Browse by...

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 Turtle Bay (7)


Before & After - The Turtle Bay Gardens


The above photo is interactive. Drag the yellow handle in the middle to reveal more or less of the before or after image. Alternatively, you can simply click anywhere on the image to move the slider automatically.

Formerly a decrepit neighborhood covered in soot from nearby factories, and caged in by elevated trains on 2nd and 3rd Avenues, Turtle Bay exited the 20th century as one of the nicer neighborhoods in Midtown Manhattan. In 1918 Charlotte Hunnewell Sorchan purchased nearly the entire block of rowhouses between 48th & 49th Streets and 2nd & 3rd Avenues. She had them extensively renovated, faced with stucco and built quiet, secluded gardens in the middle. Having since been landmarked, the Turtle Bay Gardens have been home to many celebrity residents over the years. By the mid 20th Century the rise of the United Nation Headquarters and the fall of the elevated lines helped remove many of the unsavory elements nearby.

Photo source:  Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division.


48th St Between 1st Ave and 2nd Ave

You'd never think that just steps away from the United Nations that you'd have such a hum-drum street, but sure enough, here it is. Though I admittedly didn't look very hard, there didn't appear to be any consulates – a typically common sight for east side blocks.

The open-air atmosphere that surrounds first avenue is quickly engulfed by a series of massive buildings, including the Trump World Tower. The remainder of the block is completely consumed by the midtown offices which dominate the neighborhood.


2nd Ave Between 45th St and 43rd St


Midtown avenues are an interesting breed. While they're famous for their palatial high-rise office buildings, the street life can be somewhat of a mixed bag. Many people will probably imagine doorway after doorway leading to grand lobbies, but the reality is that for every marble-encrusted entrance you'll encounter, you'll be faced with twice as many $.99 pizza places and smoothie joints. The struggle that exists here is that all of these buildings are filled with hundreds of thousands of mid-level workers – all of which need to be fed. As a result you have a higher-than-average density of lunch places offering everything from fancy falafels to cut-rate sushi.

I'd argue this dynamic is the saving grace of some midtown blocks which would otherwise be devoid of any local businesses or shops. Save for a few Starbucks and McDonald's locations, the vast majority of lunch spots are locally-owned. This variety has spawned blogs such as the tremendous Midtown Lunch. Though, despite all of this, sometimes all you need is a tray of "lamb over rice" from the corner street guy…for $5, it's worth the risk of disease.


Tudor City Pl

This is one of the very rare occasions where I get to cover a street in it's entirety. A very short, and unique street, Tudor City Pl mirrors Park Ave to the west as it leaps over 42nd Street, right next to 1st Avenue. The apartment buildings and parks that make up the neighborhood, all huddle together on their perch, overlooking the river and United Nations.

Built in the early 20th century where slums and tenements used to be, developer Fred F. French envisioned this as an "urban utopia" for the middle-class. Wikipedia has a pretty good overview, so I wont repeat too much here.

The neo-Gothic architecture is really great and dominates the entire neighborhood. Of course the great views of 42nd Street, Queens, the Chrysler Building and the United Nations make for a popular tourist destination, if only to snap a few photos. Interestingly enough, only a few apartments feature views facing east – while one could speculate that it's a security measure for the U.N., the truth is, Tudor City was here long before the U.N. even broke ground. Apparently this was because around the time it was built, the waterfront was nothing but slaughterhouses which had a terrible stench. Who knew.

Being elevated, as it is, makes the entire street feel like a penthouse to the rest of the city. You can get beautiful, long views down the side streets that intersect with it. It's also interesting to look down below and see some interesting sites (such as this intersection with too many potential names) It's hard to imagine this area was once shady. The charm is only augmented by the local shops that sit on the corners.

I didn't realize that the day I visited was also the same day as Manhattanhenge. It was far too early in the day to see any effect...but as it has a perfect, elevated view of 42nd St, there were already several people setting up cameras getting ready for the shot.


46th St Between 2nd Ave and 3rd Ave

The corner of 46th and 2nd Avenue greets visitors with one of my favorite things - a little tree trapped in a grid signifying 'Public Space'. I think the logo is an unfortunate one, but what it signifies is something that not nearly enough people take advantage of. Not quite a park, not quite a square the small public space here has plentiful seating around a fountain invite visitors to...well, sit and stare at water.  But I enjoy it none-the-less! I highly encourage people to keep an eye out for that imprisoned tree shows up more places than you think (especially in high-rise buildings in midtown and downtown).

This block had one of the worst new buildings I had seen in a while. Next to the beautiful Blue Building(s?) some new monstrosity of vinyl siding is climbing higher. Starting green towards the bottom, the top inexplicably changes to an earth-shattering beige. I can't imagine who thought this was appropriate for midtown Manhattan.

Otherwise, the rest of the block is completely charming. From the aforementioned Blue Building to the horse and carriage mosaic on the side of one building, little treasures greet you at every step. Not bad for a block which lives so close to the heart of bustling business- in fact you can get a pretty good view of the top of the Helmsley Building.


View Larger Map




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.


View Larger Map