Monday, November 24, 2008

Long Boulevards: Anderson Avenue

Today I drove the length of Anderson Avenue, which serves as a Main Street for Fairview and Cliffside Park. It is lined by small stores and services. You can find a post office, library, barbecue spot and halal meat market along this street. It obviously serves as a center for organization for those two towns. What is surprising in driving this boulevard is that as one crosses over into Fort Lee, Anderson Avenue becomes a residential street, anchored by Fairway Market at its southern end and Main Street at the northern end. This sudden change in building type requires some explanation -- why should Anderson Avenue be a commercial corridor in Cliffside Park and then not on the other side of the "Welcome to Fort Lee" sign? On an earlier exploration, friends and I had traced Fort Lee's Main Street on its east-west course from the Palisades to Hackensack. Fort Lee grew up along Main Street, which is where its commercial center is located. Its leafy residential sections are away from the hustle and bustle of its center. Anderson Avenue, which is perpendicular to Main Street, heads south, eventually arriving at the Hudson River at Weehawken. The same logic works for Cliffside Park and Fairview that works for Fort Lee -- commerce on the main street and leafy residential streets at the edges -- but the orientation is shifted by 90 degrees. I learned while spending the summer in Paris that pathways often have their logic routed in history. I lived in small apartment on Rue Saint Andre des Arts, a street that has been the site of heavy foot traffic for about 900 years. Originally people were walking from the center of the city to the duty free market outside the city walls. The lively commerce that was started then is still located in the same place and still draws great crowds. Thus history guides our footsteps, whether we're walking the streets of Paris or exploring the major city streets of our hometowns in New Jersey.

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