Park Avenue Viaduct

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Park Avenue Viaduct
GCT PAV 2.jpg
A portion of the viaduct crosses 42nd Street at Grand Central Terminal.
Park Avenue Viaduct is located in New York City
Park Avenue Viaduct
Park Avenue Viaduct is located in New York
Park Avenue Viaduct
Park Avenue Viaduct is located in the United States
Park Avenue Viaduct
LocationPark Avenue between East 40th and 46th Streets
Manhattan, New York City
Coordinates40°45′07″N 73°58′40″W / 40.75194°N 73.97778°W / 40.75194; -73.97778Coordinates: 40°45′07″N 73°58′40″W / 40.75194°N 73.97778°W / 40.75194; -73.97778
ArchitectWarren & Wetmore; Reed & Stem
Architectural styleBeaux-Arts
NRHP reference #83001726
Significant dates
Added to NRHPAugust 11, 1983[1]
Designated NYCLSeptember 23, 1980

The Park Avenue Viaduct, also known as the Pershing Square Viaduct, is a roadway in Manhattan, New York City. It carries Park Avenue from East 40th to 46th Streets around Grand Central Terminal and the MetLife Building, then through the Helmsley Building; all three buildings lie across the line of the avenue.

The viaduct was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983, technically as a "boundary increase" to the Grand Central Terminal's listing, but carrying a separate reference number.[1]


The viaduct provides a pedestrian-, bicycle-, and bus-free express route for taxicabs and other automobile traffic from 40th Street to 46th Street. From the south, traffic from Park Avenue or the Park Avenue Tunnel enters a ramp which rises to a T-intersection above 42nd Street, over the street-level entrance to Grand Central Terminal below. A statue of Cornelius Vanderbilt, longtime owner of New York Central, is at the T-intersection where the two legs of the Park Avenue Viaduct split.[2]

The elevated roadway then passes in front of Grand Central Terminal and around it to the east, passing the MetLife Building and descending again to ground level through the east portal in the Helmsley Building, arriving at 46th Street. Southbound traffic reverses this pattern: up a ramp through the Helmsley Building's west portal, past the MetLife Building, around the west side of Grand Central, and then to the right and down again to 40th Street, where the viaduct connects to Park Avenue.

The street-level service roads of Park Avenue between 40th and 42nd Streets are called Pershing Square. The section between 41st and 42nd Streets is open only to bikes and pedestrians.[3] The square is named after General John J. Pershing. Consequently, the portion of the viaduct between 42nd and 40th Streets is also known as the Pershing Square Viaduct.[4] The arches of the Pershing Square Viaduct over 42nd and 41st Streets are based on the Pont Alexandre III in Paris.[5]:83 Two ramps, northbound and southbound, run along street level, flanking the viaduct on either side.

Plaque on the viaduct
The entrance to the Pershing Square Cafe, which extends to 41st Street under the viaduct


The viaduct was first proposed by New York Central Railroad president William J. Wilgus in 1900 as part of the construction of Grand Central Terminal.[6]:60–62 During a design competition in 1903, Reed and Stem, experienced railway-station designers, proposed vehicular viaducts around the terminal. New York Central ultimately selected Reed and Stem, as well as Warren and Wetmore, to construct Grand Central Terminal.[5]:53 [6]:118–120[7] However, the two architectural firms had a tense relationship. Over Wilgus' objections, Warren and Wetmore removed a proposed 12-story tower as well as vehicular viaducts that had been part of Reed and Stem's plan.[6]:123 The elevated viaducts were restored, as were several of Reed and Stem's other design elements, as part of an agreement between the two firms in 1909.[7]

Construction on the viaduct began in 1917, after the terminal had opened.[8] Work progressed rapidly despite the difficulty in securing labor and material during World War I, and the viaduct opened on April 16, 1919.[9][10] The original viaduct took two way traffic from Park Avenue at 40th Street and carried it around the west side of Grand Central Terminal, depositing it at the corner of Forty-Fifth Street and Vanderbilt Avenue. A spur ran east along the rear of the terminal, providing parking space and an entrance to the Commodore Hotel.[9]

Shortly after the viaduct's opening, plans started to formulate for a public square at the bottom of the viaduct, which would be called Pershing Square in honor of General Pershing. In 1920, some of the land that had been intended to be Pershing Square was sold to a real estate development company, which put up an office building called the Pershing Square Building, completed in 1923.[4] The service roads of the Park Avenue Viaduct would later become Pershing Square.

Additional measures were needed to prevent a traffic tie up at the north end of the newly completed pass. New York Central engineers suggested a plan that proposed that Park Avenue be closed to all vehicular traffic at the 45th Street grade, and that traffic be carried around both sides of the terminal and deposited at Park Avenue and 46th Street.[9] A contract to build the northbound leg of the viaduct around the terminal's east side was certified in December 1925.[11] The plan was approved by the Board of Estimate in January 1928, and construction was complete by September of that year.[9]

An $8 million restoration of the viaduct was announced in 1989.[12] The viaduct's original lamps, removed in a 1986 repaving of the viaduct, were restored in 1992.[13]

Pershing Square structure[edit]

In 1939, the city built a steel and glass-brick structure under the viaduct at the center of Pershing Square from 42nd Street to 41st Street,[14] which it used to provide tourist information.[15] The building, at 90 East 42nd Street, was later converted into a restaurant. In 1995, the city and the Grand Central Partnership unveiled plans to restore the restaurant space at a cost of $2 million, then lease it as a restaurant.[16] A cafe signed a lease at the space in 1997.[17] As of 2014, the restaurant under the viaduct is called the Pershing Square Cafe.

In popular culture[edit]

The viaduct appears in numerous movies and television show episodes:

  • Will Smith, as a policeman, pursues a criminal by jumping off the viaduct in the 1997 film Men in Black.
  • In the 2007 film I Am Legend, Will Smith's character is captured by a vampire's snare there.
  • The viaduct is also shown during a battle in the 2012 film The Avengers.
  • Michael Keaton flies through the viaduct in 2014's Birdman.


See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. April 15, 2008.
  2. ^ Durante, Dianne L. (2007). Outdoor Monuments of Manhattan: A Historical Guide. NYU Press. ISBN 9780814719862. Retrieved December 19, 2018.
  3. ^ Warerkar, Tanay (February 16, 2018). "Busy block near Grand Central Terminal will transform into a pedestrian plaza". Curbed NY. Retrieved December 5, 2018.
  4. ^ a b "Pershing Square Viaduct Designation Report", New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (September 23, 1980)
  5. ^ a b Robins, A.W.; New York Transit Museum (2013). Grand Central Terminal: 100 Years of a New York Landmark. ABRAMS. ISBN 978-1-61312-387-4. Retrieved December 6, 2018.
  6. ^ a b c Schlichting, Kurt C. (2001). Grand Central Terminal: Railroads, Architecture and Engineering in New York. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 0-8018-6510-7.
  7. ^ a b "Grand Central Terminal Interior" (PDF). Landmarks Preservation Commission. September 23, 1980. p. 5.
  8. ^ "NEW FORTY-SECOND STREET VIADUCT; Work Started on Structure to Connect Park Avenue with Grand Central Terminal. WILL RELIEVE CONGESTION The City to Pay $587,000 as Its Share of the Cost of the Improvement". The New York Times. November 4, 1917. Retrieved December 7, 2018.
  9. ^ a b c d "New Viaduct Thoroughfare Relieves Park Avenue Traffic Congestion; Result of Many Years' Work" (PDF). The New York Times. September 2, 1928. p. Real Estate, page 123. Retrieved December 7, 2018.
  10. ^ "Link Up Park Av. to Ease Congestion". The New York Times. April 17, 1919. Retrieved December 7, 2018.
  11. ^ "PARK AV. ROADWAY PLAN GOES THROUGH; Craig Certifies Contract for Great Improvement Around Grand Central Terminal. LAST OBSTACLE REMOVED To Extend Vanderbilt Avenue, Utilize Depew Place and Widen Park Avenue Roadway. PARK AV. TRAFFIC PLAN GOES THROUGH". The New York Times. December 29, 1925. Retrieved December 26, 2018.
  12. ^ Gray, Christopher (October 29, 1989). "STREETSCAPES: The Grand Central Viaduct; An $8 Million Revival for a Midtown Masterpiece". The New York Times. Retrieved December 24, 2018.
  13. ^ Louie, Elaine (October 8, 1992). "CURRENTS; 1919 Lights Return to A Viaduct". The New York Times. Retrieved December 25, 2018.
  14. ^ "90 East 42nd Street" on the New York City Geographic Information System map
  15. ^ Federal Writers' Project (1939). "New York City Guide". New York: Random House. ISBN 978-1-60354-055-1. (Reprinted by Scholarly Press, 1976; often referred to as WPA Guide to New York City.), p.222
  16. ^ Martin, Douglas (November 16, 1995). "Plan for Pershing Square Would Yield New Park". The New York Times. Retrieved December 25, 2018.
  17. ^ Rothstein, Mervyn (May 14, 1997). "Restaurant to Fill Niche Under Park Ave. Viaduct". The New York Times. Retrieved December 25, 2018.

External links[edit]