28 April 2011

[Address_Nerd] You're So Vain, I Bet You Think This Address Is About You

2614.Thanks to fellow League of Extraordinary Address Nerds member Ben Lukoff for this little gem.

To a person like me, the New York City address pattern in extremely interesting. Twenty house numbers to the block on the avenues (and not every avenue beginning on the baseline of 5th Avenue) make for a very interesting address location experience: a tradition in phonebooks and travel guides is to include a amusingly abstruse algorithm to determine what cross-street your address may (or may not) be near.

Latterly the wonders of the intartubez have brought web-based pages and apps for download that make it very easy for those who are NYC tyros to find what they need. But, as in life, everything is as it is, but not as it ought to be: there is cachet and status to addresses, and as it turns out, if you are sufficiently close to Fifth Avenue, that Avenue of distinction, you can petition the City of New York for a vanity address:

Borelli is a somewhat reluctant steward of the vanity-address program, which dates back several decades and can be blamed for, among other things, the proliferation of the word “plaza” and the disproportionate number of businesses and homeowners with Park Avenue and Fifth Avenue letterheads. (“Pulling an avenue address over” is the topographical parlance for denying that your building’s real entrance is on, say, East Seventy-sixth Street.) “I usually try to talk them out of it,” Borelli said, referring to vainglorious building owners. “If you’re having a heart attack and you’ve got a vanity address, it could take a few crucial moments for the E.M.T. driver to figure it out. And you could be dead by the time help arrives.” The residents of 44 West Sixty-second Street once sued the owners of 62 West Sixty-second Street, whose nifty mnemonic address comes at the expense of directional logic: it is east, not west, of No. 44. The plaintiffs were upset about missing out on pizza deliveries and Town Car pickups amid the confusion. (They lost.)

I like to think, anyway, that such a thing is very unlikely to have happen here in PDX, with our excuciatingly-logical street rationale; while we will be goofy about naming our streets sometimes (it must be said, I've warmed to the idea of SE César E Chávez Blvd instead of Thirty-Ninth Avenue, as flawed as the process of getting there was … heck, it looks great on a street blade), you aren't going to get an address on SW Broadway, say, if you are two doors around the corner on Taylor Street.

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