Each time I come to NYC I get a little bit better at knowing my way around. Yet each time, I think to myself, ‘this is the best brain exercise!” because it is not quite instinctive and I have to always take a beat and think about where I am and where I am headed. Wes and I were meeting up after work one day and he was walking to meet me in Chelsea and we realized we were walking towards each other on the same street just a few blocks away and he said to me “I’ll be on the North side of the street” and I was like…”um, without Lake Erie I don’t know where North is!”.
I am there about 6-8 times a year between work and seeing my bff who resides there. But it was THIS trip that I felt that things really started to ‘click’ for my sense of direction. I have to admit, the GREATEST GRID exhibit at the Museum of the City of New York, which my mom and I visited over this past weekend, really helped my understanding of how to navigate this city.
Turns out that while downtown seems to have been exempted to some degree from the grid plan of 1811, Manhattan is made up (mostly) of a series of North South Avenues (1-12) and East West Streets (1-155) (with a few distinctive and notable streets that are the exception to this -Madison, Lexington, Broadway also i suppose the addition of the alphabet streets of the lower east side).
Anyhow, this is notable because it makes it very easy to understand where you are in relation to where you are going and you can start to gauge the distance, which will determine if foot, train or cab would be the best form of transportation. For awhile now, my understanding of the geographic relationship between neighborhoods has significantly improved my confidence in getting around, but I should have started with learning what the grid was here. In fact, it is similar to Cleveland’s own grid in a few ways as we have numbered roadways running North South (4th st., 6th st., 9th st., etc) and east west streets cutting across them (st.Clair, Superior, Euclid, Prospect etc.).
I’m still going to have to calibrate my brain upon my next arrival to the big apple, but each time, it gets a whole lot easier, and a lot more fun subsequently.
Above is an image of the survey done of each of the avenues. The exhibit is really cool because it shows how until the elevation of each road had been leveled out ( a HUGE issue and undertaking ). On one side of the street there would be rocky ledges right up to the street, which the city paid to level, and on the other side huge craters. The city would pay for the streets to be brought to the correct elevation but required land owners to either excavate or fill in their own lands to get to the proper level. It was really fascinating.
Below is a video I found on youtube of the exhibit. Pretty cool. Visit the museum’s website here.