Wednesday, June 29, 2011

42nd Street Between Broadway and 8th Ave

42nd Street facing East towards 7th Avenue.
In June 1995 when I first visited New York City, the segment of 42nd Street from Broadway to 8th Avenue was lined with a row of businesses geared towards 'adult' fare and seedy persons of unknown origins dotting the sidewalks. Walking along the street in daylight to the former location of the Times Square Visitor Center in a rundown theatre felt no more safe than walking at night a few days later to an off-Broadway venue. Walking past 42nd Street in 1996 to see 'Rent' at the Nederlander Theatre on 41st was a sight of construction and clean-up in full motion.

During a visit in July 2000, I saw that the street was completely transformed. The gleaming jewel on the block was the New Amsterdam Theatre restored and operated by Disney Theatrical Productions hosting the initial Broadway run of 'The Lion King' into its third year. Across the street the Ford Center for the Performing Arts (now the Foxwoods Theatre) was playing the first major revival of 'Jesus Christ Superstar'. A new branch of Madame Tussauds wax museum opened and the Roundabout Theatre Company was to premiere it's brand new Broadway house named the American Airlines Theatre in the former derelict Selwyn Theatre. Two multi-screen theaters near the 8th Ave end would ensure that both New Yorkers and visitors would be patrons of the revived street. Also just opened was the towering 44-story Hilton Times Square.

The New Amsterdam Theatre
Waiting for an evening performance of 'Spider-Man' early this evening, I observe the giant McDonald's marquee competing for attention on one side of the street with the 'Mary Poppins' billboard. Looking east and west from the top of the stairs of the New Victory Theatre, one has a photo opportunity to capture a wide view of the street. As is customary for Times Square billboards obscure many of the buildings that line the street. The narrow sidewalks are made even slimmer by street artists, vendors and musicians. Adding to the congestion is 42nd Street serves as a major artery for buses with all vehicle traffic heading in both directions and a massive subway hub below.

The street is loud, crazy and crowded but at least it feels far safer than when I first visited the area sixteen years ago. The character that is now the new 42nd Street should be expected in a destination like New York City. But rather than engrossing myself further in the madness, I quickly picked up a slice of pizza at the Pax Wholesome Foods shop (by the way with awful service), washed it down with a Red Bull and headed into the Foxwoods Theatre. With three major Broadway venues on the street, there's no doubt I'll be visiting 42nd Street again.

42nd Street facing west.
(all photos: TheHopefulTraveler)


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