- Lower Manhattan’s Canal Street was recently given the name “boulevard of death” by a group of advocates for safer transit in New York.
- One reason behind the name is the high number of deaths and injuries that have happened along this street.
- There’s a mix of million-dollar condos and abandoned storefronts, with many businesses having to close their doors because expensive real estate has driven up the costs of formerly affordable spaces to live and work.
In late January 2018, the group launched a petition demanding city officials do something to calm Canal Street’s traffic.
“Businesses struggle to receive deliveries along the corridor. Workers … carry massive loads, on foot, in the middle of car traffic. People walking to shops and storefronts do not fit on the footpath, and are forced into harm’s way,” reads the petition.
The seven-lane street allows cars access to the Manhattan Bridge, Interstate 78, and the Holland Tunnel, as well as pedestrian access to nearly every subway line in Manhattan. Because of the amount of access the road allows, traffic is often crazy, with drivers hardly following traffic cues and pedestrians running across the street whatever chance they get.
Canal Street has not only become one of the most hectic boulevards in New York City, but one of the most dangerous – a 2017 study by New York’s Department of Transportation found that Canal Street was one of the most common crash locations of 2017, with at least 100 reported accidents. The DOT had spent $US1.5 million on making it more pedestrian-friendly over the two years before.
The real estate along the 1.4 miles of Canal Street is an eccentric mix of multimillion-dollar condos and empty storefronts, with the occasional gift shop or boutique scattered along the strip. The blocks lined with empty storefronts are especially eerie considering the bustling neighbourhood of SoHo is just a block away.
I went to Canal Street myself to see why the street has been deemed the “boulevard of death,” and this is what I found:
Starting at the westernmost part of Canal Street, I saw brand-new, multimillion-dollar condos sitting atop empty storefronts. The is the Zinc Building, where one-bedroom apartments have sold for upwards of $US1.5 million.
The only storefront that isn’t empty is a specialty cryotherapy spa called Cryofuel.
Ads for designer clothes cover abandoned lots and graffitied storefronts.
Traffic in this area is a nightmare, with cars and trucks sitting at a standstill at five-way intersections. Crossing guards have to direct traffic even with the traffic lights.
As I continued walking, I saw more empty stores. This one will eventually be the Jackie Robinson Museum, but it’s not set to open until 2019.
Most of the closed stores had graffiti over them. It seemed like it was mostly local businesses that weren’t able to keep their doors open.
Canal Plastics is one of the few businesses that’s survived over 50 years.
Canal Rubber is another one.
Argo Electronics, considered a staple of Canal Street for the 37 years it was open, shut its doors in October 2017.
Despite being one of the busiest spots in Manhattan, many parts of Canal Street look like they have been abandoned for years.
For blocks, this is how it continues …
… on both sides of the street.
Even the National City Bank, a New York City landmark, has failed to hold onto businesses. A Walgreens store was the most recent to close, leaving another vacant storefront.
Source: Curbed NY
These abandoned buildings were recently approved to be replaced by low-rise commercial buildings, which means scaffolding is soon to replace the graffitied stores.
Source: Curbed NY
From the abandoned Canal Street storefronts, you can see upscale SoHo apartments not even a block away. The contrast makes Canal Street feel like part of a different city.
Walking down Canal Street and seeing block after block of terrible traffic and long-abandoned storefronts made it clear why advocates have named it the “boulevard of death.”
NOW WATCH: Briefing videos
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.