New York Daily Photo Analytics

Thursday, March 25, 2010

A Place Called Home

When I drove a New York City taxicab in my college years, West End Avenue was just WEA on my trip log. A quiet, safe destination, with easy, traffic free driving along the wide, 4-lane, two way boulevard, and lots of big buildings.

If you read about West End Avenue, you will encounter words and phrases like "quiet", "convenient"," stable", "safe", "community," or "Park Avenue of the West Side." This grand boulevard is an extension of 11th Avenue and runs north-south from 59th to 107th Street on the Upper West Side, parallel to Riverside Drive (and Riverside Park), which lies one block West. Upper Broadway, with its plethora of shops and transportation, lies one block east - hence the "convenient" part of the equation. The tenancy is very stable, with many families living here from generation to generation.

Like its East Side analog, Park Avenue, West End Avenue is strictly residential, with virtually no businesses or commercial traffic except for trucks making local deliveries. There are no attractions here, and located so far west that very few, other than residents, ever find themselves here.
The neighborhood, however, was not always the genteel place it is today. From the New York Times:

For nearly 60 years in the middle of the 20th century, parts of West End Avenue were ''déclassé,'' Mr. Salwen said. S.R.O. hotels, prostitutes and drug addicts became common on some cross streets. But by the 1980's, the street had begun to recover its grandeur.

Like Park Avenue, the street is dominated by large apartment buildings. Most buildings here are prewar and over ten stories tall, dating back to the early 20th century.

From the Wikipedia entry for WEA: "The street is noteworthy for its almost unbroken street wall of handsome apartment buildings punctuated by brief stretches of nineteenth-century townhouses and several handsome churches and synagogues."
I agree, but do find the "almost unbroken street wall" of these large apartment buildings rather imposing. Having spent all of my adult life downtown in Greenwich Village, I find these hulking structures to be somewhat intimidating.

However, prewar apartments are typically larger than average - once inside these solid buildings, the spaces are quite comfortable and make very pleasant, quiet residences. And although the buildings feel so out of scale with humans, a home is more than just a space in a building - it's a personal place created by people. New York City has tremendous variety of residential structures, and whether small or large, short or tall, bright or dark, lavish or lean, in the Village or on WEA, inside every building in every apartment, for someone, there's a place called home :)

5 comments:

Lisa said...

Thank you! Your photos are brilliant and awaken a longing..you are so amazing and I thank you!

kawa said...

Hello Brian, haven't you ever thought of attaching to posts some links to a map where you could mark places you're talking about. That would be very useful especially for me as a geographer;-)Regards!

Chloe said...

such a nice avenue, i love the fact there's not much traffic :)
i don't live in Manhattan but i love going there, or going "to the city" as we, the ones who like in Brooklyn, call Manhanttan ♥
I like your blog! i'll add it to my blog list (;

Chloe said...

*the ones who LIVE in Brooklyn, not "like" xD

Leslie said...

Ok, isn't that the block where we looked at that beautiful apt we college roomies couldn't afford back in 197??? I drool with envy every time I walk past these houses. What a special avenue that I would still love to live on.