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The skyscraper alley along Sixth Avenue looking north from 40th Street to the trees of Central Park

Sixth Avenue is a major avenue in New York City's borough of Manhattan. Although the Avenue's official name was changed to Avenue of the Americas in 1945 by Mayor Fiorello La Guardia[1] New Yorkers remained faithful to the old name. After the name change, the street signs carried a unique design and the streetlights were adorned with "Avenue of the Americas" medallions (many of these were removed in 1992 when the majority of the streetlights were replaced). Since New Yorkers seldom use this term, calling the avenue by that name has even become a shibboleth of sorts for something a tourist in the city might say (such as mispronouncing "Houston Street"). To avoid confusion among visitors, the street was signed as both Avenue of the Americas and Sixth Avenue in the 1980s.

Traffic on Sixth Avenue moves uptown (northbound). At its southern end, Sixth Avenue was extended in 1926 from Bleecker Street south through a residential area of Greenwich Village and beyond Houston Street as far as Canal Street. "Ten thousand people were displaced, most of them Italian immigrants who knew no other home in America"[2] as was the Church of Our Lady of Pompeii whose site is now Father Demo Square. This was done to ease traffic in the Holland Tunnel, to facilitate construction of the IND Eighth Avenue Line and to connect with Church Street near its northern end, forming a continuous four-lane through route for traffic from Lower Manhattan.

Sixth Avenue's northern end is at 59th Street (here called Central Park South) where equestrian bronzes of José de San Martín, Simón Bolívar and José Martí in the small Bolívar Plaza flank the Artists Gate traffic entrance to Central Park at Center Drive (closed to motor traffic during restricted times, such as weekends). What would be Sixth Avenue north of Central Park, above Central Park North (110th Street), is called Lenox Avenue or Malcolm X Boulevard, itself a dual-named source of confusion like its southern counterpart.[3]

Sixth Avenue is served by the IND Sixth Avenue subway line. The PATH train to New Jersey also runs under Sixth Avenue as far as 34th Street. Formerly the elevated IRT Sixth Avenue Line ran up Sixth Avenue, darkening the street and reducing its real-estate value. After the "el" came down in stages, beginning in Greenwich Village in 1938-39,[4], Sixth Avenue, in Midtown, began being rebuilt in the 1960s as an all-but-uninterrupted avenue of corporate headquarters housed in glass slab towers of International Modernist style,[5], of which the outstanding example is the CBS Building at 52nd Street, by Eero Saarinen (1965), dubbed "Black Rock" from its dark granite piers that run from base to crown with a break; this designated New York City landmark is Saarinen's only skyscraper.

In the mid-1970s, the city "spruced up" the street, including the addition of patterned brick crosswalks, repainting of streetlamps, and new pedestrian plazas. Special lighting, which is rare through most of the city, was also installed.[6]

Sights along Sixth Avenue include Juan Pablo Duarte Square, Greenwich Village with the polychrome High Victorian Gothic Jefferson Market Courthouse (illustration, currently occupied by the Jefferson Market Library); the surviving stretch of grand department stores of 1880 to 1900 that runs from 14th Street to Herald Square, passing through the wholesale flower district and ending with Macy's department store; Bryant Park (40th to 42nd Streets) followed by the corporate stretch, Bank of America Tower (New York), W. R. Grace Building, International Center of Photography, Rockefeller Center — including the Time-Life Building, News Corp. Building Exxon Building and McGraw-Hill Building — and Radio City Music Hall.

Under LaGuardia's original urbanistic proposal, Avenue of the Americas would have started at Battery Park, continuing up Greenwich Street, Trinity Place, Church Street, and then continuing up Sixth Avenue.[1]

References

  1. ^ a b "Name of 6th Ave. to Be Changed To the Avenue of the Americas; Council Votes Proposal at Mayor's Request, 12 to 1, After a Debate Rages for 2 Hours --Isaacs Fears Oblivion for Historic Sites", The New York Times, September 21, 1945. p. 23
  2. ^ Joyce Gold, From Trout Stream to Bohemia: A Walking Guide to Greenwich Village History (1988:49); blank side walls facing the "uninspiring thoroughfare" (WPA Guide to New York City [1939] 1982:138) and small leftover spaces forming "vest-pocket parks" bear witness to this early example of urban renewal.
  3. ^ "What's in a Street Rename? Disorder", The New York Times, July 20, 1987. p. B1
  4. ^ 'WPA Guide to New York City (1939) 1984:138
  5. ^ The el had angled west at 53rd Street; its effect can still be seen on Sixth Avenue: below 53rd Street the avenue formerly of small-scale tenements has been entirely rebuilt, whereas above 53rd Street the avenue is still lined with handsome pre-War residential and commercial blocks
  6. ^ deepsixth

External links

Coordinates: 40°44′35″N 73°59′35″W / 40.743°N 73.993°W / 40.743; -73.993

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