Where in New York is Sesame Street?

By Carmen Nigro, Milstein Division of United States History, Local History and Genealogy, Stephen A. Schwarzman Building
September 23, 2014
The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts

Sesame Street Subway Entrance

Can I tell you how to get to Sesame Street? Well, I can try. You can get to the Sesame Street Subway Stop by the A, B, 1, or 2 trains, which if you check any MTA map, do not intersect at any current station.

A typical NYC neighborhood has a subway stop, a deli, a laundromat, a daycare, street vendors, a park, and a diverse population. Sesame Street has all of those things and shows on a regular basis how important street life, diversity, and neighborhoods actually are to the people who live in them. One reason that Sesame Street has worked so well on television for so long is that it depicts what works so well about living in a New York neighborhood. Sesame Street is nothing if not a paragon of New York at its best. Even Gothamist has covered Sesame Street neighborhood news.

Sesame Street Characters sing about the subway.

Many have gone to great lengths to pinpoint what neighborhood Sesame Street is exactly, using stage directions, lyrics from songs, and various scenes from the show.

There are are clues in songs, such as instructions to take the 123 Bus, or visual clues such as characters getting off at the 86th Street stop on the subway during a Christmas episode.

Rumored neighborhoods (an incomplete list):

General view - Queens - Astoria. Image ID: 730483F

Astoria, Queens

This rumor is mostly supported by the fact that Sesame Street is filmed in Astoria at Kaufman Astoria Studios. But Queens is a likely contender because of its reputation as the most diverse county in the nation. Astoria is known as a working class neighborhood with a variety of ethnic heritages. It also has a musical heritage as the home of the Steinway Piano Factory. However, Astoria is served by the N, Q, E, M, and R trains.

Find out more about Astoria:

Avenue B at 15th Street and , East side to North, Manhattan. Image ID: 486046

Alphabet City, Lower East Side

Creator Joan Ganz Cooney proposed the title “123 Avenue B” which would have placed Sesame Street across from Tompkins Square in Alphabet City, on the Lower East Side. It does seem appropriate for a show that is sponsored by letters and numbers to take place in a neighborhood called Alphabet City. Avenues A, B, C, and D do not have their own subway station, but they are probably best served by the F, J, M, Z and L trains.

Find out more about Alphabet City:

Broadway - West 66th Street. Image ID: 1557816

Lincoln Center

Sesame Workshop is located here. Lincoln Center is largely non-residential, consisting of many performance related buildings such as Avery Fisher Hall, the Juilliard School, the Library for the Performing Arts, and the Metropolitan Opera House. However, before Lincoln Center’s construction as part of Robert Mosesurban renewal plan, this neighborhood was known as San Juan Hill, which designer Charles Rosen stated was part of the amalgam of NYC places on which he based his set design for Sesame Street. During Sesame Street’s 40th anniversary, Mayor Bloomberg temporarily named the corner of 64th and Broadway as Sesame Street. Lincoln Center is served by the 1 train, but nearby you can also catch the 2, 3, A, B, C, D trains—just not all at the same stop.

Find out more about Lincoln Center:

Brooklyn: 86th Street - 19th Avenue. Image ID: 702890F

Columbus Avenue at 86th Street and , West side to North, Manhattan. Image ID: 486049

86th Street - Upper East Side, Upper West Side, Bay Ridge/Dyker Heights

Much speculation abounded when the Sesame Street gang got off at the 86th Street stop of the subway during the Christmas Eve on Sesame Street special, which originally aired in 1978. However, this is the only appearance of the 86th Street subway in Sesame Street, and to further complicate matters, there are four 86th Street subway stations in NYC. On the Upper West Side, there are two 86th Street stops, one for the 1 train, and one for the B and C trains. The third 86th Street stop is on the Upper East side and serves the 4, 5, and 6 trains. Finally, the fourth 86th Street stop is in Brooklyn. It serves the R train and residents of Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights.

Find out more about the Upper West Side:

Find out more about the Upper East Side:

Find out more about Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights:

Bird's eye view of West 125th Street, Harlem, looking west from Seventh Avenue, 1943. Image ID: psnypl_scg_649

Bronx: 137th Street (East) - Willis Avenue. Image ID: 700061F

Harlem and the Bronx

The other part of designer Charles Rosen’s amalgam of influences was Harlem and unspecified neighborhoods of the Bronx, as reported in this article from New York magazine. Harlem is served by the 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, A, B, C, and D trains, though the 1, 2, A, and B do not stop at the same station. The Bronx is served by the 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, B, and D trains.

Find out more about Harlem:

Find out more about the Bronx:

The truth is that Sesame Street is the most typical of all New York neighborhoods, meaning that it can be any one of them and should be considered to be all neighborhoods, because you, yes you, belong on Sesame Street too.

More about the history of Sesame Street

Now through January 31, come visit the NYPL’s exhibit "Somebody Come and Play:" 45 Years of Sesame Street Helping Kids Grow Smarter, Stronger, and Kinder at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts.