A “vanity address” is an address that the building owner requests from the borough president’s office. In Manhattan, for example, a Fifth Avenue address might sound better than a street address such as East 87th Street. Buildings located on the corner or near the avenue address can request an avenue address. Vanity addresses are usually discouraged because of the confusion.
A vanity address can have no street address at all, such as “One Bryant Park” or “One New York Plaza.” The term “vanity address” was popularized in Chicago in the 1980s, when the use of a vanity address confused and delayed an emergency response.
Article: Building managers here address the vanity issue
Article from: Chicago Sun-Times
Article date: June 18, 1987
Author: P. J. Bednarski; Tracey Robinson
The confusion involved in fire victim Nancy Clay’s 911 calls from One Illinois Center apparently is prompting managers of some “vanity address” buildings to remind residents and workers to use real addresses in emergencies.
23 August 1988, Chicago (IL) Daily Herald, “No more vanity addresses, Arlington says” by Ellen Schmid Blix, sec. 1, pg. 3, col. 1:
Fancy addresses like One Magnificent Mile might carry prestige, but there’s no more room for them in Arlington Heights.
To avoid confusion in emergency situations, the village board has enacted a law prohibiting developments from carrying vanity addresses unless the street number and name are the actual addresses assigned by the village.
Vanity addresses got bad press a year ago; a woman died in a fire inside the One Illinois Center building in Chicago’s Loop. Authorities speculate firefighters were delayed looking for the building’s actual address, 111 E. Wacker Drive.
New York (NY) Times
By THOMAS H. MATTHEWS
Published: October 29, 1995
Vanity Near Fifth
Q. There is a large apartment house on the south side of 87th Street that is approximately 150 feet east of Fifth Avenue yet has the address 1049 Fifth Avenue. No part of the building touches Fifth Avenue. So how did they acquire this address?
A. In New York City, a building is not required to touch a certain street in order to use the name in its address. This address, and there are many others like it, including buildings on Park and Madison Avenues, is known as a vanity address. (Doesn’t Fifth Avenue just sound better than 87th Street?)
All vanity addresses must be approved by the borough president’s office, said Lisa Daglian, a spokeswoman for the office.
She said that many vanity address requests come from new construction, but that the borough president’s office does not encourage address changes to be made. “You can’t order these addresses like vanity license plates,” Ms. Daglian said.
One thousand New York buildings
By Bill Harris and Jorg Brockmann
New York, NY: Black Dog & Leventhal ; distributed by Workman Publishing Co.
Pg. 16 ("What’s Your Street Address?"):
In those cases, the Borough President gets personally involved in approving a “vanity address.” That is how we wound up with the super-blocks at the foot of Water Street identified as “New York Plaza,” for example. It may confuse people, but those who need to know, such as the police and fire departments and the postal service, are let in on the secret.
The New Yorker
On The Avenue
by Ben McGrath
November 12, 2007
When a large steel bucket fell from the roof of a fifty-four-story construction site in midtown the other day, a news account described the offending building’s location as “1 Bryant Park”—a stately address, to be sure, but not a real one. “Bryant Park is a park, named Bryant,” Anthony Borelli, the director of land use, planning, and development at the Manhattan Borough President’s office, said recently. “That building is kitty-corner to Bryant Park.” In other words, the building, also known as the Bank of America Tower, is on Sixth Avenue at Forty-second Street. It costs fifty-five hundred dollars to apply for a dispensation from the ordinary grid system, known officially as a “vanity address,” from the Topographical Bureau, which Borelli oversees. “They have officially requested it, and we’ll consider it,” he said of the developers of the would-be 1 Bryant Park.
Borelli is a somewhat reluctant steward of the vanity-address program, which dates back several decades and can be blamed for, among other things, the proliferation of the word “plaza” and the disproportionate number of businesses and homeowners with Park Avenue and Fifth Avenue letterheads. (“Pulling an avenue address over” is the topographical parlance for denying that your building’s real entrance is on, say, East Seventy-sixth Street.)
New York (NY) Times
Nice Address, but Where Is It Really?
By CLYDE HABERMAN
Published: March 22, 2010
These are known as vanity addresses. They are a perk offered to developers for a price — $11,000 is the going rate — to make their properties seem more highfalutin and thus worthy of soak-the-tenant rents. The practice is a cousin to the real estate industry’s love of new place names, like Hudson Heights for a riverfront stretch of Washington Heights, to make an area sound less proletarian and more fancy-schmancy.
Guidelines issued by the borough president’s office say that a vanity address “should not create confusion as to a building’s location, in deference to both public safety and convenience.” This high-minded policy is sometimes honored only in the breach.
If you want to find 1325 Avenue of the Americas, don’t bother going to Avenue of the Americas. That building is near Seventh Avenue, with entrances on 53rd and 54th Streets.
The 237 Park Avenue Atrium is actually at 466 Lexington Avenue and cannot possibly be reached by way of Park Avenue. A new building called 11 Times Square is nearing completion at Eighth Avenue and 42nd Street. It does not by any reasonable definition sit on Times Square, even if it lies within the Times Square Alliance business improvement district.