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West Side Signs on East Side of Central Park are Confusing, Pol Says

By Amy Zimmer | March 22, 2011 5:05pm | Updated on March 23, 2011 7:40am

By Amy Zimmer

DNAinfo News Editor

UPPER EAST SIDE — Nobody would confuse the Metropolitan Museum of Art with being on Manhattan's west side. Yet the bus signs in front of the museum on Fifth Avenue say, West 81st Street.

In fact, the more than two-dozen bus signs on Fifth Avenue all along Central Park, from 110th to 59th indicate these are west side streets — while street signs along the park, often in view of the bus signs, are denoted as "east," according to the Manhattan borough president's office.

It's a confusing situation, especially for the tourists who flood the 11 institutions along Museum Mile, said Scott Stringer, the borough president, who fired off a letter to Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sakik-Khan on Tuesday asking her to change the signs.

"This is the east side of Manhattan, so we don't need signs telling people this is the west side," Stringer said.

The sign discrepancy came to Stringer's attention after a confused tourist raised the issue Monday night with his wife, who works at the Jewish Museum on Fifth Avenue and East 92nd Street.

"There are some real consequences to getting this wrong," Stringer worried. "Think about someone having a heart attack or police emergency" — and looking up at the sign when calling 911.

Fifth Avenue has long been the dividing line between the east and west sides of Manhattan.  And every Manhattanite knows that on the east sides of Fifth Avenue, the streets have the East prefix and on the west side of the avenue they have the West prefix.

But this logic goes out the window when you get to Central Park. No one would confuse the shady sidewalks along the park's Fifth Avenue border with the Upper West Side.

And, according to city maps, streets that traverse the park from Central Park West to Fifth Avenue are not considered west side streets once they reach the east side.

"The 'West' prefix is not only confusing," along the east side of the park, Stringer said. "It's incorrect."

Stringer didn't know how long the signs along the park's east side have denoted west side streets, but M4 bus driver Carlos Rivera did.

"I've been here 25 years, and it always said West 79th Street, West 61 Street," Rivera said.

Rivera didn't think it was too much of a problem though. "Tourists just go and look at Central Park," he said. "But to be honest with you, from 59th Street to 110th Street, they should change it because this part of the park is known as the east side."

The Department of Transportation said it would look into the matter and fix any incorrect signs with a sticker.

"These signs were installed in the mid 1990s and this is the first we've heard of this issue, which we will work to address," said DOT spokesman Seth Solomonow.