In the mid to late 1980s, the New York Public Library shared a city block with a virtual open-air drug market. The Library unfortunately shared the block between Fifth and Sixth Avenues and 42nd and 40th Streets with Bryant Park, a rundown, drug-infested symbol of urban neglect. Next to the Library, broken fountains, cracked pavement, and swathes of dirt were all that reminded wanderers, were they brave enough to enter, that the area had once been a park. The condition of the area was a blight both on midtown Manhattan, generally a posh environment, and the Library, one of the City's foremost cultural facilities.

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