Today’s dérive (an unplanned walk in an urban environment) is in the neighborhood of Manhattan that is both the wealthiest and has the lowest crime rate – Tribeca. The first part of the city to expand beyond the colonial boundaries, it was an industrial center for the city in the mid-19th Century, but lost many of those businesses and slowly fell into disrepair by the 1960’s. Artists were attracted to the large empty commercial spaces, eventually leading to the area’s transformation into the upscale residential enclave it is today.
Although the acronym stands for “TRIangle BElow CAnal” it is not shaped like a triangle, and in fact its eastern and southern boundaries are not clear-cut. The northern edge is Canal Street, and the western edge the Hudson River, but the east boundary bleeds into Chinatown, with some maps showing Broadway and others showing Centre Street as the edge. To the south, it is even more confusing, with the boundary between the Financial District and Tribeca being shown as Vesey Street, Chambers Street, or Duane or Reade Streets (yes, the first Duane Reade drugstore was here). From my recent walk, I can say that making the area smaller (Broadway to the east and Duane Street to the south) results in the area seeming more cohesive. In particular, the area to the south of Reade Street begins to seem much more like the financial district or Battery Park City to me.
Wandering from the Canal Street 6 subway station and heading west, turning south on Sixth Avenue (AKA Avenue of the Americas), the character of the neighborhood becomes immediately apparent. Many of the buildings are former industrial buildings that have been converted into lofts and apartments, with some corporate use (32 Avenue of the Americas, a gorgeous Art Deco skyscraper, once held AT&T and now houses a variety of financial and technical companies). On many of the side streets, you can see the original cobblestone construction, and now that Tribeca is a historic district, as these streets need resurfacing, they will have to undergo cobblestone repair rather than being paved with asphalt. Although beautiful, cobblestone streets are a good way to twist your ankle if not careful, or break off the heel of your new Christian Louboutins!
North Moore Street is an excellent example of a quiet Tribeca Street, home of expensive condos and a few small boutiques. It’s also the home (14 N. Moore) to Hook and Ladder No. 8, the firehouse used to film “Ghostbusters.” As you walk around Tribeca, views of One World Trade Center come in and out of view, much as the original World Trade Center towers did before 9/11/01. It’s not a surprise, then that the firefighters at No. 8 were some of the first responders on that day.. Out of the ashes of this terrible loss was created the Tribeca Film Festival, envisioned as a way to rebuild the neighborhood and now part of its spectacular success. Generally held in April, the Film Festival now attracts up to 3 million people and brings in approximately $600 million to the city.
While on this walk, I heard one tourist say to another, “This looks so much like New York!” Despite the humor inherent in that remark, I do know what they mean – there is a characteristic look in Tribeca that is quintessentially Manhattan. However, the fantastic thing about this city is that I could name a multitude of other neighborhoods that also look “so New York” and all are different. This is what makes living in New York, or walking around it, so rewarding – such rich variety within a relatively small space.