sat across 8th Avenue, it was intended to be as imposing and beautiful as the original train station. Now days, it isn't even a contest as it faces the utterly pathetic Madison Square Garden. 

While the 8th Avenue facade is the most visible and impressive front of the landmark, the longer sides which sit between this street and 33rd are something to behold. While the western side of the building is lined with loading docks, as you move eastward, it's taken over by an impressively strange dry moat, which acts as a barrier between the sidewalk and the building. I wasn't able to get a good shot of it, but Wikipedia has a nice view from 33rd St. 

The southern half of the block wouldn't even pass as impressive on a block without an 8-acre masterpiece facing it. So you'll pardon me if I didn't pay it much bother as I walked around here.


11th Ave Between 46th St and 48th St 

This is a dangerous and lawless part of town. A neighborhood where time stops for no one, tumbleweeds cross your path at every opportunity, and photographers roam free – shooting pictures of seemingly everything. As you can imagine the stakes are high, and nothing less than your presumed privacy is at risk. At least, this is the story I've invented in my head for some of the security guards here on 11th Avenue.

Yes, once again I was approached by overly-ambitious private security personnel and told I wasn't allowed to shoot photos of the outside of their building. I really didn't feel like getting into a whole thing with him, especially since I had many more photos to shoot around here, but I did try my best to explain why he was wrong in his assumption (without coming off as being too much of a pain in the ass) and he seemed to give up – which is the best I could hope for I guess.

I'm not trying to come off as a jerk when complaining about these instances, honest...but there really is something incredibly frustrating about being fed misinformation about my own rights in public, especially from someone who assumes they have jurisdiction over a public space. Plus, this isn't even about individual privacy...most of what I capture are buildings, streets and sidewalks! I rarely take photos which include people and when I do, even though there's no reasonable expectation of privacy when you're out in public, I try to be sensitive to the issue. But I digress...

These blocks really are rather barren. You know you're getting to the edge of the city when you start to see so many car washes and dealerships. The tall and lumbering buildings that dot the landscape here are rather nice with ornate detailing (even if it is several stories up), and grand entrances. The remaining buildings all stay pretty close to the ground - serving either as warehouses or storefronts. 

So come on down to 11th Avenue, where there's not much to see and you too can be hassled for attempting a completely benign activity.


10th Ave Between 43rd St and 45th St 

Once again my schedule for shooting photos for this project has given me a completely skewed perspective on a block. What would normally be a busy stretch of 10th Avenue, filled with bars and restaurants, was utterly dead at 9am on a Sunday when I visited. Does this goes against my stated goal of accurate documentation for the site? Perhaps. But there's no way I'd be able to schedule my photo shooting to coincide with the various busy periods of each neighborhood. So that's just too bad.

There's an extreme contrast between the new and old apartments here. They share the same walls yet feature polarized visions of architecture. It's all a bit jarring. The overflow of bars, restaurants and food stores here made it feel like a place I ought to re-visit when the weather is nicer.