On Quora, we came across a great Cities 101 question about the logic behind the selection of Manhattan’s Cross Streets (and one of our photographs of Columbus Circle in the answer). In a thorough recap, Raj Bhuptani, a ’13 Statistics graduate from Harvard and a Quantitative Research Analyst at Two Sigma Investments, provides an answer which he has allowed us to republish here (additional hyperlinks added by us).

Question: What’s the logic to the selection of Manhattan’s major cross streets (14th, 23rd, 34th, 42nd, 57th, 59th, 72nd, 79th, 86th, 96th)?

Raj’s Answer:



The Herald Center on 34th Sreet in Herald Square is getting an all new look. The blue, glass facade is being replaced in what seems like an attempt to make the often-overlooked Herald Square more glamorous like Times Square. As reported by Ephemeral New York, with the work underway, the original 1902 building has been revealed under the sheets of blue glass.


Herald-Building-Herald Square-Vintage Photograph-34th Street-NYC

Herald Square is today known for many things. There’s the flagship Macy’s department store and the pedestrianized part of Broadway that extends to Times Square. And it serves as an epicenter of the retail corridor that now runs from 5th Avenue to 7th Avenue. Some may remember the song, “Give My Regards to Broadway,” from the George M. Cohan musical Little Johnny Jones with the iconic line, “Remember me to Herald Square. ” But written in 1904, “Give My Regards to Broadway” references a very different Herald Square than the one we’re familiar with today.


Present day Macy’s on 34 st covered in billboards Manhattan NYC Vintage NYC photography Untapped cities Sabrina romanoImage via Flickr by Phil Davis

The big, red billboard next to Macy’s in Herald Square is a familiar site for most New Yorkers. It is so familiar that New Yorkers probably don’t notice that the billboard is actually a separate building not connected to Macy’s. Macy’s has never even owned that building which puts a notch in the corner of the department store. Today, we’ve pulled up vintage photographs from the Library of Congress that show evolution of that corner building and its gradual concealment, the result of an intense business rivalry and real-estate battle.


The Bowery Boys recently took us into Gimbel’s traverse, a gorgeous skybridge located on West 32nd Street in Herald Square. In 1910, Gimbel’s department store set up a location in Herald Square near their main competitor, Macy’s. Other departments stores followed suit, and a shopping district was born. To distinguish themselves from the other department stores, Gimbel’s was known for various marketing ploys like the “bargain basement.” If that wasn’t enough to attract attention, they also created a skybridge  in 1925 which connected the department store to the newly-acquired annex next door. Architects Richmond H. Shreve and William F. Lamb, who later helped design the Empire State Building, designed the copper, three-story-tall structure. With this marvelous feat of engineering, shoppers no longer had to deal with crossing the congested street below.


Looking up, we noticed a preponderance of owls around New York City. Given the owl’s mythological and symbolic connection to wisdom, it’s not surprising to find them at the city’s institutions. Below are some notable owls we’ve spotted so far- what other owls can you add to the list?

1. Alma Mater at Columbia University

The Alma Mater in front of Columbia University’s Low Library. Photo by slgckgc on Flickr.

The Alma Mater statue sits imposingly at the foot of Columbia University‘s Low Library. Student legend has it that the first student in each incoming class to spot the owl hiding in the folds of the statue will be the valedictorian of the class.  (more…)