Does Central Park Belong to the West Side?


In the city, you've got the Upper West Side, the Upper East Side, and in between them a vast terra nullius, neither West nor East, where people walk dogs and attempt to read but end up quickly falling asleep, right? Well ... maybe. As Manhattan borough president Scott Stringer noticed this week, bus signs on the west side of Fifth Avenue — the dividing line between west and east addresses throughout Manhattan — claim that western Manhattan starts on the eastern border of Central Park. Reports the Times:

A stop across the avenue from East 84th Street was identified as “5 Avenue & West 84 St.” Same for the stop at Fifth Avenue and “West” 72nd Street. The peculiar signage continued all along the length of the park.

Peculiar indeed. Logically, the West Side should encompass all land west of Fifth Avenue, even if some of that land happens to be covered in grass instead of pavement. But it's Central Park. How could Central Park be on the West Side? The concept just doesn't feel right. Nevertheless, historians contacted by the Times tend to agree that, as odd as it seems, that's where it is.

Samuel I. Schwartz, a former transportation commissioner and a longtime authority on New York’s streetscape, said he believed the city’s bus stop signs were, in fact, correct.

On that side of the street, “you are on the West Side of Manhattan,” Mr. Schwartz said ....

“I never thought of Central Park as being on the West Side,” said Kenneth T. Jackson, the Columbia historian and editor of The Encyclopedia of New York City, adding, “I guess technically it is.”

And yet, the East won't cede the territory easily:

Al Sussman, a retired television producer, was waiting for a bus on Tuesday at Fifth Avenue and what he believed to be East 90th Street. He inspected a bus sign that read “W 90 St” and shook his head: “We are on the East Side and nobody is going to tell me we are not.”

It's like the New York version of the struggle for the Holy Land, except instead of Jews on one side and Arabs on the other, both sides are Jews.

Along 5th Ave. in Manhattan, a Dispute Over Where East and West Begin [NYT]