The uppermost image is a photo of the avenue taken sometime before 1922 and shows it as it was originally designed--an almost bucolic parkway between rows of stately edifices. Elegance, openness, and a sense of civility abound.
The second image shows it after 1922, when it was widened to accommodate the growing automobile traffic. The street is crowded with metal; an air of impatience prevails; and the charm is already gone....
The third image is as it looks today, grim as any Stalinist architecture, cluttered, ugly, littered with signs forbidding the entry of humans unaccompanied by cars--a wasteland, a place no one would volunteer to spend time in. The view is all of boundaries and prohibitions, of mvoement channeled and rigidly controlled, and there is no place to set foot. It is designed for speed, but the accommodation of speed reduces the volume it can carry even of cars.... It is a dead space.
This excellent series was assembled by "No Impact Man," a New Yorker dedicated to making city life worth living again; be sure to visit his excellent blog, where you can see larger versions of these images in his entry, "What Cities Could Be." It's full of passion and practicality, and there are dozens of links to follow to useful and exhilarating sites, as well as his own postings on matters as diverse and as important to urban culture (and human survival) as eating locally, bicycling and walking, activism, and low-impact living in general.
Let us also recommend Cars, Culture, Concrete, and Convenience, right here at Bicycle Fixation, for our own opinions on the matter.