42nd Street is a major crosstown street in the New York City borough of Manhattan, known for its theaters, especially near the intersection with Broadway at Times Square. It is also the name of the region of the theater district (and, at times, the red-light district) near that intersection. The street has held a special place in the mind of New Yorkers since at least the turn of the twentieth century, and hosts some of New York's most important buildings, including (east to west) the Chrysler Building, Grand Central Station, Times Square, and the Port Authority Bus Terminal.
A popular 1933 movie musical named 42nd Street, set in Depression Manhattan, colorfully described the bawdy mixture of Broadway shows and prostitution during the early 20th century. In 1980, it was turned into a successful Broadway musical, which was revived in 2001 in a theater that was itself on 42nd Street. The following is an excerpt from the musical:
From the early 1960s until the late 1980s, 42nd Street was the cultural center of American grindhouse theatres, which spawned an entire subculture. The book Sleazoid Express, a travelogue of the 42nd Street grindhouses and the films they showed, describes in detail the unique blend of people who made up the theater-goers, including black pimps, low-grade mafiosi, transvestites, Latino gangsters, "rough trade" homosexuals, aggressive lesbians, trench coat-clad perverts, and thrill-seeking squares.
In the late 1980s, the grindhouses were all shut down in a series of late-night raids by the New York City Police Department, under the orders of Mayor Ed Koch as a part of his resolution to clean up the city's seedier elements.
The IRT 42nd Street Shuttle runs under 42nd Street between Broadway/Seventh Avenue (Times Square) and Park Avenue (Grand Central Terminal); the IRT Flushing Line begins at 41st Street/Seventh Avenue, runs between 41st and 42nd from Sixth Avenue to Park Avenue, curves onto 42nd Street between Park and Lexington Avenues, and continues under the East River to Queens. Each line stops at Times Square and Grand Central; the Flushing Line also stops at Fifth Avenue–Bryant Park.
Additionally, MTA New York City Transit's M42 bus runs the length of 42nd Street between the Circle Line ferry terminal (or the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center) on the Hudson River and the headquarters of the United Nations on the East River, and its M104 bus runs from the UN headquarters via Times Square before turning north along Broadway to 125th Street. The 42nd Street Crosstown Line streetcar used 42nd Street.
The Lincoln Highway, conceived in 1913 as America's first transcontinental highway, officially started at Times Square and ran west on 42nd Street to reach the Weehawken Ferry. After crossing the Hudson River to Weehawken, New Jersey, it continued about 3,000 miles across the country to San Francisco, California.