How to Drive in the Streets of Manhattan, New York City

By Sam Sloan

Manhattan Island was originally settled by the Dutch. The original settlement was at the South end of Manhattan, where Battery Park is now located. Many streets and places still retain their original Dutch names.

As the city grew, a numbered grid system was established above Houston (pronounced "How-Ston") Street. The numbered avenues run north-south. The numbered streets run east-west.
Robert DeNiro
Robert DeNiro

All of the numbered avenues reach Houston Street, with the exception of Fifth Avenue, which runs into Washington Square Park. The avenues with even numbers run one way, north to south. The avenues with odd numbers run one way, south to north. However, the East side numbered avenues run the opposite way.

Thus, Second, Fifth, Seventh, Ninth and Eleventh Avenues run north to south. First, Third, Fourth, Sixth, Eighth and Tenth Avenues run south to north.

The numbered streets start from First Street and go up to 220th Street. The even numbered streets generally run one way, west to east. The odd numbered streets generally run one way, east to west.

There are numerous exceptions. There are six major cross-town streets, which run both ways. These are 14th Street, 23rd Street, 34th Street, 42nd Street, 57th Street and 125th Street.

In addition, 59th Street on the East side runs one way, west to east, because that is the entrance to the 59th Street Bridge to Queens. Similarly, 60th Street on the East side runs one way, east to west, because that is the exit from the 59th Street Bridge from Queens.

65th Street runs one way, west to east, because that is the west-east crossing point to the 65th Street Transverse Road, the major crossing route across Central Park. Similarly, 66th Street runs one way, east to west, because that is the opposite road crossing Central Park.

Fourth Avenue is an exception. It is a short street which goes only from West 4th Street up to 14th Street and ends. Fourth Avenue is like a child who never grew tall.

There are three named avenues between Fifth and Third Avenue. These are Madison, Park and Lexington Avenues. Madison Avenue starts at 23rd Street and runs one way uptown. Park Avenue starts at 17th Street and Union Square Park and runs both ways. Lexington Avenue runs one way downtown and ends at 21st Street, where it runs into Gramercy Park.

The major routes out of Manhattan are the bridges and tunnels. To enter the Midtown Tunnel, go down 34th Street to the entrance between First and Second Avenue. The 59th Street bridge has an upper deck and a lower deck. Drivers will strongly prefer one deck to the other, because they exit at slightly different points in Queens. To enter the lower level, go east on 59th Street. To enter the upper level, go east on 58th Street.

To enter the Triborough Bridge to Queens or the Bronx, go east on 125th Street.

To enter the Williamsburg Bridge to Brooklyn, go east on Delancey Street. To enter the Manhattan Bridge, go east on Canal Street. To enter the Brooklyn Bridge, go northeast on Park Place past City Hall near the Wall Street Financial District or go east on Chambers Street.

To enter the Holland Tunnel, go west on Canal Street. To enter the Lincoln Tunnel, go west on 42nd Street and then turn south on Eleventh Street.

The best way to go to Kennedy Airport or to La Guardia Airport is usually through the Midtown Tunnel. The Triborough Bridge is sometimes faster, but is longer and more expensive. The 59th Street Bridge is the shortest and cheapest route, but involves a long trip through the streets of Queens.

Many of the streets change names. The only numbered street below Houston Street is Sixth Avenue, which ends at Franklin Street. Below Houston Street, Eighth Avenue becomes Hudson Street, Seventh Avenue becomes Varick Street, Fifth Avenue would become West Broadway (except that it is blocked by Washington Square) Third Avenue becomes Bowery, Second Avenue becomes Chrystie Street, First Avenue becomes Allen Street, Avenue A becomes Essex Street, Avenue B becomes Clinton Street, Avenue C becomes Pitt Street and Avenue D becomes Columbia Street.

All of the Upper West Side avenues change names as well. Eighth Avenue becomes Central Park West, Ninth Avenue becomes Columbus Avenue, Tenth Avenue becomes Amsterdam Avenue and Eleventh Avenue becomes West End Avenue.

I will write more about this subject, if there are expressions of interest.

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