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Street Signs of New York

Some streets are fixtures in everybody's memory, whether or not they have been walked down. Here are some of New York City’s famous streets and intersections—the stuff of asphalt dreams.

Canal Street and Mulberry

Canal Street & Mulberry Signs

At the intersection of one of the America's biggest black markets and mean streets of yore, there are more knock-off Prada purses, perfume shops and cheap watches you can shake a stick at. This is where Chinatown meets Little Italy. The amount of merchandise is stereotypical for New York, replete with crowded sidewalks, hawkers, tchotchkes and hustle-bustle. On rare occasions there's a police crackdown on illegal merchants, but not often—so don't follow anyone into a backroom or a basement to see "the better knock-offs." Canal Street is a one-stop shopping experience of American capitalism at its fever pitch.

As of the 2010 Census, Canal Street boasts the largest ethnic Chinese population outside of Asia, with 682,265 documented individuals living nearby. Turn the corner onto Mulberry and land in a co-opted version of Scorsese's Little Italy. Every September, Italians of every ilk come be a part of the near-century-old Feast of San Gennaro, a celebration of food, stereotypes and family. While you're there, play the local version of eye-spy: see if you can find a Mulberry tree in and amongst all the chicken francese and gnocchi.

125th Street Signs
125th Street

As significant as Harlem is to the formation of our American identity, it continues to have a complicated socioeconomic present. The Apollo Theatre is here, and the National Jazz Museum is just one street over. W. E. B. DuBois and Arthur Miller wrote here. Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, Lena Horne, Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Marcus Garvey, and Fiorello LaGuardia (beloved New York mayor of the '30s and '40s), all found their voices here.125th Street is rife with eager revitalization proposals from rising politicians, yet it resists a traditional gentrification. Perhaps it's the street's placement atop a fault line that keeps the neighborhood just uncomfortable enough to reinforce its migratory nature. Whatever idea you may have of Harlem, you'll never really know it until you feel 125th Street underneath your feet.


Union Square Signs
Union Square

This is the junction where the main thoroughfares of early Manhattan merged – linking Broadway and Park Avenue South to Fourth Avenue. Because of this union, the central open space is home to political demonstrations, art vendors, Farmers' Markets, jugglers, breakdancers (still), Michael Jackson impersonators, the occasional cult leader, quiet chess players, onlookers, students and shoppers. If you're looking for a show of humanity, find it here. If you're looking for an audience, find that here as well. Bring your camera, buy an apple cider donut and a coffee, and settle in for your most inexpensive day of entertainment in the Big Apple.

Christopher Street & Gay Signs
Christopher Street and Gay , in the heart of Greenwich Village

In 1969, a group of gay New Yorkers stood their ground against the NYPD one summer night at the Stonewall Inn near Christopher and Gay. The authorities had been sent to crack down on open displays of gay behavior. From here, the modern gay rights movement was born. Riots erupted throughout the city for days afterwards. Within the next two years, there were chapters of local advocacy groups in every major city protecting the rights of the LBGT community.

And Gay Street? No relation – it's had that name since before the Civil War.

Wall Street

Perhaps it needs no explanation in these times. On the actual street, it might surprise you how physically close to Ground Zero it is, and how many police cars and beat cops are swarming the area. Here, as the financial capital of the world, Wall Street continues to be a pacemaker for the global market. The wealth accrued by its tycoons has played a major role in making New York City what it is; Wall Street patrons have helped build and sustain vibrant cultural institutions like MoMA, the Met, and the American Museum of Natural History. The pedestal on which George Washington was sworn in as America's first President is still here, too.

34th Street Signs

34th Street

34th street is the home of the Empire State Building, the site of America's largest department store, Macy's, and its famous Thanksgiving Day Parade. On the border of Koreatown and equidistant from Times Square and Madison Square, 34th street's Herald Square is a tourist attraction, the lunchroom of thousands of Midtown workers, and a hub of product launches, photo shoots, filming, and performance.

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