Nick Carr explores a modern-day conundrum in his recent piece in the Wall Street Journal, “Our Typecast Metropolis.” You see, Hollywood considers New York City a sort of permanently 70s-era New York City, full of twists and dark turns and grit and danger and grime. Unfortunately, today’s New York City is more full of Starbucks, Duane Reades, and Applebees than it is of gritty alleyways. Thus, hard-working Hollywood types have had to search far and wide for alleys gritty enough to resemble the “New York City” ideal. They found one — Franklin Place in TriBeCa, portrayed in such diverse cinematic experiences as The Nanny Diaries, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, and The Talented Mr. Ripley. But, alas, that alleyway is being gentrified, to be turned into a luxury condo tower. Make a movie about that, Hollywood.
What will Hollywood do to remedy this alley problem? Fortunately, there are a few others, Carr writes, “hidden south of Canal Street, far from the rigid organization of the uptown street grid,” where a person might tread with the expectant pleasure of possibly being mugged or otherwise maligned. (Not that this actually happens there — the key is for it to seem possible!)
Among the options, there is Theatre Alley, Cortlandt Alley, Broadway Alley, and Great Jones Alley. While Theatre and Cortlandt are free beyond the permit cost, many back streets are controlled privately, which means owners can charge a pretty penny, $5,000 to $10,000 a day, for the use of their dingy, “rat-infested,” old-world real estate.
Someone please tell the real estate developers seeding the city with luxury condos that they’re going about this all wrong. Less horrible high-rises; more dark back alleys. Then we can sell them for the BIG bucks…until someone in Hollywood figures out they can outsource those “totally authentic New York City alleys” from Canada at half the price. Cinéma vérité!
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on December 29, 2011