Saturday, November 3, 2018

Then and Now: Broadway and 88th Street, Manhattan

Then and Now: West 88th and Broadway, Manhattan

West 88th Street and Broadway
West 88th Street and Broadway, Manhattan, in 1971.

The above photo of the Upper West Side of Manhattan intrigued me because it seems to have a timeless quality to it. I wondered what the street looked like today, so I did a little research. It turns out that we are looking at West 88th Street on the east side of Broadway. For this page, I compared West 88th Street at Broadway in 1971 and 2018 because I think it says something about the passage of time and the evolution of a city. I took an image from Google Street View, which you may see below, of the same location for comparison.

One of the things that intrigued me about the photo was that it just seems surprisingly modern to me. I could imagine walking by that block exactly as it is in the photograph and not give it a second look, though I do admit the cars parked out front would give me pause. My research showed that my impression wasn't out of line, because if you walked down that same block right now in the 21st Century, it would look pretty much like that but for a few changes.

While the 1971 photo cuts off large parts of the buildings, it is clear that they are all - or at least most - have survived intact into 2018. It is as if someone grabbed the entire block the day after this photo was taken and plopped them down into 2018. Everything, in fact, is almost eerily similar. Among the small differences, the most striking change is the addition of the small trees apparent in the recent photo below, which also have been planted throughout Manhattan to great effect. That is a quality of life thing that we may not fully appreciate on a daily basis, but the right trees make a big difference in softening a stark cityscape. The real estate agents certainly understand this, though, as they are quick to point out views into "peacefully tree-lined streets" such as West 88th when touting apartments these days.

The green awning (it has to be green, they're always green) in the 1971 photograph is over the entrance to The Central at 250 West 88th St. The Central is described as a "beautiful boutique 60-unit, 8 story condo." The Central was built in 1910, so it already was a neighborhood institution in 1971. However, it wasn't full of condos in 1971 (it converted to condominiums in the 1990s, a little late in the game). The name is unchanged, as you can see from the 1971 awning, another reminder that this block is a placid backwater amidst the hustle and bustle of Manhattan. The awning is missing in 2018, the reason being the construction awning that is in place. Other buildings in the area do still have their traditional green awnings, and I would bet good money that the green awning is either back in place already or will be before long. It's that kind of neighborhood.

Overall, it doesn't look like things have either improved much or gone backward on that block of West 88th Street. They were doing some maintenance to the buildings on both sides of the street when the Google Street View car rolled by not too long ago, and that's how you maintain that kind of continuity - constant maintenance and vigilance. The street looks like a well-worn shoe, comfortable and reliable, pliant old leather that is forgiving and adaptable. This block of West 88th Street on the east side of Broadway is one of those refuges where, aside from some slight cosmetic changes, it is as if time stood still for the past 50 years. I'm sure the long-time residents don't mind that at all.

Anyway, thanks for stopping by my "the more things change, the more things stay the same" site. We hope you enjoyed this comparison of 1971 and 2018.

West 88th Street and Broadway
West 88th Street and Broadway ca. 2018 (Google Street View).


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