PARK AVENUE: Street of Dreams by James Trager

PARK AVENUE: Street of Dreams

Email this review


Listless writing, a plethora of inconsequential detail, and slipshod organization are just three of the problems that turn Trager's potentially lively social and historical gambol along Manhattan's Park Avenue into a dreary trudge. Trager (Amber Waves of Grain, 1973) attempts to inject a light touch into his portrait by including chapters dealing with literary figures associated with Park Avenue, hotels and private clubs located along the thoroughfare, and efforts to preserve Grand Central Terminal and other landmarks. Too often, however, his narrative reads like a real-estate agent's book of listings, an address-by-address catalogue of apartments, ceiling heights, number of fireplaces and terraces, etc. He sketches in the history of the street, which started out as noisy, smoke-and-cinder-filled Fourth Avenue (railroad trains huffed and puffed along most of its length) but eventually became a synonym for sophistication and wealth. The facts are baldly presented, however, with little attempt to enliven them with colorful anecdotes. There is a charming aside concerning one Martha Bacon who, in 1924, was outraged to learn that her address had been changed from Number One Park Avenue to Number Seven when the street was extended two blocks south to 32nd Street. Another tells the heart-rending tale of ""Mama Doe,"" an elderly homeless woman who, when ejected from Grand Central Terminal on Christmas Eve, 1985, died of pneumonia as a result of exposure. Such examples, however, are rare. Generally, there is a lack of human dimension in Trager's portrait, which overwhelms the reader With statistics concerning occupancy rates, construction costs, and tax evaluations. Routine and uninvolving.

Pub Date: Feb. 1st, 1989
Publisher: Atheneum