Traffic

Aerial Overview of the George Washington Bridge, 1957

Aerial Overview of the George Washington Bridge, 1957

The river is smooth and the traffic is minimal on this bright winter day in 1957. If it weren't for the distinctive Pallisades of the Jersey side, the low-rise buildings of Washington Heights would be indistinguishable from those of Fort Lee, across the river.

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A Squadron of U.S. Navy Biplanes Flies of Madison Square Park, 1930

A Squadron of U.S. Navy Biplanes Flies of Madison Square Park, 1930

On this beautiful day in 1930, two squadrons of U.S. Navy planes can be seeing flying over Union Square and Madison Square Parks. The Metropolitan Life Tower lives up to its name, towering over the remainder of the skyline, including the not-so-tall Flatiron building, which cuts like the prow of a ship through the confluence of Fifth Avenue and Broadway.  Drivers of today should look on in envy at the traffic -- or lack thereof -- passing through the famed intersection.

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Fifth Avenue and Washington Square North, 1930

Fifth Avenue and Washington Square North, 1930

To photograph this street scene from the winter of 1930, the photographer stood in Fifth Avenue, his back to Washington Square Park, and aimed his camera north. From his point of view, it was probably an unremarkable winter morning. Traffic flowed in both directions, pedestrians went about their business, and off in the distance the 14th Street Traffic Tower ensured that everyone kept moving along. For us, however, this photograph is a remarkable moment in time. The cars, the style of dress, and the Traffic Tower itself are all artifacts of a New York City that is no more.

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Flatiron Building Seen from 26th Street, 1907

Flatiron Building Seen from 26th Street, 1907

The Flatiron District doesn't look terribly different today, with the iconic Flatiron Building cutting like a ship's prow through the combined traffic of Fifth Avenue and Broadway. It's the nature of the traffic that's changed. Here we see horses, carriages, and streetcars, rather than the cars, taxis, and buses of today. Oh, and maybe there are a few more tall buildings. But really, with the Flatiron in view, who notices them?

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Pennsylvania Station Train Concourse, 1940

Pennsylvania Station Train Concourse, 1940

The great Pennsylvania Railroad station was thirty years old at the time of this photograph, and it had yet to see its greatest traffic. Passenger volume would reach its peak during the war years. Rail travel would diminish in the years following the war as other modes of transportation, most notably air travel, gained popularity. By the 1950s, Penn Station would no longer be profitable, and the Pennsylvania Railroad would sell its air rights as means of offsetting the cost of operating the station. This would result in the eventual demolition of station.

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Broadway and West 43rd Street, 1939

Broadway and West 43rd Street, 1939

Times Square in 1939 differs from the Times Square of today only in the details. The Internation Casino may now be Toys R Us, but the essential nature of the place is unchanged. Traffic, enormous signs and advertisements, and throngs of people are still the order of the day.

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The Boulevard on a Rainy Day, c. 1899

The Boulevard on a Rainy Day, c. 1899

North of Columbus Circle, Broadway was known as The Boulevard, until the name was officially changed around the time of this photograph. Hanging above the roadway is a sign that doesn't apply in the context of contemporary New York City. It reads, "Pleasure Traffic Keep Over to the Left. Business Traffic Keep Over to the Curb."

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Delancey and Clinton Street Traffic Jam, 1923

Delancy and Clinton Street Traffic Jam, 1923

Imagine coming off the Williamsburg Bridge into this mess at Delancey and Clinton Streets on the Lower East Side.  It's enough to send you right back to Brooklyn.  The traffic jam depicted in this 1923 Black and White photo shows a snarl up of cars, trolleys, and the Third Avenue Rail line.  Even by today's standards this is vehicular congestion of epic proportions.

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East 42nd Street and Third Avenue, 1931

East 42nd Street and Third Avenue, 1931
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Queensboro Bridge from Second Avenue, 1914

Queensboro Bridge from Second Avenue, 1914

Pedestrians and some horse-drawn vehicles can be seen crossing the 59th Street Bridge from Second Avenue in Manhattan. The pedestrians seem to outnumber the vehicular traffic, although both are light by today's standards. The buildings to the south of the bridge are painted with a variety of advertisements, including for Coca-Cola, Wallach's Superior Laundry, Omega Oil for Sore Muscles, Puffed Rice, and Castoria.

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