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New York - Around Town : SoHo and TriBeCa (part 1)

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The area named for its shape (TRIangle BElow CAnal) long consisted mostly of abandoned warehouses. Then Robert De Niro set up his Tribeca Film Center in 1988, stylish restaurants began to open, and the area started to draw celebrity residents. Now TriBeCa is one of New York’s hottest neighborhoods, the center of the city’s movie industry with the TriBeCa Film Festival and plenty of nightlife. SoHo (South of Houston) has also come full circle. The empty loft spaces first drew artists, then galleries, then crowds of browsers and the restaurants to serve them. The new chic image quickly drove up rents and drove out many galleries. Some remain, and the streets are lined with designer clothing and home furnishing boutiques, maintaining SoHo’s lure as the city’s favorite Sunday brunch-and-browse neighborhood. Both areas boast the cast-iron architecture that is a New York specialty.

TriBeCa’s Movie Business

TriBeCa is known as Hollywood East, and although much of its movie business is behind the scenes, many screenings take place. Big name stars have been sighted heading for the Grand Screen Room at the TriBeCa Grand Hotel. The TriBeCa Film Festival, begun in May 2002, is a further star-spotting event.


Sights
  1. Greene Street

    Cast-iron architecture flourished in New York in the late 19th century, as a way to produce decorative elements such as columns and arches and create impressive buildings inexpensively. Greene Street, between Canal and Grand streets, and between Broome and Spring streets, has 50 of these beauties, rows of columned façades creating a striking streetscape.

    Mural, Greene Street

  2. Children’s Museum of the Arts

    Founded in 1988, the CMA’s mission is to enable children aged one to 12 to reach their full potential in the visual and performing arts. Children can work with paint, glue, paper, and recycled materials to paint, sculpt, build, and imagine. They can also play in the ball pond and art house, design projects, explore exhibitions, and meet other children.

    • 182 Lafayette St

    • 212 941 9198

    • Open noon–5pm Wed & Fri–Sun, noon–6pm Thu

    • Admission charge

  3. Prada

    The sign still reads “Guggenheim SoHo” but the current occupant of the building is an extraordinary $40 million flagship store for trend-setting Italian retailer Prada, a sign of SoHo’s shift from art to fashion. Dutch architect Rem Kookhaas is responsible for the ultra-hip floating stairs, undulating walls, futuristic elevators and hi-tech dressing rooms.

    • 575 Broadway at Prince St

    • Open 11am–7pm Mon–Sat, 12–6pm Sun

  4. New York City Fire Museum

    A nostalgic treasure housed in a 1904 firehouse, this splendid collection includes the city’s fire-fighting engines, equipment, garb and memorabilia from the 18th century to the present. A moving photo display depicts the World Trade Center attack of September 2001 and honors the hundreds of fire-fighters lost there.

  5. Haughwout Building

    A cast-iron masterpiece, this structure was built in 1857 to house a fashionable china and glassware emporium. The design of colonnaded arches flanked by taller Corinthian columns was adapted from the façade of the Sansovino Library in Venice. This motif is repeated 92 times across the front of the building. A 1995 restoration removed grime and restored the elegant original pale color. This building boasted the first Otis safety elevator, an innovation that made the skyscraper possible.

    • 488–492 Broadway at Broome St

    Haughwout Building

    Haughwout Building
  6. “Little” Singer Building

    By the early 1900s, cast iron was giving way to steel-framed brick and terracotta. One notable example is Ernest Flagg’s “Little” Singer Building (to distinguish it from a taller tower also built for Singer). Influenced by Parisian architecture of the period, it has a charming 12-story façade and graceful cast-iron balconies.

    • 561–3 Broadway, between Prince & Spring Sts

    “Little” Singer Building
  7. Canal Street

    The end of SoHo, the beginning of TriBeCa, and a world of its own, no street better shows the contrasts of New York. Canal Street is crowded with peddlers selling fake Rolex watches and Gucci bags, electronics that may or may not be new, and bargain stores offering sneakers, jeans, and flea-market finds. Keep walking east into Chinatown, and the sidewalk goods shift to vegetables and displays of live and dried fish.

    Canal Street
  8. Harrison Street

    This rare group of Federal townhouses, built between 1796 and 1828, did not exist as a row until 1975, when the houses were moved to this site to be saved from the urban renewal that razed much of the area. At the end of the block (No. 6) is the former New York Mercantile Exchange, a Queen Anne building dating from 1884 and in use until 1977 when the Exchange moved to the World Financial Center.

    Harrison Street
  9. White Street

    The best example of cast- iron architecture in TriBeCa is a sampling of several styles. No. 2 has Federal features and a gambrel roof; Nos. 8–10, designed by Henry Fernbach in 1869, sport Tuscan columns and arches and use the Neo-Renaissance device of building shorter upper stories to give an illusion of height. There is a complete change of pace at No. 38, which houses neon artist Rudi Stern’s gallery, Let There Be Neon.

  10. TriBeCa Film Center

    A turn-of-the-century coffee warehouse has been converted into office space for the film and entertainment industry. The guiding spirit was Robert De Niro, whose TriBeCa Productions was founded in 1988. Miramax has set up offices here and the building is also home to the TriBeCa Grill, owned by De Niro and restaurateur Drew Nieporent. The restaurant has managed to maintain its appeal for two decades.

    • 375 Greenwich St

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