Park Avenue is a wide New York City boulevard which carries north and southbound traffic in the borough of Manhattan. For most of the road's length in Manhattan, it runs parallel to Madison Avenue to the west and Lexington Avenue to the east. Park Avenue's entire length was formerly called Fourth Avenue; the title still applies to the section between the Bowery and 14th Street. Meanwhile, the section between 14th and 17th Street is called Union Square East, and between 17th and 32nd Streets, the name Park Avenue South is used.
Park Avenue was originally known as Fourth Avenue and carried the tracks of the New York and Harlem Railroad starting in the 1830s. The railroad originally ran through an open cut through Murray Hill, which was covered with grates and grass between 34th and 40th Street in the early 1850s. A section of this "park" was later renamed Park Avenue in 1860, which was afterwards applied to the area leading up to 42nd Street. When Grand Central Depot was opened in the 1870s, the railroad tracks between 56th and 93rd Streets were sunk out of sight and, in 1888, Park Avenue was extended to north of Grand Central.
In 1927, the medians on Park Avenue north of Grand Central were trimmed to add one lane of traffic in each direction. This project eliminated the pedestrian path on the medians as they became much narrower. In 1941, the median was extended by one block from 96th Street to 97th Street, creating the only median on Park Avenue with a pedestrian path and seating.
The elevated Park Avenue Viaduct was built in 1936 around the station to allow automobile traffic to pass unimpeded. In October 1937, a part of the Murray Hill Tunnel was reopened for road traffic. Efforts to promote a Grand Park Avenue Expressway to Grand Concourse in the Bronx were unavailing.
A tradition was introduced in 1945 as a memorial to American soldiers killed in action, whereby Christmas trees are placed in the median section each December.
On May 5, 1959, the New York City Council voted 20â"1 to change the name of Fourth Avenue between 17th and 32nd Streets to Park Avenue South. In 1963, the Pan Am Building, straddling Park Avenue atop Grand Central Terminal, was built between the automotive viaducts.
On March 12, 2014, two apartment buildings near 116th Street, 1644 and 1646 Park Avenue, were destroyed in a gas explosion. Eight people were killed and many others were injured.
The road that becomes Park Avenue originates as the Bowery. From Cooper Square at 8th Street to Union Square at 14th Street, it is known as Fourth Avenue, a 70-foot-wide (21Â m) road carrying northbound traffic. At 14th Street, it turns slightly northeast to align with other avenues drawn up in the Commissioners' Plan of 1811. From 14th Street to 17th Street, it forms the eastern boundary of Union Square and is known as Union Square East; its southbound lanes merge with Broadway south of 15th Street, and the thoroughfare divides into two distinct portions in the one-block section between 14th and 15th Streets. From 17th Street to 32nd Street, it is known as Park Avenue South. Above 32nd Street, for the remainder of its distance, it is known as Park Avenue, a 140-foot-wide boulevard.
Between 33rd Street and 40th Street, the left-hand northbound lane descends into the Murray Hill Tunnel. Immediately across from 40th Street, the center lanes of Park Avenue rise onto an elevated structure that goes around Grand Central Terminal and the MetLife Building (formerly the PanAm Building), carrying each direction of traffic on opposite sides of the buildings. The bridge, one of two structures in Manhattan known as the Park Avenue Viaduct, returns to ground level at 46th Street after going through the Helmsley Building (also referred to as the New York Central Building or 230 Park Avenue). The IRT Lexington Avenue Line runs under this portion of the street. Once the line reaches Grand CentralÂ â" 42nd Street, it shifts east to Lexington Avenue.
As Park Avenue enters Midtown north of Grand Central Terminal, it is distinguished by many glass-box skyscrapers that serve as headquarters for corporations and investment banks such as Societe Generale, JPMorgan Chase at 270 Park Avenue and 277 Park Avenue, UBS at 299 Park Avenue, Citigroup, Colgate-Palmolive, and MetLife at the MetLife Building. Prior to July 2010, the eleven intersections between 46th Street and 56th Street lacked the city's usual pedestrian crossing signals and overhead gantry-mounted traffic lights, because the railroad tunnel ceiling, which is also the street, was not thick enough for their poles' foundations. (These intersections did, however, have upright pole-mounted traffic lights prior to 2010, but there were no pedestrian signals. After 2010, standard gantry-mounted traffic lights and pedestrian "countdown" signals were installed.)
From 47th to 97th Streets, Metro-North Railroad tracks run in a tunnel underneath Park Avenue (the Park Avenue Tunnel). In the 1920s the portion of Park Avenue from Grand Central Terminal to 96th Street saw extensive apartment building construction. This long stretch of the avenue contains some of the most expensive real estate in the world. Real estate at 740 Park Avenue, for example, sells for several thousand dollars per square foot. Current and former residents in this stretch of the thoroughfare include Blackstone Group co-founder Stephen Schwarzman, former Morgan Stanley executive Zoe Cruz, private equity investor Ronald O. Perelman, John D. Rockefeller Jr., Vera Wang, and others. James Cash Penney lived at 888 and Leonard Bernstein at 898.
At 97th Street, the tracks come above ground, rising onto the other Manhattan structure known as the Park Avenue Viaduct. The first street to pass under the viaduct is 102nd Street; from there to the Harlem River the railroad viaduct runs down the middle of Park Avenue. Park Avenue in Manhattan ends north of 132nd Street, with connections to the Harlem River Drive. The avenue is continued on the other side of the river in the Bronx. In the Bronx, Park Avenue begins at East 135th Street in the Mott Haven neighborhood. The entire avenue is divided by Metro-North's own right of way in the borough. Between East 135th Street to East 173rd Street, Park Avenue is one way only in ether direction in most sections. North of East 173rd Street it is a two way avenue continuing to Fordham Plaza where it ends.
The flowers and greenery in the median of Manhattan's Park Avenue are privately maintained, by the Fund for Park Avenue. The begonia was specifically chosen by the Fund's gardeners because there is no automatic watering system and the floral variety is resilient under hot sun rays.
The following institutions are either headquartered or have significant business presences on Park Avenue:
In numerical order:
In popular culture
- Will Smith, as a policeman, pursues a criminal by jumping off the Park Avenue Viaduct in the 1997 film Men in Black.
- In the 1988 film Cocktail, Tom Cruise visits the wealthy father of Elizabeth Shue's character, Jordan, who lives on Park Avenue at 67th street.
- In the 2007 film I Am Legend, Will Smith again appears on the Park Avenue Viaduct, where his character is captured by a vampire's snare.
- In the 2012 film The Avengers, the climax takes place on the Park Avenue Viaduct.
- In the TV series The Odd Couple, Felix Unger and Oscar Madison live at 1049 Park Avenue.
- In the TV series Diff'rent Strokes, Phillip Drummond, with his daughter, Kimberly and adopted sons, Willis and Arnold Jackson live at 697 Park Avenue.
- The PBS documentary Park Avenue: Money, Power and the American Dream sheds light on the gap between the impoverished people living on Park Avenue in the South Bronx and the extremely wealthy living at 740 Park Avenue in Manhattan.
- In the song "Youth Gone Wild" by American band Skid Row, Park Avenue is mentioned in the lyrics: "I said 'Hey man, there's something that you oughta know. / I tell ya Park Avenue leads to Skid Row.'"
- The stage and film musical How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying takes place in the fictional "Park Avenue office building of World Wide Wicket Company, Inc."
- General Motors borrowed the name of the street for the Buick Park Avenue, a large luxury sedan that was produced first as the premium trim line for the Buick Electra from 1977 to 1990, and as a standalone model from 1991 to 2005.
- In the intro to the late 1960s - early 1970s TV show Green Acres, Eva Gabor's character sings "Darling I love you, but give me Park Avenue!", where she lived before moving to rural Hooterville with her husband, the lawyer-turned-farmer.
- The song "Puttin' on the Ritz," from the film Blue Skies (1946), refers to affluent people strutting "up and down Park Avenue".
- In the 2017 video game Sonic Forces, one of the main stage takes place on Park Avenue, the stage re-imagined as a war zone.
- List of most expensive streets by city
- New York Songlines: Fourth Avenue with The Bowery and Park Avenue, a virtual walking tour
- Classic Apartments Buildings and Architecture of Park Avenue Images & History