Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Bridge and Tunnel People

"Hey, Bridge and Tunnel Boy, chill out!" - Man in a crowd of "broker types", in a Manhattan bar to Chris, after he complains of about his rowdiness - The Sopranos (season 2)

"These are nonexistent streets, which do not actually appear until you're standing on the other side of Central Park" - Scott M. Stringer, borough president of Manhattan

For a spatially dyslexic person such as myself, Manhattan means never having to say you're lost. Well, North of 14th Street that is. South of 14th the place is a nightmarish tangle of streets with names like "Broome Street and "Bowery". Not to mention Greenwich Avenue and Greenwich Street. I can never remember which is which.

I favor north of 14th. There the streets are named with numbers and are laid out in a grid. Streets run east-west and avenues run north-south. I can always find my way.

I do get confused though about "Alternate Side Parking". What does it mean? Luckily I don't have a car. I imagine it means "park on the other side" though, that cannot be right. A tad bit recursive ... "Alternate Side Parking is "suspended on certain days, mostly on religious holy days such as Idul-Fitr and Simchas Torah. Why would this be? So confusing.

I still find it hard to remember that in American, "street" means "road". What we in Australia and in almost every country I've been to, one walks on the street, meaning in American, "on the sidewalk". The road is where the cars go.

Streets and sidewalks are very important to Manhattan people. There has been talk of dividing them into lanes like on highways. There would be a slow lane, reserved for tourists. I think a tourist lane is a good idea.

I wouldn't be surprised if they made a law requiring the bridge and road people to use the tourist lanes. Or perhaps they should be given their own bridge and road lane, as I suspect they walk a little faster than the tourists. Yes we should put them in the middle of the road.

A Melbourne "Road" called "Bourke Street"
Bridge and Tunnel people are people who come into Manhattan via a bridge or a road. People who originate from outside of Manhattan, including the four "outer boroughs" as well as Westchester County, Long Island, Connecticut and New Jersey. In Australia we call such people bogans. In Melbourne we call them "people from Geelong".

Down the middle of Manhattan runs Fifth Avenue. We know it runs north-south because it is called an "Avenue". Anything west of Fifth Avenue is west Manhattan and anything east is east Manhattan. So if someone says, meet me at 323 East 79th Street, you know straight away that it is east of Fifth Avenue and because it is 323, it will be between First and Second Avenues. Furthermore, because 323 is an odd number we know it will be on the north side of the street. Not that I would advise going to 323 East 79th Street to meet anyone. I was there just over a week ago and do not recommend it to anyone who values their cell phone!

There is a special algorithm called a "street locator" which will estimate cross streets for any address on a numbered street in Manhattan. It does not work for downtown streets as they are not numbered. To find the approximate cross street, take the address number and divide by 20; then add (or subtract) the magic number from a table. For example, 660 Madison Avenue would be 660/20=33 plus the Madison Avenue index from the special table (+27), 33+27 = 60th Street. Simple!

Fifth Avenue
Occasionally however things get blurred. Recently when the Manhattan borough president was walking along Fifth Avenue by Central Park he noticed that the bus stop signs were confusing.

A stop across the avenue from East 84th Street was identified as "5 Avenue & West 84 St." Same for all the bus stops along the length of the park.

Now I know the borough president must have been walking south down Fifth, as the park must have been on his right. So HE thought he was in East Manhattan. But it turns out that maybe he was wrong.

As the New York Times put it, "Since these signs sit on the west side of Fifth Avenue, they are technically in the western zone of the street grid. So can West 84th Street exist on the west side of Fifth Avenue, even if the street itself begins on the other side of Central Park?"

I am confused. Who is to say WHERE a street "begins". Also, if the borough president was walking south, on the east side of Fifth Avenue, how could he see the bus signs on the right?

Or is my spatial dyslexia getting the better of me?

I think I'll have to actually go there to understand the borough president's problem. Like I have to turn maps around and face the right direction to navigate whoever is unfortunate to drive in a car with me as a passenger.

Fortunately GPS has solved THAT particular nightmare. I used feel sick in the stomach when some unsuspecting person would ask me to "look at the map".

Stay tuned ...

1 comment:

new homes for sale new york said...

It gets frustrating when looking for directions with unmatched signs.

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