34th Street

Which Street is Coming Up? Right There, It's in Lights

July 21, 2002
Jason Begay, The New York Times

The street signs in traffic-congested Manhattan - the thin metal strips with white letters perched high on light posts - can be difficult to see, especially at night or by someone standing on a bus that is speeding past an intended stop.

By day, they look like their regular metal counterparts, only larger and cleaner. At night, the signs maintain a subtle glow that can be seen a block away. The signs, blue with white letters, also list the numbers of the buildings on the adjacent blocks.

The president of the 34th Street Partnership, Daniel A. Biederman, who stands over 6 feet tall, realized this three years ago. Since then he helped design larger, self-illuminated street signs for the partnership, a business improvement district that covers southern Midtown from 31st to 36th Streets and Park to 10th Avenues. The first three signs began operating last week, at Fifth Avenue and 34th Street.

"This is so the street signs will be extremely clear on buses," Mr. Biederman said.

The three new signs at the busy intersection are the first of about 200 signs that will be installed in the district by Thanksgiving, Mr. Biederman said. He added that he hopes to install 24 more signs within the next two months near Herald and Greeley Squares, two parks in the district.

"By Thanksgiving we expect every corner in the district to have one," Mr. Biederman said.

The signs, 50 inches wide and 20 inches tall, are powered by about 60 miniature light-emitting diodes. Each sign, which burns about one kilowatt-hour a year, costs about $9 annually to charge, Mr. Biederman said. Mr. Biederman estimated that each sign cost about $1,000, including installation. The partnership is paying for the $250,000 project.

The new signs have started to attract at least a small amount of attention from pedestrians and tourists.

"This will show them at home that we have really been here," said Julia Bemder, who was visiting New York from Germany, as she got ready to snap a photograph of her friends Bettin Rurka and Anna Przewoznik standing under the illuminated Fifth Avenue sign on Thursday night. "Not just postcard pictures."

"Fifth Avenue," Ms. Rurka exclaimed as she posed under the sign. "It's what you have to love from New York City."