Friday, November 2, 2018

Then and Now: West 80th Street and Broadway, Manhattan

Then and Now

West 80th Street and Broadway in 1985
80th and Broadway, Manhattan, 1985.

The Upper West Side has changed as much as any New York City neighborhood over the past few decades. So, when I saw the above photograph taken in 1985 of Broadway and West 80th Street in Manhattan, I decided to take a close look. I made a comparison of West 80th Street at Broadway in Manhattan between 1985 and 2018 using Google Street View. The more recent picture is below.

You can tell these two photographs show the same location due to the distinctive building on the corner, with its Roman columns. The buildings behind it also appear to be the same. However, it is obvious at a glance that the entire character of the neighborhood has changed despite the streets and buildings remaining the same. Whereas the West 80s used to be a fringe zone between the pricey West 70s and Harlem, by 2018 it was about as gentrified as you can get. The 1980s would have been a good time to buy a place in this neighborhood and hang on for some dynamite price appreciation.

Rather than the somewhat seedy corner store, there now is a fancy nail salon which obviously doesn't need any iron grating to protect it. The SRO hotel just down the street has become a genteel apartment building. In a sign of the times, just past it is the block's current main business, an organic cleaner. I don't know how organic a cleaner can be, but it seems to be doing a good business.

One clever tactic that the neighborhood has taken is to install trees. This gives the area a much more residential look and eliminates the stark cityscape of 1985. There are no cars parked on the street in the more recent photograph, which may have to do with some construction going on along the south side of the block (there are parked cars on 80th on the other side of Broadway). However, temporary or not, the absence of parked cars also gives the area a much cozier and residential feeling than the line of cars in the 1985 photo.

There are some more subtle changes that also make a big difference. In the 1985 photo, you can see trash along the street and garbage on the sidewalk. In 2018, all is clean and pristine. The light pole which juts out like a sore thumb in the 1985 photo is still there, but it is hidden by the trees - another benefit to having some greenery.

Overall, how you view the changes with time depends on how you feel about gentrification in general. The more recent photograph certainly has a more civilized look. It also looks pricier and a lot less welcoming to those who don't have a pretty solid bank account. Personally, I prefer the more recent look, as clean streets are always a good thing, but it also looks a lot less interesting. I'm pretty sure that the residents of the area don't want it to be "interesting" and are happy the businesses are high class, everything no longer has a run-down appearance, and the buildings are not full of transients.

Anyway, thanks for stopping by my series on "the more things change, the more they stay the same." I hope you enjoy this and the other entries in the series!

West 80th Street and Broadway in 2018
80th and Broadway, Manhattan, ca. 2018 (Google Street View).


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