How it all works.

I'm trolling New York City collecting maps from flyers, government reports, informational brochures and such with the notion that all these maps will all somehow join together to create a complete map of NYC. The maps have to exist in real life- no downloads and cannot be rescaled or cut to fit.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Up and down Park, Madison and 5th Avenues

As part of my plan to the cover upper sides and Harlem in a methodical manner I did the above mentioned thing. Park Avenue one day, Madison Ave. the next and 5th Avenue the next all starting from 86th St. Park Avenue is a world of elegant, expensive and elderly apartment buildings manned by sterling, uniformed doormen who help elegant, expensive elderly residents in and out of taxis. All well and good but no maps and except for a few interesting churches and synagogues- the armory no reason to go there.

Until at 96th St when the train tracks from the Metro North emerge from under the street, the homes of the rich abruptly end. Instead of six lane divided road with flowers and greenery in the verge, the road becomes two narrow streets divided by a set of train tracks, stone bridges. The massive apartment buildings are replaced by funky Harlem brownstones, restaurants and public housing. There lies something called La Marqueta- a large market built under the Metro North yet only two vendors selling Botanica and Puerto Rico belt buckles.

Past the 125th St mess- redeemed only by the beautifully restored Metro North station- lie four blocks of gorgeous brownstones and churches before Park Avenue peters out in a swift burst of public housing, sanitation dept. parking and a pedestrian walkway.

Madison Avenue, Park Avenue's sister avenue to the west is a terrible, mean spirited thoroughfare and even beyond the 96th St class boundary continues to be so. Whilst both Park and Madison are stomping grounds of the super rich, Park Ave has a sense of humour, a mild humbleness that Madison absolutely lacks especially apparent to a random, sunburnt Irishman looking for maps. It has the feel of a snooty little seaside town. They could build an airport in Manhattan with the landing strip lying along the whole length of Madison Avenue and New York City would not lose a thing, the world equilibrium would not be damaged at all.

The only bright spot along the whole benighted road is the Mt. Sinai hospital, a formidable, fortress-like tower visible from miles around and even more brutal up close. The people there were very friendly and I recommend it highly if you're in the neighbourhood. Madison Avenue ends with the Madison Avenue bridge spanning the Harlem river like some glittering promise of a faraway better land.

Walking along 5th Avenue I come to understand Madison Ave's problem. Even though it is a massively attractive and wealthy street its opulence pales in comparison to the streets either side of it. It has a complex, the poor thing. 5th Ave with Central Park on one side and fantastic mansions and museums on the other is New York's finest street. The splendor doesn't end at 96th St either but continues, to a fashion all the way to 110th where Central Park ends. You don't come to a Kennedy Fried Chicken until 113th St!

5th Ave is interrupted by the great, dysfunctional Marcus Garvey Park and all around that place, all the way up almost to the end of 5th Ave are the finest brownstones in Harlem.

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