East Side/West Side Dividing Line Wars Rage in Upper Manhattan


Where does the East Side of Manhattan end, and the West side begin? This is a question we thought we always knew the answer to (you know, where street numbers start all over again, or maybe, more vaguely, where Central Park cleaves Upper Manhattan in two?). And yet, perhaps it is not so. Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer has brought to our attention the supposedly incorrect bus stop signs marking the sidewalks at Fifth Avenue adjacent to Central Park.

As the New York Times reports,

A stop across the avenue from East 84th Street was identified as “5 Avenue & West 84 St.” Same for the stop at Fifth Avenue and “West” 72nd Street. The peculiar signage continued all along the length of the park.

This would mean that Fifth Avenue was half East, half West, instead of the Avenue marking the boundary between East and West, and being all, in itself, East. Which is also confusing. Does Central Park belong to the West side? Is that even fair?

Stringer’s office put forth this press release:

Calling attention to the “confusing and misleading” signs that the Department of Transportation has placed on bus stops along Fifth Avenue, extending from 110th to 59th Streets, Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer on Tuesday will demand that the DOT immediately remove signs that identify Fifth Avenue as the West Side of Manhattan and thoroughly confuse tourists and residents.

But, as the Times reports, the signs, which have been there since the late ’90s, might not even be wrong:

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?

One guy they spoke too, Samuel I. Schwartz, a former transportation commissioner, said he thinks they’re right, and that that side of the street is on the West Side of Manhattan. Stringer, of course, disagrees: “These are nonexistent streets, which do not actually appear until you’re standing on the other side of Central Park,” he said.

Well, that sort of makes sense, although the whole debate might be the most bureaucratic and inconsequential brain-hurting discussion we’ve had all year. At the end of the day, let the copy editors speak — the signs are inconsistent if the bus sign says West and the street sign says East! (Which it does.) And inconsistency is just as bad as being wrong.

At any rate, for now we’re staying below 14th Street, where it’s safe.

Along 5th Ave. in Manhattan, a Dispute Over Where East and West Begin [NYT]