It may not quite be Times Square, nor is it quite Herald Square. Not West enough to be the Garment District, but not North enough nor Italian enough to be considered the Theatre District. Located exactly five blocks southwest of Grand Central and five blocks southeast of Port Authority, 38th street between 5th and 6th avenue is an odd combination of tourist’s hotspots, commuter’s checkpoints, and the fashion world’s factories and studios.
More than half of the Northeast side of the street is dominated by the perfume and accessory ground floor of Lord and Taylor’s Department Store. During the winter, the windows are a huge attraction for tourists and natives alike, as the interactive Christmas displays move and dance in the vein of classic New York department stores. One storefront down sits Hymen Hendler & Sons, a Jewish family-owned button and trim store with beautiful ribbons and notions sitting in the windows. To the left is veteran New York designer Yeohlee Teng’s only store location. Out of solidarity for the garment district and its workers, she opened her store here underneath her own design studio and blocks from her manufacturers, forsaking the streets of Soho or Madison Avenue. Occasionally she comes down to greet her customers: a practice virtually unheard of outside Paris or Milan.
A hidden Cuban restaurant one storefront down is a favorite of CNN anchor Anderson Cooper’s, who rents a studio apartment across the street. On the south side of the street, an Edible Arrangements store that sells “floral” arrangements made from assorted fruit sits next to an Olympic Pita restaurant that advertises sushi in its window. On the 2nd floor of this self-proclaimed Mediterranean-Japanese hybrid restaurant lives a psychic that palm-reads from her living room space. From the palm reader’s sofa looking down, a curious visitor may see a tiny hotel named Americana with no lobby and a singular forest- green door. It is a one-room per floor hotel that can hold a maximum of 16 guests at any given time and seems to be a favorite among European travelers. From the tiny forest-green windows, tourists face the giant, skyscraper-like Atlas apartment complex made famous for housing the Project Runway contestants during their time in New York.
Four weeks out of the year, the street is littered with stick-thin models, frazzled designers, and hustling interns working fashion week. Most weeks out of the year, tourists pass through between the New York Public Library, Times Square, and the Empire State Building, only to find themselves on a less-than interesting street. If there’s a cultural parade, a pride parade, or a march regarding Obama or the bible, it will undoubtedly pass 38th street on either its 5th or 6th Avenue side, if not both.
Seemingly the only unification of the street’s various businesses and homes is their Newmark Knight Frank emblems signifying the real estate company’s monopoly over the street’s property. The supers of these various buildings, wearing khaki-green work uniforms and hats with their names in red, walk up and down the streets, collecting mail, cleaning up trash, and working nine to six to meet the bizarre mixed-bag needs of an easy-to-forget street.