Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Then and Now: East 64th Street in Manhattan

East 64th Street in 1972 randommusings.filminspector.com
East 64th Street and Second Avenue, New York, New York, mid-1972.

Those of us who have lived in New York City know how little the city really changes over time. Oh, sure, there are always new styles and cars and businesses and politics and people and all that. New York City is like a raging river. However, the city itself - the riverbanks, if you will - has an inertia and solidity that cannot be denied.

Case in point: the above picture was taken in 1972 at the corner of East 64th Street and Second Avenue. This, incidentally, was only a few years before Jack Lemmon's "The Prisoner of Second Avenue" (1975) was filmed. That area was considered quite chi-chi back in the day, the place for up-and-comers who hadn't really quite made it all the way to Park Avenue yet. Anyway, the above photograph is an ordinary street scene from almost fifty years ago at the time of this writing.

I was curious how much this particular corner of the universe has changed. Why not do a comparison of East 64th Street in 1972 and in 2018? So, I went in and poked around on Google Street Maps, trying to find the same corner (I did not know the avenue). And, lo and behold, the below picture is what I found.

Now, obviously, there are some differences. Manhattan is known as an ever-changing city where buildings go up and down in a heartbeat and everything is fluid. So, the pedestrian crosswalks are painted a bit differently, the street sign is a different color, and the cars are your typical little 2010s teardrops. However, that streetlight and stanchion - aren't those the exact same ones? Those buildings haven't changed a lick, not even the color, the windows are still the same. Even the building way down yonder sticking up like a sore thumb in the distance seems immutable, though it seems a little higher from this perspective.

The little Allen Carpet storefront is still there, though the location appears to be vacant now. It looks like they added some window-space on the 64th Street side at one point, you can see where the addition starts. You can buy your carpets cheaper online these days, I suppose. In a way, that is a sign of the times, many people are commenting on how ordinary stores like a carpet place can no longer survive in Manhattan. You have to be a fast food place or something like that these days to get the traffic to afford the rents.

I was pretty surprised when I made this comparison. Even I expected more would have changed over almost five decades than that. It would not surprise me in the least if some of the people who lived in that building on the corner still live there to this day - once people get comfy in NYC, they tend to stay put. I've had the same place in Manhattan since 1993, but that's nothing in comparison to some people who have been there decades longer. I'm still like a newcomer compared to a lot of denizens of Manhattan.

There are people who love to look at old photos and videos on Youtube and comment morbidly, "Well, they're all dead now," as if they've just discovered Uranium. I'd bet you good money, though, that somebody in that building or the one next to it in 1972 still lived there in 2018, maybe a kid in a family or a young executive in his 20s who had found his niche by the early '70s and decided he simply liked Manhattan's East Side. Oh, and the permanence of rent control wouldn't hurt my bet prospects, either.

Anyway, this is not meant to be some deep examination of social change or anything like that. It's only a momentary rumination on the fact that the more things change, the more they stay the same.

East 64th Street in 1972 randommusings.filminspector.com
East 64th Street at 2nd Avenue ca. 2018 (Google Street View).


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