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Mapping 18 Iconic Signs That Define the NYC Skyline

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The development wave sweeping through New York City is transforming the skyline, and taking with it some of the city's most recognizable neon signage. Among the fallen are the Eagle Clothes sign in Gowanus, and two others on this list, the GE lettering on 30 Rock and the Kentile Floors sign, are on the way out. Others are having slightly better luck, like Long Island City's famous Pepsi-Cola sign, which is now surrounded by huge glass rental towers, while still others, like the Radio City Music Hall signage, are ostensibly here to say. We've put 18 of the most iconic New York City signs (that, as of this post, still exist) on one handy map — enjoy them now, because they might not be around forever.
Research by Hannah Frishberg

UPDATE: This article previously stated that the Watchtower sign in Dumbo has been taken down, but it was only speculated that it might be removed. The big red letters still stand atop the former headquarters of the Jehovah's Witnesses.

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1. Apollo Theater

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253 West 125th Street
New York, NY 10027

The original neon sign outside the famous Apollo Theater was put up in 1940. What's there today is a faithful reproduction, the installation of which was overseen by the Landmarks Commission. [Photo by David Lam]

2. Coney Island Cyclone

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1000 Surf Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11224

The Cyclone would be pretty recognizable even without the big block letters at the top of the lift hill, but they certainly don't hurt. [Photo by Michael Tapp]

3. Domino Sugar

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316 Kent Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11211

The Domino Sugar Factory was built in 1856, then completely rebuilt in 1882 after a fire, but the iconic 40-foot-hight signage wasn't added until the 1950s. Two Trees has promised to retain the sign as part of their ongoing redevelopment of the complex. [Photo by Joel Raskin]

4. Empire Hotel

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44 West 63rd Street
New York, NY 10023

The red neon rooftop signage reading "Hotel Empire" was erected when the Empire Hotel opened in 1923. What stands there today is a 1960s copy of the original.

5. Essex House

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160 Central Park West
New York, NY 10023

The Essex House opened in 1931, and its six-story rooftop sign was erected the following year. The sign has made appearances in movies such as Madagascar (an animated version, of course) and Pizza Verdi. It was blacked out from 1940 to 1945 over fears of bombing raids.

30 Rockefeller Plaza, Rockefeller Center
New York, NY 10123

The GE signs atop the famous 30 Rock, which themselves replaced the original RCA signs that topped the building from 1937 until 1969, are not long for this world. Building owner Comcast has Landmarks-approved plans to replace them with an LED-lit Comcast wordmark and put up a 17-foot NBC Peacock on the western facade. [Photo via New York Neon]

7. Gringer

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29 1st Avenue
New York, NY 10003

This neon beauty was put up in 1953 by prolific 20th-century sign-maker Charles Karsch for Philip Gringer’s appliance store. It was refurbished in 2007, so it remains in great shape. [Photo by Vivienne Gucwa]

8. Joey Ramone Place

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Bowery & East 2nd Street
New York, NY 10003

The Joey Ramone Place sign on the corner of Bowery and East 2nd Street was New York City's most stolen sign, having been swiped four times between 2003 and 2010, before the city moved it 20 feet off the ground. [Photo by Eugene Gannon]

9. Junior's

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386 Flatbush Avenue Extension
Brooklyn, NY 11201

Junior's Most Fabulous Cheesecakes and Desserts is currently on the market and development rights would allow for a 1,000-foot tower on the site, which means that its vertical lettering can be added to the Immediately Threatened list.

10. Katz's Delicatessen

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205 East Houston Street
New York, NY 10002

The famous Katz's Deli, the site of the Meg Ryan orgasm scene from When Harry Met Sally..., still has its original 1935 neon signage. [Photo by Matt Logan]

11. Kentile Floors

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111 9th Street
Brooklyn, NY 11215

Even though it's currently dismantled and its future is uncertain, it wouldn't be an iconic signs map without the Kentile Floors sign. The sign is now under the stewardship of the Gowanus Alliance, who are looking for a new home for it in the neighborhood. [Photo by Nathan Kensinger]

12. Nathan's Famous

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1310 Surf Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11224

The original Nathan's Famous, opened in 1916 still stands at its Coney Island location. It's vertical neon sign is one of the oldest in the city, possibly dating back to before 1930. [Photo by Troy McCullough]

13. The New Yorker Hotel

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481 8th Avenue
New York, NY 10001

The New Yorker Hotel's massive red lettering was installed in 1941. The hotel ran into financial trouble a couple decades later and the sign went dark from 1967 to 2005, when it was rebuilt with LED lights. New owners Wyndham have plans to redo it with color-changing LEDs that mirror those of the nearby Empire State Building. [Photo by Joanna Pan]

14. Oy Vey! (and others)

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Williamsburg Bridge
New York, NY 10002

The "Leaving Brooklyn, Oy Vey!" sign on the Williamsburg Bridge is one of many sassy signs marking Brooklyn's borders. Others include "Fuhgeddaboudit," "Believe the Hype!" "How Sweet It Is!" "Go Take a Showah!" "You Talkin' to Me?!" [Photo via Ad Appreciation]

15. Pepsi-Cola

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4610 Center Boulevard
Long Island City, NY 11109

Long Island City's high recognizable 147-foot-long Pepsi-Cola sign, which dates back to the 1930s, was recently relocated to a specially carved out spot on the river-facing side of TF Cornerstone's new rental tower at 4610 Center Boulevard. [Photo by Joel Raskin]

16. Radio City Music Hall

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1260 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10020

Among New York City's most iconic, the Radio City Music Hall's neon signage was installed in 1932 but later refurbished to make the neon even brighter than it had been originally. [Photo by kiminnyc]

17. Russ & Daughters

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179 East Houston Street
New York, NY 10002

Legendary appetizing store Russ & Daughters has been in the same Lower East Side location since it opened in 1914. Its neon sign, bordered by two multicolored fish, was installed in 1951 and, in recent years, was restored by 21st-century neon sign stalwarts Let There Be Neon. [Photo by Juni Safont]

18. Watchtower

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25 Columbia Heights
Brooklyn, NY 11201

The Watchtower sign has been put on the Endangered list by the Jehovah's Witnesses' recent selling spree, but it's still standing as of now.

19. Wonder Wheel

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Deno's Wonder Wheel Amusement Park, 3059 Denos Vourderis Place
Brooklyn, NY 11224

For good measure, one more in Coney Island. The Wonder Wheel was built in 1920 and the signage followed soon thereafter. [Photo by woodendesigner]

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1. Apollo Theater

253 West 125th Street, New York, NY 10027

The original neon sign outside the famous Apollo Theater was put up in 1940. What's there today is a faithful reproduction, the installation of which was overseen by the Landmarks Commission. [Photo by David Lam]

253 West 125th Street
New York, NY 10027

2. Coney Island Cyclone

1000 Surf Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11224

The Cyclone would be pretty recognizable even without the big block letters at the top of the lift hill, but they certainly don't hurt. [Photo by Michael Tapp]

1000 Surf Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11224

3. Domino Sugar

316 Kent Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11211

The Domino Sugar Factory was built in 1856, then completely rebuilt in 1882 after a fire, but the iconic 40-foot-hight signage wasn't added until the 1950s. Two Trees has promised to retain the sign as part of their ongoing redevelopment of the complex. [Photo by Joel Raskin]

316 Kent Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11211

4. Empire Hotel

44 West 63rd Street, New York, NY 10023

The red neon rooftop signage reading "Hotel Empire" was erected when the Empire Hotel opened in 1923. What stands there today is a 1960s copy of the original.

44 West 63rd Street
New York, NY 10023

5. Essex House

160 Central Park West, New York, NY 10023

The Essex House opened in 1931, and its six-story rooftop sign was erected the following year. The sign has made appearances in movies such as Madagascar (an animated version, of course) and Pizza Verdi. It was blacked out from 1940 to 1945 over fears of bombing raids.

160 Central Park West
New York, NY 10023

6. GE

30 Rockefeller Plaza, Rockefeller Center, New York, NY 10123

The GE signs atop the famous 30 Rock, which themselves replaced the original RCA signs that topped the building from 1937 until 1969, are not long for this world. Building owner Comcast has Landmarks-approved plans to replace them with an LED-lit Comcast wordmark and put up a 17-foot NBC Peacock on the western facade. [Photo via New York Neon]

30 Rockefeller Plaza, Rockefeller Center
New York, NY 10123

7. Gringer

29 1st Avenue, New York, NY 10003

This neon beauty was put up in 1953 by prolific 20th-century sign-maker Charles Karsch for Philip Gringer’s appliance store. It was refurbished in 2007, so it remains in great shape. [Photo by Vivienne Gucwa]

29 1st Avenue
New York, NY 10003

8. Joey Ramone Place

Bowery & East 2nd Street, New York, NY 10003

The Joey Ramone Place sign on the corner of Bowery and East 2nd Street was New York City's most stolen sign, having been swiped four times between 2003 and 2010, before the city moved it 20 feet off the ground. [Photo by Eugene Gannon]

Bowery & East 2nd Street
New York, NY 10003

9. Junior's

386 Flatbush Avenue Extension, Brooklyn, NY 11201

Junior's Most Fabulous Cheesecakes and Desserts is currently on the market and development rights would allow for a 1,000-foot tower on the site, which means that its vertical lettering can be added to the Immediately Threatened list.

386 Flatbush Avenue Extension
Brooklyn, NY 11201

10. Katz's Delicatessen

205 East Houston Street, New York, NY 10002

The famous Katz's Deli, the site of the Meg Ryan orgasm scene from When Harry Met Sally..., still has its original 1935 neon signage. [Photo by Matt Logan]

205 East Houston Street
New York, NY 10002

11. Kentile Floors

111 9th Street, Brooklyn, NY 11215

Even though it's currently dismantled and its future is uncertain, it wouldn't be an iconic signs map without the Kentile Floors sign. The sign is now under the stewardship of the Gowanus Alliance, who are looking for a new home for it in the neighborhood. [Photo by Nathan Kensinger]

111 9th Street
Brooklyn, NY 11215

12. Nathan's Famous

1310 Surf Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11224

The original Nathan's Famous, opened in 1916 still stands at its Coney Island location. It's vertical neon sign is one of the oldest in the city, possibly dating back to before 1930. [Photo by Troy McCullough]

1310 Surf Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11224

13. The New Yorker Hotel

481 8th Avenue, New York, NY 10001

The New Yorker Hotel's massive red lettering was installed in 1941. The hotel ran into financial trouble a couple decades later and the sign went dark from 1967 to 2005, when it was rebuilt with LED lights. New owners Wyndham have plans to redo it with color-changing LEDs that mirror those of the nearby Empire State Building. [Photo by Joanna Pan]

481 8th Avenue
New York, NY 10001

14. Oy Vey! (and others)

Williamsburg Bridge, New York, NY 10002

The "Leaving Brooklyn, Oy Vey!" sign on the Williamsburg Bridge is one of many sassy signs marking Brooklyn's borders. Others include "Fuhgeddaboudit," "Believe the Hype!" "How Sweet It Is!" "Go Take a Showah!" "You Talkin' to Me?!" [Photo via Ad Appreciation]

Williamsburg Bridge
New York, NY 10002

15. Pepsi-Cola

4610 Center Boulevard, Long Island City, NY 11109

Long Island City's high recognizable 147-foot-long Pepsi-Cola sign, which dates back to the 1930s, was recently relocated to a specially carved out spot on the river-facing side of TF Cornerstone's new rental tower at 4610 Center Boulevard. [Photo by Joel Raskin]

4610 Center Boulevard
Long Island City, NY 11109

16. Radio City Music Hall

1260 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020

Among New York City's most iconic, the Radio City Music Hall's neon signage was installed in 1932 but later refurbished to make the neon even brighter than it had been originally. [Photo by kiminnyc]

1260 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10020

17. Russ & Daughters

179 East Houston Street, New York, NY 10002

Legendary appetizing store Russ & Daughters has been in the same Lower East Side location since it opened in 1914. Its neon sign, bordered by two multicolored fish, was installed in 1951 and, in recent years, was restored by 21st-century neon sign stalwarts Let There Be Neon. [Photo by Juni Safont]

179 East Houston Street
New York, NY 10002

18. Watchtower

25 Columbia Heights, Brooklyn, NY 11201

The Watchtower sign has been put on the Endangered list by the Jehovah's Witnesses' recent selling spree, but it's still standing as of now.

25 Columbia Heights
Brooklyn, NY 11201

19. Wonder Wheel

Deno's Wonder Wheel Amusement Park, 3059 Denos Vourderis Place, Brooklyn, NY 11224

For good measure, one more in Coney Island. The Wonder Wheel was built in 1920 and the signage followed soon thereafter. [Photo by woodendesigner]

Deno's Wonder Wheel Amusement Park, 3059 Denos Vourderis Place
Brooklyn, NY 11224