This heavily trafficked street has been nicknamed the ‘boulevard of death’ — here’s why

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

  • Lower Manhattan’s Canal Street was recently given the name “boulevard of death” by a group of advocates for safer transit in New York.
  • One reason behind the name is the high number of deaths and injuries that have happened along this street.
  • There’s a mix of million-dollar condos and abandoned storefronts, with many businesses having to close their doors because expensive real estate has driven up the costs of formerly affordable spaces to live and work.

“The boulevard of death” was the harsh name recently given to Lower Manhattan’s Canal Street byTransportation Alternatives, a safe-transit advocacy group.

In late January 2018, the group launched a petition demanding city officials do something to calm Canal Street’s traffic.

“Businesses struggle to receive deliveries along the corridor. Workers … carry massive loads, on foot, in the middle of car traffic. People walking to shops and storefronts do not fit on the sidewalk, and are forced into harm’s way,” reads the petition.

The seven-lane street allows cars access to the Manhattan Bridge, Interstate 78, and the Holland Tunnel, as well as pedestrian access to nearly every subway line in Manhattan. Because of the amount of access the road allows, traffic is often crazy, with drivers hardly following traffic cues and pedestrians running across the street whatever chance they get.

Canal Street has not only become one of the most hectic boulevards in New York City, but one of the most dangerous – a 2017 study by New York’s Department of Transportation found that Canal Street was one of the most common crash locations of 2017, with at least 100 reported accidents. The DOT had spent $1.5 million on making it more pedestrian-friendly over the two years before.

The real estate along the 1.4 miles of Canal Street is an eccentric mix of multimillion-dollar condos and empty storefronts, with the occasional gift shop or boutique scattered along the strip. The blocks lined with empty storefronts are especially eerie considering the bustling neighborhood of SoHo is just a block away.

I went to Canal Street myself to see why the street has been deemed the “boulevard of death,” and this is what I found:


Starting at the westernmost part of Canal Street, I saw brand-new, multimillion-dollar condos sitting atop empty storefronts. The is the Zinc Building, where one-bedroom apartments have sold for upwards of $1.5 million.

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

Source: Streeteasy


The only storefront that isn’t empty is a specialty cryotherapy spa called Cryofuel.

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

Source: Cryofuel


Ads for designer clothes cover abandoned lots and graffitied storefronts.

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

Traffic in this area is a nightmare, with cars and trucks sitting at a standstill at five-way intersections. Crossing guards have to direct traffic even with the traffic lights.

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

As I continued walking, I saw more empty stores. This one will eventually be the Jackie Robinson Museum, but it’s not set to open until 2019.

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

Most of the closed stores had graffiti over them. It seemed like it was mostly local businesses that weren’t able to keep their doors open.

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

Canal Plastics is one of the few businesses that’s survived over 50 years.

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

Canal Rubber is another one.

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

Argo Electronics, considered a staple of Canal Street for the 37 years it was open, shut its doors in October 2017.

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

Source: Vanishing New York, Yellow Pages


Despite being one of the busiest spots in Manhattan, many parts of Canal Street look like they’ve been abandoned for years.

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

For blocks, this is how it continues …

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

… on both sides of the street.

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

Even the National City Bank, a New York City landmark, has failed to hold onto businesses. A Walgreens store was the most recent to close, leaving another vacant storefront.

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

Source: Curbed NY


These abandoned buildings were recently approved to be replaced by low-rise commercial buildings, which means scaffolding is soon to replace the graffitied stores.

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

Source: Curbed NY


From the abandoned Canal Street storefronts, you can see upscale SoHo apartments not even a block away. The contrast makes Canal Street feel like part of a different city.

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler

Walking down Canal Street and seeing block after block of terrible traffic and long-abandoned storefronts made it clear why advocates have named it the “boulevard of death.”

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Business Insider/Jessica Tyler