The Port Authority as you’ve never seen it before

Is this really the way the 42nd Street Port Authority Bus Terminal once looked? The postcard doesn’t lie.

When it opened in 1950, replacing several smaller bus stations that dotted Manhattan, the bus terminal—then spanning 40th to 41st Streets—featured a spiffy Art Deco exterior.

In the late 1970s, it was expanded to 42nd Street and fitted with the X-shaped steel trusses it still sports today—a design that put the terminal on a 2008 list of the 10 ugliest buildings.

“Those who pass by this iron monstrosity might be tempted to ask about a completion date, but alas, this is the finished product,” wrote, which put out the list.

“Hated by New Yorkers and tourists alike, this aptly named station is enough to make you take the train.”

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23 Responses to “The Port Authority as you’ve never seen it before”

  1. mykola (mick) dementiuk Says:

    I still remember the old buildings on 42 St before they tore them down to expand Port Authority. And across 8th Ave was a bank where for many years there followed a parking lot. Just like on 6th Ave, where Verizon building stands, many old building had to come down. Manhattan is erected on countless irreplaceable memories. You blink an eye and it seems to be gone.

  2. wildnewyork Says:

    I mostly recall the creepy characters hanging around the eighth avenue entrance and inside the terminal itself in the 1980s. It’s not a great place now, but it was disgusting back then.

  3. Upstate Ellen Says:

    I never saw the building from the outside, because I used to take the subway to get there, but inside was bad enough! In the late ’70s, the Port Authority was dirty, smelly, and full of unsavory characters… not a great time to be in NYC, either.

  4. mk Says:

    There is film with Judy Holliday and Jack Lemmon—Phffft! — made in the 50s that has a couple of shots of Holliday and her characters children going in and out of the front door of an impossibly civilized looking “Port Authority”

  5. wildnewyork Says:

    Thanks MK–I’ll have to catch that! I have a hard time imagining the Port Authority looking like it does in this postcard.

  6. Ricky Says:

    The Drago in the Port Authority gives a great shoe shine!

  7. mykola (mick) dementiuk Says:

    I just remembered that there was a bus terminal on 37th St & 1st Ave in the 60s. When I came back from San Francisco in 1968 the airport bus brought me there from the Summer of Love in SF. It was a small building able to hold buses, right across from the 1st Ave gas station, also non-existent anymore. At the time, I had not a penny with me but my back pack as I walked down 1st Ave home to the Lower East Side. The bus terminal on 37th St was replaced by a high rise apartment building and airport buses moved to the outside of Grand Central Station, as they are also outside of the Port Authority. I also recall there was a bus terminal on 10th-11th Ave on 42nd St…But some pictures still exist of that site. But how many places don’t exist anymore, not even in photographs?

  8. Detroit Beats New York, in Baseball and in Terror Trials - Says:

    […] became the first city restaurant outside Manhattan to earn three Michelin stars. [Daily News]The Port Authority, an Art Deco wonder. [ Ephemeral New York]A pit bull suspected of mauling a woman was shot and killed near a Long […]

  9. BabyDave Says:

    Mick —

    I remember the East Side Airline Terminal, too. I don’t think it was all that small, though — maybe only two stories high, but didn’t it take up the whole First Avenue side of the block and go halfwat to Second Avenue?

  10. BabyDave Says:


  11. wildnewyork Says:

    Interesting…I’ll see what I can find!

  12. mykola (mick) dementiuk Says:

    And this:

  13. City Room: Detroit Beats New York, in Baseball and in Terror Trials | NEW YORK Says:

    […] Port Authority, an Art Deco wonder. [ Ephemeral New […]

  14. Thomas Rinaldi Says:

    The lettering on the front of this building supposedly inspired the design of the typeface “Gotham”, used for the Obama campaign and lots of other places… see

  15. Meet the shiny new Port Authority Bus Terminal | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] long been considered one of the city’s ugliest buildings, an “iron monstrosity” and center of 1970s and 1980s sleaze that just can’t escape its sketchy […]

  16. Chuck Lindstrom Says:

    I preferred driving my bus into the old Dixie Bus Terminal, small though it was – at least there weren’t the vagrants and other undesirables hanging around. Nobody around to remember that one anymore – it closed in 1957!

  17. Hell’s Kitchen and Couture Dreams… | Sharon Watts Writes Says:

    […] my Greyhound ticket, I peered at departure times in the Port Authority Bus Terminal. This was the beginning and end of the loop that led back to Pennsylvania: a city block-contained […]

    • Michael Saffle Says:

      Excellent essay! I first arrived at Port Authority in September 1968. As a guy things weren’t quite as scary, perhaps, as they were for you, but the place was sordid enough to distress me even now in memory. You write well, and I appreciate it. Thank you.

  18. Jim green Says:

    Great stuff. Would like to be on your list.

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