Unlock the Grid, Then Ditch the Maps and Apps

February 24, 2012 at 4:00 am

Even with all of the technology and maps available, navigating the city can leave you scratching your head. Flickr/Ed Yourdon

From apps that help you locate the nearest bathroom to apps that tell you the best spot to hail a cab, there’s an abundance of smartphone technology available that makes it easier to get around New York City.

But what happens when you’re running to an appointment at an unfamiliar address and your smartphone dies? (Acts up? Freezes?) What if there’s no subway map in sight? Here are a few rules of thumb to help you navigate the city the old-fashioned way — without relying on an app, map or GPS.

Manhattan

Remember, “Even = East”: All Avenues run north (uptown) to south (downtown). Streets always run east to west (crosstown). With the exception of large cross-streets that run in both directions, even-numbered streets run one-way towards the east and odd-numbered streets run one-way towards the west.

Going off the grid: When the Commissioners’ Plan of 1811 implemented the grid plan for most of Manhattan, Greenwich Village did not conform to the new design. South of 14th Street, the street numbers give way to street names and the layout of the parallel streets skews to the southwest. A few pointers:

• Both Eighth and Ninth Avenues roll into Hudson Street, which then runs into TriBeCa.
• If you’re lost in the Village and need to find your way back to the grid, you can trace West 11th or 12th Streets east or walk along Bleecker Street which veers back onto the grid at Sixth Avenue.
• If all else fails, ask someone how to get to Washington Square Park. At least you’re guaranteed to see something interesting.

Image by Park It NYC.

Manhattan Math Magic: This is a cool but not so convenient way to find the cross street for a Manhattan address. It’s also great math practice for an elementary schooler:

1. Take the building number from the destination address, drop the last digit and divide by 2. For example, if you are trying to get to 800 Eighth Avenue, you would divide 80 by 2 which equals 40.
2. Refer to the Manhattan Address Locator table (printed in telephone books, most New York guidebooks and also available online). Add or subtract the magic number from the quotient. For example, according to the table, for all addresses along Eighth Avenue, you add 9. So 40 plus 9 equals 49. Therefore, the cross street for 800 Eighth Avenue is 49th Street.
3. Consult Google Maps to appreciate how cool this is!

Brooklyn

There is no Avenue Q: A large section of Brooklyn, from Prospect Heights to Sheepshead Bay, is laid out along avenues labeled with letters A to Z. Quentin is the name of the Road where Avenue Q should appear on the grid. The numbered streets that intersect the lettered Avenues run southeast and northwest.

Queens

Every Queens address contains the number of the cross street, the house number and a street or avenue that can help determine where it is in the borough. Flickr/Susan NYC

A Queens address tells you everything: All Queens addresses are written with three important pieces of information. The first number indicates the lower numbered cross street. The second number after the hyphen indicates the house number. The third item is the street name and is usually numeric. Queens Streets run north to south and the numbers increase as you move eastward. Avenues in Queens run east to west and the numbers increase moving southward.

For example, if the address is 14-28 30th Road, you would know that the location you are looking for is between 14th Street and the next cross-street, the house number is 28 and, because the street number is relatively low, that it’s in the western part of the borough.

The Bronx

Jerome Avenue is the Bronx’s Fifth Avenue: Jerome Avenue divides the eastern and western halves of the Bronx. Much of the West Bronx’s numbering continues where Upper Manhattan’s street grid left off. Manhattan’s Third Avenue, Park Avenue and Broadway also continue into the Bronx.

Staten Island

Know your bridges: Staten Island’s grid is all over the place but that doesn’t mean that a self-respecting New Yorker shouldn’t know which bridges lead to and from the island borough. Here they are:

• The sun sets behind the Verrazano Bridge. It connects Brooklyn to Staten Island. Flickr/Wilson.Cheong

The Verrazano-Narrows Bridge
connects eastern Staten Island with Brooklyn.
• The Bayonne Bridge connects northwestern Staten Island with Bayonne, New Jersey.
• The Goethals Bridge connects Elizabeth, New Jersey to mid-western Staten Island.
• The Outerbridge Crossing connects Perth Amboy, New Jersey and Tottenville, on Staten Island’s southern tip.