January 30, 2013 is President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s 131st birthday, and what better way to celebrate in a FNY manner than to finally nail down the source, or the southern end, of where the Drive begins — at least as far as the Department of Transportation determines it. For me, that’s always been a gray area.


Before the elevated parkway that shrouds South Street was built in the early 1940s, and renamed FDR Drive after the president’s death in 1945, South Street itself was right at the edge of the island, and the East River licked at it and occasionally inundated it. The prows and bowsprits of sailing ships hung over it.

At its northeastern end, it made a dogleg at Montgomery Street, with Front Street taking its place and running northeast. In the 1890s, South Street came to an end at the now-vanished Corlears Street. the bend in the East river north is called Corlear’s Hook.


This 1949 Hasgtrom finds the Lower East Side in transition. ┬áThe East River Drive is still new, while most of the major housing projects that dominate the neighborhood haven’t appeared yet with the exception of the Vladeck Houses, the Al Smith Houses, and Knickerbocker Village, and most of the area’s cross streets are still completely intact.

The city has never quite known what to call the elevated viaduct over South Street. It’s called the East Side Express Highway, or the South Street Expres Viaduct, or a combination of those terms. (I imagine most motorists just call it the FDR Drive.)

Here, the South Street dogleg is preserved, ending at Pier 45 (today there are no piers north of Pier 17, in the Seaport). Front Street continues to run along the East River Drive, which is a surface road east of Gouverneur Slip. Today, Front Street gets no further north than Dover Street.


Today the DOT marks the FDR Drive as far south as Montgomery Street, which is a two-lane route with a center mall running along the Vladeck Houses. Montgomery has always been the point where South Street doglegged to the east, and to this day, traffic uses it to gain access to the FDR Drive going northbound.


Thus, Montgomery can claim to be the only street that intersects both South Street and the FDR Drive.



Categorized in: Forgotten Slices Tagged with:


  1. domish13 says:

    Front Street between Montgomery and Jackson Streets is still extant, renamed as FDR Drive. The southbound exit (Manhattan Bridge/South Street) before the viaduct begins takes you onto it.

    • Kevin Walsh says:

      Yes — my post concerns where the DOT begins marking the FDR Drive

      • domish13 says:

        Forgot to mention that the South Street dogleg is also extant. You have a photo of it up above. It is the street (unmarked and I believe now closed off) to the right of the FDR on-ramp at Montgomery Street. My dad would take my mom over there in the late 60’s and early 70’s to teach her how to drive (unsuccessfully, though).

  2. Alex says:

    In your third paragraph, shouldn’t “northeast” (twice) be “southwest”?

  3. Tal Barzilai says:

    On both Manhattan highways, there is one side to get to one direction, but hard to find one to get to the other side, though for the West Side Highway portion of the 9A, which is below 57th Street, it’s obvious to go to the northbound side. Starting with the FDR Drive northbound, it can be accessed from Whitehall Street, Avenue of the Finest, Montgomery Street, Houston Street, 23rd Street, 34th Street, 48th Street, 63rd Street, 96th Street, and possibly 125th Street. Meanwhile the West Side Highway southbound can be accessed from Chambers Street, Laight Street, Canal Street, 24th Street, 29th Street, 34th Street, 41st Street, 42nd Street, 43rd Street, 51st Street, 54th Street, and 55th Street, though I am only talking about the West Side Highway portion, and all exits on the Henry Hudson Parkway portion go both ways. One other thing, exits 3 and 4 are skipped when going northbound on FDR Drive, but that’s because there was never any ramps for them to begin with.

  4. Don says:

    I am trying to find elevations for the height of the FDR Drive viaduct at the South Street Seaport area for purposes of planning logistics for staging an outdoor corporate event. Does anyone have any idea what the relative heights are? clearances beneath and roadway and railing heights above?

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