Radio Row

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New York's Radio Row in 1936, with the Cortlandt Street station in the background, as seen in a photograph by Berenice Abbott Radio Row-Berenice Abbott.jpg
New York's Radio Row in 1936, with the Cortlandt Street station in the background, as seen in a photograph by Berenice Abbott
A crowd gathers near an electronics shop at Greenwich and Dey streets after John F. Kennedy's assassination in 1963. Crowds listening for news on Kennedy NYWTS.jpg
A crowd gathers near an electronics shop at Greenwich and Dey streets after John F. Kennedy's assassination in 1963.
Sidewalk bins of a defunct shop at 393 Canal Street Argo Sidewalk jeh1.JPG
Sidewalk bins of a defunct shop at 393 Canal Street

Radio Row is a nickname for an urban street or district specializing in the sale of radio and electronic equipment and parts. Radio Rows arose in many cities with the 1920s rise of broadcasting and declined after the middle of the 20th century.

Radio Technology of using radio waves to carry information

Radio is the technology of signaling or communicating using radio waves. Radio waves are electromagnetic waves of frequency between 30 hertz (Hz) and 300 gigahertz (GHz). They are generated by an electronic device called a transmitter connected to an antenna which radiates the waves, and received by a radio receiver connected to another antenna. Radio is very widely used in modern technology, in radio communication, radar, radio navigation, remote control, remote sensing and other applications. In radio communication, used in radio and television broadcasting, cell phones, two-way radios, wireless networking and satellite communication among numerous other uses, radio waves are used to carry information across space from a transmitter to a receiver, by modulating the radio signal in the transmitter. In radar, used to locate and track objects like aircraft, ships, spacecraft and missiles, a beam of radio waves emitted by a radar transmitter reflects off the target object, and the reflected waves reveal the object's location. In radio navigation systems such as GPS and VOR, a mobile receiver receives radio signals from navigational radio beacons whose position is known, and by precisely measuring the arrival time of the radio waves the receiver can calculate its position on Earth. In wireless radio remote control devices like drones, garage door openers, and keyless entry systems, radio signals transmitted from a controller device control the actions of a remote device.

Electronics physics, engineering, technology and applications that deal with the emission, flow and control of electrons in vacuum and matter

Electronics comprises the physics, engineering, technology and applications that deal with the emission, flow and control of electrons in vacuum and matter.

Broadcasting distribution of audio and video content to a dispersed audience via any audio or visual mass communications medium

Broadcasting is the distribution of audio or video content to a dispersed audience via any electronic mass communications medium, but typically one using the electromagnetic spectrum, in a one-to-many model. Broadcasting began with AM radio, which came into popular use around 1920 with the spread of vacuum tube radio transmitters and receivers. Before this, all forms of electronic communication were one-to-one, with the message intended for a single recipient. The term broadcasting evolved from its use as the agricultural method of sowing seeds in a field by casting them broadly about. It was later adopted for describing the widespread distribution of information by printed materials or by telegraph. Examples applying it to "one-to-many" radio transmissions of an individual station to multiple listeners appeared as early as 1898.


New York City

Construction and existence

New York City's Radio Row, which existed from 1921 to 1966, was a warehouse district on the Lower West Side of Manhattan, New York City. Major firms that started there include Arrow Electronics, Avnet (founded by Charles Avnet in 1921), and Schweber Electronics.

Manhattan Borough in New York City and county in New York, United States

Manhattan, often referred to locally as the City, is the most densely populated of the five boroughs of New York City and its economic and administrative center, cultural identifier, and historical birthplace. The borough is coextensive with New York County, one of the original counties of the U.S. state of New York. The borough consists mostly of Manhattan Island, bounded by the Hudson, East, and Harlem rivers; several small adjacent islands; and Marble Hill, a small neighborhood now on the U.S. mainland, physically connected to the Bronx and separated from the rest of Manhattan by the Harlem River. Manhattan Island is divided into three informally bounded components, each aligned with the borough's long axis: Lower, Midtown, and Upper Manhattan.

New York City Largest city in the United States

The City of New York, usually called either New York City (NYC) or simply New York (NY), is the most populous city in the United States. With an estimated 2018 population of 8,398,748 distributed over a land area of about 302.6 square miles (784 km2), New York is also the most densely populated major city in the United States. Located at the southern tip of the state of New York, the city is the center of the New York metropolitan area, the largest metropolitan area in the world by urban landmass and one of the world's most populous megacities, with an estimated 19,979,477 people in its 2018 Metropolitan Statistical Area and 22,679,948 residents in its Combined Statistical Area. A global power city, New York City has been described as the cultural, financial, and media capital of the world, and exerts a significant impact upon commerce, entertainment, research, technology, education, politics, tourism, art, fashion, and sports. The city's fast pace has inspired the term New York minute. Home to the headquarters of the United Nations, New York is an important center for international diplomacy.

Arrow Electronics is an American Fortune 500 company headquartered in Centennial, Colorado. The company specializes in distribution and value added services relating to electronic components and computer products. The company ranked No. 109 in the 2019 Fortune 500 list of the largest United States corporations by total revenue.

The first of many radio-related stores was City Radio, opened in 1921 by Harry Schneck on Cortlandt Street, which became the central axis of a several-block area of electronics stores.

Cortlandt Street (Manhattan) Street in Manhattan, New York

Cortlandt Street is located in the Financial District of Lower Manhattan, New York City. It has varied in length over time, but it currently runs east to west for the one block from Broadway to Church Street, then continues an additional block as the non-vehicular Cortlandt Way from Church to Greenwich Street. At its eastern end, the street continues as Maiden Lane.

The New York Times made an early reference to "Radio Row" in 1927, when Cortlandt Street celebrated a "Radio Jubilee". The Times reported that "Today ... Cortlandt Street is 'Radio Row,' while Broadway is just a thoroughfare." The street was closed and decorated with flags and bunting, and the Times reported plans for New York's acting mayor Joseph V. McKee to present a "key to Cortland Street" to the then-reigning Miss New York, Frieda Louise Mierse, while a contest was held to name a "Miss Downtown Radio." [1]

<i>The New York Times</i> Daily broadsheet newspaper based in New York City

The New York Times is an American newspaper based in New York City with worldwide influence and readership. Founded in 1851, the paper has won 127 Pulitzer Prizes, more than any other newspaper. The Times is ranked 18th in the world by circulation and 3rd in the U.S..

Joseph V. McKee American mayor

Joseph V. McKee, Sr. was a teacher at DeWitt Clinton High School in the Bronx, New York, who later became a politically active Democrat and briefly served as the acting Mayor of New York City.

The Miss New York Scholarship Competition selects the representative for the state of New York in the Miss America Scholarship Organization.

Pete Hamill recalled that, as a child, "On Saturday mornings, I used to venture from Brooklyn with my father to Radio Row on Cortlandt Street in Lower Manhattan, where he and hundreds of other New York men moved from stall to stall in search of the elusive tube that would make the radio work again. Later, my brothers went there with him in search of television components. Radio Row was a piece of all our interior maps." [2]

Pete Hamill American journalist, novelist, essayist, editor and educator

Pete Hamill is an American journalist, novelist, essayist, editor and educator. Widely traveled and having written on a broad range of topics, he is perhaps best known for his career as a New York City journalist, as "the author of columns that sought to capture the particular flavors of New York City's politics and sports and the particular pathos of its crime." Hamill was a columnist and editor for the New York Post and The New York Daily News.

Brooklyn Borough in New York City and county in New York state, United States

Brooklyn is the most populous borough of New York City, with an estimated 2,648,771 residents in 2017. Named after the Dutch village of Breukelen, it borders the borough of Queens at the western end of Long Island. Brooklyn has several bridge and tunnel connections to the borough of Manhattan across the East River, and the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge connects it with Staten Island. Since 1896, Brooklyn has been coterminous with Kings County, the most populous county in the U.S. state of New York and the second-most densely populated county in the United States, after New York County.

In 1930, the Times described Radio Row as located on Greenwich Street "where Cortlandt Street intersects it and the Ninth Avenue Elevated forms a canopy over the roadway. ... The largest concentration is in the block bounded by Dey Street on the north and Cortlandt on the south, but Radio Row does not stop there; it overflows around the corner, around several corners, embracing in all some five crowded blocks." It estimated 40 or 50 stores in the vicinity, "all going full blast at the same time. There may be regulations prohibiting this vociferous practice, but if the radio dealers have anything to say it about it, it will never have the slightest effect along Radio Row. ... The clamor is heard even as one walks through the subway tunnel to the street exit. ... The first impression, and in fact the only one, is auditory, a reverberating bedlam, a confusion of sounds which only an army of loudspeakers could produce." It noted, in addition to merchants selling radio sets, "others display mostly accessories ... one shopkeeper last week featured a crystal set small enough to fit into a pocket, and another gave prominent position to a bucket of condensers about an inch in side." [3]

IRT Ninth Avenue Line former elevated railway in New York City

The IRT Ninth Avenue Line, often called the Ninth Avenue Elevated or Ninth Avenue El, was the first elevated railway in New York City. It opened on July 3, 1868 as the West Side and Yonkers Patent Railway, as an experimental single-track cable-powered elevated railway from Battery Place, at the south end of Manhattan Island, northward up Greenwich Street to Cortlandt Street. It ceased operation on June 11, 1940, after it was replaced by the IND Eighth Avenue Line which had opened in 1932.

World War II was unkind to Radio Row, and in 1944 the Times lamented that the "one-time repository of nearly everything from a tube socket to a complete radio station" was "bargainless and practically setless, too, due to wartime scarcities" but that it still catered to "tinkerers and engineers" and that an "old spirit" and "magical quality" were still there. One shop said it was practically able to stay in business just by "making repairs on the electric meters burned out by the students of the city schools who were studying radio," and all were optimistic about growing public interest in "two new kinds of radio: FM and television." [4]

But Radio Row rebounded. The used radios, war surplus electronics (e.g., ARC-5 radios), junk, and parts often piled so high they would spill out onto the street, attracting collectors and scroungers. According to a business writer, it also was the origin of the electronic component distribution business. [5]


Radio Row was torn down in 1966 to make room for the World Trade Center. [6]

Planning for its demise began five years earlier, when the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey rejected a proposal to build the new complex on the east side of Lower Manhattan. Instead, officials chose a site on the west side, near the Hudson and Manhattan Railroad terminals, and began planning to use eminent domain to remove the shops in the area bounded by Vesey, Church, Liberty, and West streets. [7]

Local opposition arose to the decision to raze the streets on the west side for the World Trade Center. Sam Slate reported on this for WCBS Radio in 1962:

Shaping up in New York City is a legal battle of overriding importance. Its outcome will conceivably affect us all. If the considerable power of the Port Authority is allowed to dispossess the merchants of Radio Row, then, it is our conviction, no home or business is safe from the caprice of government. [8]

The city also objected to the compensation given for the streets themselves obscured by the superblock.

A committee of small business owners led by Oscar Nadel took exception to the Port Authority's offer of $30,000 to any business in the condemned area, regardless of its size or age. Nadel's group, who estimated that businesses in the area employed 30,000 people and generated $300 million per year, sued the Port Authority. [9] But the court ultimately threw out the case, called Courtesy Sandwich Shop v. Port of New York Authority, in November 1963 "for want of a substantial federal question". [10]

After the closing of these stores, the concentration of radio retailers was not duplicated elsewhere in New York. Some clusters of radio and electronics stores were created or added to in the Canal Street and Union Square areas.

A large black-and-white photo mural of Radio Row can be viewed at the World Trade Center Port Authority Trans-Hudson station.


In the 1950s and 1960s, Arch Street from 6th to 11th Streets was known as "Radio Row", after its electronic-goods stores. [11]


In 1923, The Boston Globe reported that a section of the North End had been dubbed "Radio Row" because of its many radio antennas. "The hurdy-gurdy has a rival," wrote the Globe. "No skyline anywhere else in the city or the suburbs is filled with so many antennae as the blocks stretching along some sections of Hanover and Salem sts. Many residents have three or four aerials—one has six—with wires leading down to receiving sets of all descriptions, in the homes of the foreign-born residents. It has all come about in a few months....All stairways lead to the roof, where [some residents] are arranging to rig up a loudspeaker, connected with instruments below. A survey of housetops...shows a whole population getting ready." [12]

Los Angeles

In Los Angeles of the 1940s and 1950s, "Radio Row" referred to the area near the intersection of Sunset Boulevard and Vine Street in Hollywood, where all four major radio networks had broadcasting facilities. [13]

Modern-day versions in Asia

In the second half of the 20th century and early 21st century, various Asian cities developed electronics districts.[ citation needed ]

Alternate meaning

A broadcast from Super Bowl LIII Radio Row, 2019 Pat Kirwan, JJ Watt, Jim Miller, Feb 2019.jpg
A broadcast from Super Bowl LIII Radio Row, 2019

Radio Row may also refer to a large grouping of sports talk radio stations that broadcast from the Super Bowl media center during the week before the annual major football game. [14]

See also

Related Research Articles

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Canal Street (Manhattan) Street in Manhattan, New York

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WTC Cortlandt station New York City Subway station in Manhattan

WTC Cortlandt, additionally signed as World Trade Center on walls and formerly known as Cortlandt Street and Cortlandt Street–World Trade Center, is a station on the IRT Broadway–Seventh Avenue Line of the New York City Subway in Lower Manhattan. The station is located under the intersection of Greenwich Street and Cortlandt Way within the World Trade Center. It is served by the 1 train at all times.

World Trade Center station (PATH) Port Authority Trans-Hudson rail station

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Avnet, Inc. is one of the world's largest distributors of electronic components and embedded solutions and is headquartered in Phoenix, Arizona. Although the corporation's products have been an important part of computer networking, the corporate name is neither an acronym nor a coined word, and dates from nearly a century ago, when it was founded by Charles Avnet in 1921. After its start on Manhattan's Radio Row, the company became incorporated in 1955 and began trading on the New York Stock Exchange in 1961. On May 8, 2018 Avnet officially changed stock markets to Nasdaq, trading under the same ticker, $AVT. Avnet currently ranks #128 on the Fortune 500 and #414 on the Fortune Global 500, reporting FY 2017 revenues of $22.87 billion.

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Downtown Hudson Tubes

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Survivors Staircase

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Hudson Terminal former train station in New York City

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Construction of the World Trade Center

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Greenwich Street Street in Manhattan, New York

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4 World Trade Center Skyscraper in Manhattan, New York City

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World Trade Center (1973–2001) complex of buildings in Lower Manhattan, New York City, United States

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Charles Avnet (1888–1979) was an American businessman who founded electronics parts distributor Avnet.


  1. "'Radio Row' Begins Its Jubilee Today," The New York Times, September 6, 1927, p. 34
  2. Berger, Meyer (2004). Meyer Berger's New York. Fordham University Press. ISBN   0-8232-2328-0. p. 11
  3. "Bedlam on Radio Row: Downtown Mart Continues its Musical Pandemonium, But Meantime Sells Cameras and Golf Balls." The New York Times, May 25, 1930, p. 144
  4. Kennedy, T. R., Jr., "Cortlandt Street," The New York Times, November 19, 1944, p. X7
  5. Hartman, Amir (2004). Ruthless Execution: What Business Leaders Do When Their Companies Hit the Wall. Financial Times Prentice Hall. ISBN   0-13-101884-1., p. 167 "The electronic component distribution business started in the 1920s and 1930s, selling radio tubes on lower Manhattan's Cortland[ sic ] St. ... "
  6. "'Radio Row:' The neighborhood before the World Trade Center". National Public Radio. 2002-06-03. Retrieved 2006-10-01.
  7. Glanz, James; Eric Lipton (2003). City in the Sky: The Rise and Fall of the World Trade Center. Times Books. p. 56. ISBN   0-8050-7428-7.
  8. Glanz, op. cit. p.62
  9. Glanz, op. cit. p.68
  10. Glanz, op. cit. p.87
  11. Kushnier, Ron (May 2, 2007). "I Remember Arch Street". PhillyHistory blog. City of Philadelphia. Retrieved July 2, 2014.
  12. Cullinan, Howell (1923), The Boston Globe, May 6, 1923, p. A5.
  14. Schonbrun, Zach (2014), "Before Big Game, Stepping Into Media's Big Top on Radio Row." The New York Times, January 29, 2014.

Further reading

Coordinates: 40°42′39.4″N74°0′45.5″W / 40.710944°N 74.012639°W / 40.710944; -74.012639