Signs and the City

The street sign on the corner of 11th Street and Fourth Avenue.

Manhattan is 13.4 miles of diversity, excitement and adventure. With so much to do it is easy to get caught up in the bright lights and sky-high buildings that we pass on a day to day basis — especially if you are new.

But what we often overlook are the city’s street signs.Take time to understand each street and district as another intricate part of New York’s lifetime of change and unique character.

The colors of street signs vary most often between green with white letters, blue with white letters and brown with beige letters. Many pedestrians and drivers don’t give these color pairings a second thought, but they’re not arbitrary.

The iconic fluorescent green with this bright white lettering is the standard format for street signs throughout the borough. After some time, the city council decided to assign colors to street signs based on the neighborhood they marked. Midtown has an abundance of blue signs with a Statue of Liberty in the corner. Washington Square Park has an an abundance of brown and white signs.

Mitchell Moss, a professor in the department of Urban Policy and Planning, gave insight into the different signs around the city. He said brown signs indicate the streets are located in a historical district.

CAS freshman Ana Siracusa found that each street has a specific way to color its corners.

“My hometown [Chicago] is covered in mainly green signs,” Siracusa said. “If the street has been named after an individual, it is color coded as brown beneath the green.”

Around the world, other countries take their street signs just as seriously. Steinhardt freshman Nat Attarsanya, who is from Thailand, spoke about how Thai signs are colored either blue or green.

“Green if the street is a highway and blue if it is able to be walked upon,” Attarsanya said.

The signs that label each street tend to be nothing more than a marker for us as we travel from one place to another, but it’s clear that there is much more depth behind the way these signs are made. Although cliche, it’s the little things that we should take note of and attempt to learn the history behind.

Email Joanna Pisacone at [email protected] 




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