Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Then and Now: 50th Street at Broadway, Manhattan

Then and Now

Broadway and 50th Street in NYC in the 1970s
Broadway and 50th Street, New York City, in the 1970s.

The area around 42nd Street up to about 52nd Street is known collectively as "Times Square." It is one of the most heavily trafficked areas on earth, constantly swarmed by pedestrians throughout the day and long into the night. I saw the above picture from the 1970s and decided to compare 50th Street and Broadway in Manhattan from the 1970s to 2018. There is a recent picture from Google Street View below for comparison.

When you compare the two pictures, it is easy to say, "Well, they're completely different." However, take a closer look. Despite the passage of 40 years in one of the most valuable areas of real estate in the world, there is a lot that remains the same. Let's look at a few things.

Directly in the middle of the 1970s photo in the distance is the MONY (Mutual of New York) building. It is still there, and you can see it as the brown building with a red building seemingly sprouting from it. The building no longer says "MONY" on it, but instead has the street number - 1740 - where "MONY" used to be. It's hard to see in the Google Street View, unfortunately, but that's really a testament to the skill of the photography 40 years ago.

The brown building at left-center, a block away, also appears to be the same. However, it looks like the put an additional floor on it.  The brown building to the right, which is right behind the stoplight in the 1970s picture, also is there, and it appears completely unchanged. Most of the other buildings, however, appear to be different. Some of the owners of the non-skyscrapers probably made a killing by selling their air rights to the newer buildings up the road. Unfortunately, the area directly to the left in the 1970s shot is cut off, but I'm pretty sure they didn't have escalators there back then.

There also is a more subtle change regarding the people in the shot. In the 1970s photo, there are plenty of red, blue, and yellow coats. In a nutshell, people were unafraid to show a little style. In the more recent photo, you get different shades of black and grey aside from occasional red ties and white-ish sweatshirts. It's not exactly the death of style, but it's the death of vivid colors as ordinary everyday wear. People don't want to stand out the way they did in the 1970s - it makes you a target.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy these comparison shots. They are intended to show that, even in the city that never sleeps, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Broadway and 50th Street in NYC in 2018
Broadway and 50th Street ca. 2018 (Google Street View).


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