Saturday, June 8, 2019

Then and Now: 7th Street and Avenue B, NYC

7th Street at Avenue B, New York City

Avenue B and 7th Street NYC
7th Street at Avenue B in 1988.
I stumbled upon the photo above taken in 1988 and decided to see if I could find the same location today using Google Street View. I wasn't that hopeful, because there isn't a lot of detail in the original photo. However, it does show the street sign for Avenue B, and that was a good starting point. After a little trial and error, I was able to make a comparison between Avenue B and 7th Street in New York City between 1988 and November 2017.

Avenue B and 7th Street NYC
Avenue B and 7th Street, NYC, in 2017.
The original picture was taken from the northwest corner looking east. Surprisingly little has changed at the corner of Avenue B and 7th Street in three decades. St. Brigid Catholic School, a Nursery through 8th Grade urban Catholic school, was founded in 1856 and obviously is still in the same location on the corner. However, the graffiti is gone and the school's exterior appears to have received a makeover (or perhaps just a sandblasting). The light stanchion on the corner remains, though the school has been allowed to place a banner on it (which might have been ripped down out of sheer vandalism in 1988). The East Village has undergone somewhat of a renaissance over the past three decades (as has large swathes of Manhattan between 14th Street and Houston Street), reflecting gradual gentrification and rising real estate values. The St. Brigid School appears to have benefited from these changes.

Avenue B and 7th Street NYC
The same location at 7th Street and Avenue B, looking toward the original photographer's position.
What the original 1988 photo could not show was that the photographer was standing on the edge of Tompkins Square Park. It was still the center of the counterculture in the 1980s with a bit of a reputation as a rough place. By the 2010s, though, it has become much more settled and family-friendly. Don't get me wrong, however, the East Village is still regenerating and is still more, um, free-wheeling than the areas around Fifth Avenue and the West Village. The changes over the year are just more obvious in the East Village because many areas were trashed by the 1970s and had a long way to go to look as nice as they do now.

Avenue B and 7th Street NYC
The same location at 7th Street and Avenue B looking north.
In the above photo, looking north on Avenue B, we can easily see the situation in 1988. The photographer was standing roughly where the city worker in the yellow vest is in the above 2017 photo taken from Google Street View. He or she saw the dog on the car and snapped a quick photo. One can see that the entire character of the area has changed, with less graffiti and rubbish, even though the buildings and layout are virtually intact. What's interesting to me is not the dog, cute as it may be, but these inadvertent details that the photographer captured which now tell a tale.

Avenue B and 7th Street NYC
The same corner of 7th Street and Avenue B looking to the south. The car with the dog would have been on the right just beyond the tree.
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this entry into my "The more things change, the more they stay the same" series. Feel free to visit some of my other offerings where I look at the same spots separated by decades.


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