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Street sign at corner of Fifth Avenue and East 57th Street
Fifth Avenue, early morning photograph, looking south from Thirty-eighth Street

Fifth Avenue is a major thoroughfare in the center of the borough of Manhattan in New York City, USA. The section of Fifth Avenue between 34th Street and 59th Street is one of the premier shopping streets in the world. Fifth Avenue serves as a symbol of wealthy New York and is consistently ranked as one of the most expensive streets in the world. The "most expensive street in the world" moniker changes depending on currency fluctuations and local economic conditions from year to year. For several years starting in the mid-1990s, the shopping district between 49th and 57th Streets was ranked as having the world's most expensive retail spaces on a cost per square foot basis.[1] In 2008, Forbes magazine ranked Fifth Avenue as being the most expensive street in the world.

Fifth Avenue originates at Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village and runs northwards through the heart of Midtown, along the eastern side of Central Park, where it forms the boundary of the Upper East Side and through Harlem, where it terminates at the Harlem River at 142nd Street. Traffic crosses the river on the Madison Avenue Bridge. Fifth Avenue serves as the dividing line for house numbering in Manhattan. It separates, for example, East Fifty-ninth Street from West Fifty-ninth Street. From this zero point for street addresses, numbers increase in both directions as one moves away from Fifth Avenue, with 1 West Fifty-ninth Street on the corner at Fifth Avenue, and 300 West Fifty-ninth Street located three blocks to the west of it.



Fifth Avenue, 1878: illustration from The Wickedest Woman in New York: Madame Restell, the Abortionist by Clifford Browder
Fifth Avenue, 1918, photograph from the Library of Congress Collection

The lower stretch of Fifth Avenue extended the stylish neighborhood of Washington Square northwards. The high status of Fifth Avenue was confirmed in 1862, when Caroline Schermerhorn Astor settled on the southwest corner of Thirty-fourth Street, and the beginning of the end of its reign as a residential street was symbolized by the erection, in 1893, of the Astoria Hotel on the site of her house, later linked to its neighbor as the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel (now the site of the Empire State Building). Fifth Avenue is the central scene in Edith Wharton's 1920 Pulitzer Prize winning novel The Age of Innocence. The novel describes New York's social elite in the 1870s and provides historical context to Fifth Avenue and New York's aristocratic families.

Originally a narrower thoroughfare, much of Fifth Avenue south of Central Park was widened in 1908, sacrificing its wide sidewalks to accommodate the increasing traffic. The midtown blocks, now famously commercial, were largely a residential district until the turn of the twentieth century. The first commercial building on Fifth Avenue was erected by Benjamin Altman who bought the corner lot on the northeast corner of Thirty-fourth Street in 1896, and demolished the "Marble Palace" of his arch-rival, A. T. Stewart. In 1906 his department store, B. Altman and Company, occupied the whole of its block front. The result was the creation of a high-end shopping district that attracted fashionable women and the upscale stores that wished to serve them. Lord & Taylor's flagship store is still located on Fifth Avenue near the Empire State Building and the New York Public Library.

By the turn of the twentieth century, the very rich of New York had migrated to the stretch of Fifth Avenue between Fifty-ninth Street and Ninety-sixth Street, the stretch where Fifth Avenue faces Central Park. Entries to the park include Inventor's Gate at Seventy-second Street, which gave access to the park's carriage drives, and Engineer's Gate at Ninetieth Street, used by equestrians.

A milestone for Fifth Avenue came in 1916, when the grand corner mansion at Seventy-second Street and Fifth Avenue that James A. Burden had erected as recently as 1893 was demolished to make way for a grand apartment house, of twelve stories around a central court, with two apartments to a floor;[2] its strong cornice above the fourth floor, just at the eaves height of its neighbors, was intended to soften its presence. This was the first such replacement. This area contains many highly notable apartment buildings, many of them built in the 1920s by architects such as Rosario Candela and J. E. R. Carpenter. A very few post-World War II structures break the unified limestone frontage, notably the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum between Eighty-eighth and Eighty-ninth Streets.

Notable sites

The Guggenheim Museum at Eighty-ninth Street
Fifth Avenue ends at Washington Square Park where it intersects with Waverly Place
The Apple Store on Fifth Avenue

Many landmarks and famous buildings are situated along Fifth Avenue in Midtown and the Upper East Side. In Midtown are the Empire State Building,[3] the New York Public Library, Rockefeller Center, Saint Thomas Church, and Saint Patrick's Cathedral. The stretch of Fifth Avenue from the 80s through the 90s (i.e., from 82nd Street to 105th Street) has so many museums that it has acquired the nickname Museum Mile and includes such institutions as the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. That area was known in the early twentieth century as Millionaire's Row after the many mansions built there, as the richest New Yorkers moved their residences north to face Central Park. Earlier, several opulent Vanderbilt houses and other mansions were built in the 50s and in even earlier times farther south. The New York Academy of Medicine is located at 103rd Street, and Mount Sinai Hospital is located at 98th Street.

Between 34th Street and 60th Street, Fifth Avenue is lined with luxury retail stores (especially flagship stores), which include Bergdorf Goodman, Saks Fifth Avenue, Lord & Taylor, Tiffany & Co., Cartier SA, Ermenegildo Zegna, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Prada, Salvatore Ferragamo, Armani, BVLGARI, Bottega Veneta, Emilio Pucci, Sergio Rossi, Escada, Fendi, Versace, H. Stern, Takashimaya, Harry Winston, Henri Bendel, Van Cleef & Arpels, De Beers, Peter Fox, Piaget, Hickey Freeman, St. John, Just Cavali, Cole Haan, Coach Inc., Juicy Couture, Lacoste, Armani Exchange, Sephora, Orvis, and Kenneth Cole.

Famous former Fifth Avenue retailers were B. Altman and Company, Mexx, Best & Co., Bond Clothing Stores, Bonwit Teller, De Pinna, Peck & Peck, and Brooks Brothers (moved out January 31, 2009).[4] Among the future locations will be the Abercrombie Kids flagship store that will open in 2010 at 666 (where Brooks Brothers vacated).[4][5]

In the 1940s Brentano's was located at 586 Fifth Avenue.

Located in 720 Fifth Avenue is the four-floor Abercrombie & Fitch flagship store. Out of all the retail locations on Fifth Avenue, Abercrombie & Fitch and the Apple Store are estimated to be the most successful with sales between $6,000 and $10,000 a square foot ($800 is considered successful at the most).[4] At 424-434 Fifth Avenue is the ten-floor Lord & Taylor flagship store. The same building houses non-revenue offices for the multinational retail brand. Between East 58th and East 59th Street are FAO Schwarz and Apple's 32-foot (9.8 m) glass cube, which serves as an entrance for its completely-underground flagship retail store. This is the other of the two most successful stores on Fifth Avenue.[4]

Traffic flow

Fifth Avenue carries one-way traffic downtown (southbound) from 135th Street to Washington Square Park, with the changeover from two-way traffic taking place on January 14, 1966, at which time Madison Avenue was changed to one way uptown (northbound).[6] Two-way traffic on Fifth Avenue is allowed north of 135th Street only. From 124th Street to 120th Street, Fifth Avenue is cut off by Marcus Garvey Park, with southbound traffic diverted around the park via Mount Morris Park West.

Fifth Avenue is one of the few major streets in Manhattan along which streetcars did not run. Instead, Fifth Avenue Coach offered a service more to the taste of fashionable gentlefolk, at twice the fare. On May 23, 2008, The New York Times reported that the New York City area Metropolitan Transportation Authority's bus division is considering the use of double-decker buses on Fifth Avenue once again, where they were operated by the Fifth Avenue Coach Company until 1953.[7]

Museum Mile: downtown traffic passing the Metropolitan Museum of Art at 81st Street is largely buses and taxis

Parade route

Fifth Avenue is the traditional route for many celebratory parades in New York City; thus, it is closed to traffic on numerous Sundays in warm weather. The longest running parade is the annual St. Patrick's Day Parade. Parades held are distinct from the ticker-tape parades held on the "Canyon of Heroes" on lower Broadway, and the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade held on Broadway from the Upper West Side downtown to Herald Square.

The Latino literary classic by New Yorker Giannina Braschi, entitled "Empire of Dreams," takes place on the Puerto Rican Day Parade on Fifth Avenue.

Bicycling route

Bicycling on Fifth Avenue ranges from safe with a bike lane south of 23rd Street, to scenic along Central Park, to dangerous through Midtown with very heavy traffic during rush hours.[8]

Overturned Midtown Bike Ban

In July 1987, then New York City Mayor Edward Koch proposed banning bicycling on Fifth, Park, and Madison Avenues during weekdays, but many bicyclists protested and had the ban overturned.[9] When the trial was started on Monday, August 24, 1987 for 90 days to ban bicyclists from these three avenues from 31st Street to 59th Street between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. on weekdays, mopeds would not be banned.[10] On Monday, August 31, 1987, a state appeals court judge halted the ban for at least a week pending a ruling after opponents against the ban brought a lawsuit.[11]

See also


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  1. ^ Foderaro, Lisa W. "Survey Reaffirms 5th Ave. at Top of the Retail Rent Heap", The New York Times, April 29, 1997. Accessed February 5, 2008.
  2. ^ The smallest apartment was a half-floor, of twelve rooms; 907 Fifth Avenue.
  3. ^ which supplanted the original Waldorf-Astoria Hotel.
  4. ^ a b c d "Carlyle Group Buys Stake in 666 Fifth Retail for $525 M.". Retrieved February 17, 2009.  
  5. ^ "Abercrombie Kids' Heads to 5th Ave.". Retrieved February 17, 2009.  
  6. ^ Kihss, Peter. "5th and Madison Avenues Become One-Way Friday; Change to Come 7 Weeks Ahead of Schedule to Ease Strike Traffic 5th and Madison to Be Made One-Way Friday", The New York Times, January 12, 1966. Accessed December 6, 2007. "The long-argued conversion of Fifth and Madison Avenues to one-way streets will start at 6 A.M. Friday seven weeks ahead of schedule to ease congestion caused by the transit strike."
  7. ^ Neuman, William "Step to the Rear of the Bus, Please, or Take a Seat Upstairs", The New York Times, Tuesday, May 23, 2008.
  8. ^ New York City Cycling Map, New York City Department of City Planning. Accessed April 27, 2009.
  9. ^ Dunham, Mary Frances. "Bicycle Blueprint - Fifth, Park and Madison", Transportation Alternatives. Accessed April 27, 2009.
  10. ^ Yee, Marilynn K. "Ban on Bikes Could Bring More Mopeds", The New York Times, Tuesday, August 25, 1987. Accessed April 27, 2009.
  11. ^ Higgins Jr., Chester. "Bike Messengers: Life in Tight Lane", The New York Times, Friday, September 4, 1987. Accessed April 27, 2009.

External links

Further reading

  • Gaines, Steven (2005). The Sky's the Limit: Passion and Property in Manhattan. New York: Little, Brown. ISBN 0-316-60851-3.  

Coordinates: 40°46′26″N 73°57′58″W / 40.774°N 73.966°W / 40.774; -73.966


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