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How Google Street View documents a changing New York City

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See a decade of change in the five boroughs thanks to Google’s mapping tool

Central Park South circa 2016, just one of the rapidly changing parts of Manhattan documented via Google’s Street View tool.
Via Google Maps

It’s been a decade since Google Street View launched, giving folks all the tools they need to virtually travel to far-flung places without leaving the comfort of their couch. But the tool is also useful for those who are curious about the evolution of places over time—and few places have experienced as drastic a change to their landscape in the past decade as New York City.

Think about where NYC was in 2007: it was pre-recession, but also before the so-called “eight digit boom” that led to the development of the supertall skyscrapers that now dominate Central Park South. Megaprojects like Hudson Yards or Pacific Park had yet to begin construction, and neighborhoods like Williamsburg or Long Island City—while still in the process of adding new buildings—weren’t the built-up areas we see today. Heck, the High Line and Brooklyn Bridge Park hadn’t even opened yet.

But what a difference a decade makes. Here, we’ve used Google Street View’s time machine function to track the evolution of several New York streetscapes—the difference is pretty stunning. (Don’t blame us if this leads you down your own time machine explorations today.)

↑ 432 Park Avenue

It may be hard to remember a time before 432 Park Avenue didn’t stick out in the middle of the Manhattan skyline like a middle finger, but Manhattan’s tallest residential tower (for now, anyway) didn’t begin rising from the ground until 2011. That means Google Street View has plenty of images from the time before Rafael Viñoly’s supertall tower made its mark on the city—including this one from 2009, compared to a 2016 shot with the slender skyscraper figuring in prominently.

↑ Long Island City

One of the neighborhoods that’s changed the most drastically since 2007 is Long Island City, which has seen an incredible 12,500 apartments built (in who knows exactly how many buildings) since 2010, according to a recent RentCafe study. That’s pretty obvious when looking at Google Street View: the number of buildings that have popped up between 2009 and 2016 is astonishing—and only going to increase in the coming years.

↑ Barclays Center

The construction of the Barclays Center (and the megaproject it anchors, Pacific Park) was anything but easy, and in 2009—the year of the “before” photo—it had barely even made it through the approval process. But what a difference seven years makes: as of 2016, when the “after” photo was taken, the stadium has been open for four years and the former Atlantic Yards is well on its way to being realized.

↑ Shea Stadium/Citi Field

Speaking of stadiums, one of the most obvious changes from 2007 to the present day—for sports fans, anyway—is the demolition and reconstruction of New York’s two baseball stadiums. While Yankee Stadium is mostly a swankier version of the old ballpark, Citi Field—which replaced Shea Stadium, built in the mid-1960s—is a totally different animal. Here, you can see the difference; the photo of Shea is from 2007, while Citi Field is pictured in 2016.

↑ Gowanus

It’s a whole new Gowanus—no, seriously. In 2007, the Coignet Building on the corner of Third Avenue and Third Street was crumbling, and the barren lot next door was just that: a barren (and, let’s face it, probably contaminated) lot. But a decade later, the corner is nearly unrecognizable thanks to the pricey grocery store’s arrival. Even the 19th-century Coignet Building has a new look.

↑ One World Trade Center

When you think of how New York City has changed in a decade, Lower Manhattan is a no-brainer; much of the neighborhood has been completely remade, largely because of the World Trade Center finally getting off the ground. In 2009, the year of the “before” photo, the area was still a hole in the ground; now, it’s home to several skyscrapers, a museum, a memorial, and myriad other neighborhood-boosting developments. (But clearly, it’s the skyscrapers that stick out.)

↑ Williamsburg

Williamsburg continually finds itself atop lists of the neighborhoods that are most rapidly gentrifying in New York City, and a quick spin through Google’s time machine confirms that yes, things have changed a lot in a decade. Kent Avenue is one of the best examples of this: Before, in 2007, there’s one lone tall tower on the waterfront; after, in 2016, it’s been joined by a bunch of other new residential buildings. You can also see how the actual streetscape has changed, thanks to the once-controversial bike lane and the addition of Citi Bike.

↑ Hudson Yards

This far west side megaproject is spinning a new neighborhood out of thin air, and so a trip in the wayback machine—in this case, to 2009—shows an area that’s still in flux. This view, from Eleventh Avenue near the Javits Center, is especially striking now that most of the buildings in Hudson Yards’s first phase are well on their way.