First Avenue (Manhattan)


First Avenue (Manhattan)

First Avenue is a north-south thoroughfare on the East Side of the New York City borough of Manhattan, running from Houston Street northbound for over 125 blocks before terminating at the Willis Avenue Bridge into The Bronx at the Harlem River near East 127th Street. South of Houston Street, the roadway continues as Allen Street south to Canal Street. Traffic on First Avenue runs northbound (uptown) only.

First Avenue passes through a variety of mostly residential neighborhoods. Between 42nd Street and 45th Street, it borders the United Nations headquarters complex, and four lanes are underground.

Like all of Manhattan's major north-south Avenues, First Avenue was proposed as part of the Commissioners' Plan of 1811 for Manhattan, which designated 12 broad north-south Avenues running the length of the island. The southern portions of the Avenue were cut and laid out shortly after the plan was adopted. The northern sections of the Avenue would be graded and cut through at various intervals throughout the 19th Century as the northward development of the island demanded.

The IRT Second Avenue Line ran above First Avenue from Houston Street to 23rd Street before turning left at 23rd and then right onto Second Avenue. The El was torn down in 1942.

A Trip Up First Avenue

Starting in the south, First Avenue passes through the East Village, once a predominantly German then Jewish neighborhood, now a trendy area populated mostly by young professionals. Leaving the East Village First Avenue runs by a succession of large urban development projects that sit on what used to be a working industrial waterfront. Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village, two middle income housing developments, fill the east side of the avenue from 14th to 23d Streets. A Veterans Affairs hospital, the Bellevue Hospital Center, and NYU Medical Center fill the blocks from there to 34th. Between 42d and 47th, the avenue runs past United Nations Headquarters and is called United Nations Plaza, with four lanes running in the First Avenue Tunnel to divert traffic from the Plaza.

Crossing under the Queensboro Bridge and entering the Upper East Side, First Avenue runs through a number of residential areas of varying character and income, and serves as one of the main shopping streets of the Yorkville neighborhood, historically a German and Hungarian neighborhood, today a mix of upper middle class residents. Much of the housing in this area was built for lower income immigrants in the 19th Century, therefore compared to the rest of the Upper East Side, the older buildings along First Avenue are relatively affordable today (relatively being the key word here). In this area First Avenue is also known as "Bedpan Alley" (a play on "Tin Pan Alley") because of the large number of hospitals located nearby.

Crossing 96th Street, First Avenue runs through Spanish Harlem, a historically Puerto Rican neighborhood. Before Puerto Rican migration in the 1950s, much of this area was populated by Italians and known as "Italian Harlem". First Avenue in Italian Harlem was the site of a major open-air pushcart market in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. There is still a small Italian enclave in the Pleasant Valley section of East Harlem, between 114th and 120th Streets. The northern reaches of First Avenue, north of roughly 110th Street have also seen a significant increase in Mexican residents.

First Avenue crosses the Harlem River at 127th Street via the Willis Avenue Bridge and becomes Willis Avenue in the Bronx.

First Avenue in the Movies

The opening scene of "Ghostbusters 2" was filmed at the intersection of First Avenue and 77th Street. Avenues of Manhattan
West = Second Avenue
Avenue = First Avenue
East = "(varies by location)"
Avenue A
FDR Drive
Sutton Place
York Avenue


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