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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 Murray Hill (18)


Park Ave Between 37th St and 35th St

Park Avenue seems to have an uncanny ability to become a sweltering strip of molten asphalt in the middle of Summer. The double-wide street allows for more sunlight to peek through the buildings, and even though a great number of trees do their best to make up for it, you can still find yourself slowly melting into the relentless traffic.

The alternate side effect of this openness is the fleeting views you can get of many buildings and landmarks. Sure, some will enjoy the long stretch of (unworkable) parkland in the middle of the road, but I get more joy out of momentarily seeing the Chanin, or Empire State Buildings. It's a little bit of a surprise on a street where the expected view is generally just the MetLife building.


37th St Between 5th Ave and Madison Ave


A barren wasteland of construction and midtown offices, this block is only steps away from such tourist heavyweights as the Empire State Building and Lord & Taylor. Open up the radius a bit more and you're just a few more blocks from the Public Library and Grand Central. The result is a congested and generally unpleasant stretch of asphalt and concrete. There's a good representation of local shops on this block which could be considered a plus, but very few were welcoming or any more pleasant than a God-forsaken Chase Bank or Duane Reade would be.

This biggest benefit this block brings to the table is its architecture. The old buildings, some in better condition than others, each have their own charm, even if it is the charm of deterioration. Off in the distance you can see some more modern examples forcing their way into the skyline. I have no absolute problem with modern buildings – I'm probably more open-minded than most –  but the stark comparison between the craftsmanship of the old and the new is quite telling.


Lexington Ave Between 35th St and 37th St


Resting near what could be considered the southernmost boundary midtown, this part of Lexington Avenue seems lacking. Only a few storefronts brighten-up the otherwise dreary sidewalk. Some long-standing construction sheds, a few office buildings and schools make up the other features.

It would be hard to pinpoint a single defining characteristic that these blocks have. No architecture, no retail, no building-type nor any person seems to dominate any of the others here; leaving the street to wallow in mediocrity.


Lexington Ave Between 29th St and 32nd St


In the midst of a whirlwind of redevelopment, this stretch of midtown blocks is beginning to lose its unique character. Nestled just north of about 30 different curry restaurants, this lead-up to 34th street is a mixture of preserved buildings, decayed classics, and new apartments. While Lexington Avenue is a major avenue with around 40 south-bound lanes, the sidewalks have always seemed a bit anemic to me. It's simply not as convenient for pedestrians as it is for cars along here.

One of the quaintest things you may encounter is the storefront for The Old Print Shop, which has stood at this location for 85 years. Its small sign and humble presentation is in stark contrast to many other businesses in the area. About a block away from the print shop is  the First Moravian Church of New York which has been here since 1869 (though the building was around for about 20 years prior to that). The brick facade of this building is very handsome, though it's unfortunately beginning to feel a little out of place in this part of town. 


27th St Between Park Ave and Lexington Ave


This here is what I would call a Consumer Utility Street. "What the hell is that?" you ask? These are blocks that seem to offer a little bit of everything while not specializing in any one particular area. Sure, any block could have a Duane Reade, or a diner, but Consumer Utility Streets offer more. In 27th Street's case a short walk between Park and Lex will provide you with everything from a Jazz club and a tailor, to eyeglasses and sushi. Various restaurants line the block, sharing sidewalk space with a questionable psychic. 

While stores and services are plenty, the street is largely residential – a welcome change as you finally begin to exit midtown. The part of Lexington that flanks the block is crowded with different hole-in-the-wall curry joints. If you're looking for some Samosas, it's a safe bet that you'll find a few around here.



31st St Between 5th Ave and Park Ave

Hidden amongst other more notable blocks, this stretch of 31st is significant for being completely unimpressive. The street is lined with utilitarian storefronts and building entrances which appear to serve their purpose well-enough, but don't seem to offer anything in terms of memorability. There's a distinct industrial feeling, though it's never able to take hold as restaurants and a Baptist church do their best to ward it off.

5th Avenue certainly has some popular imagery associated with it–mainly high-end shopping, crowds, and St.Patrick's–which is why it's so startling and depressing when 5th Avenue turns into nothing more than Madison Avenue's twin down here. Filled with fast food, slow busses and tourists who are beginning to fear that they've wandered too far south, it's simply a sorry atmosphere to experience. Walking two blocks to Park Avenue, things begin to get more pleasant as neighborhood life seems to take hold once more.