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NYC Grid is a photo blog dedicated to exploring New York block-by-block and corner-by-corner. Each post covers a new street or feature with a focus on the mundane and ephemeral.


Entries in Chinatown (15)


Eldridge St Between Broome St and Delancey St


A quiet enclave for Chinatown residents, which lacks major commercial presence but more than makes up for it with grit, Eldridge Street is exclusive to this neighborhood. Since Delancey Street to the north and Sara Roosevelt Park to the west act as major barriers, it feels like you're blocked in. A few high end-looking galleries can be found hiding amongst the run down tenement apartments, but the dirty parts of the block are overwhelming in comparison.

Some shoes that can be found hanging from the phone lines over Broome Street feel like something from another era. I couldn't remember the last time I encountered this – but I was racking my head trying to remember if it had any significance. I had heard everything from it signifying a crack house to a murder, to a wedding…So I just assume it has no meaning.

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Grand St Between Elizabeth St and Chrystie St


Though it could be argued that this part of Grand Street is still technically in Little Italy, it's far more dominated by Chinese wholesalers than anything else. The different smells and sights you encounter while perusing the different shops are fascinating to say the least. Decades of immigrant families have given this part of town a distinct identity. In a way I envy those who call this part of town home…I sincerely hope this culture doesn't get uprooted by developers anytime soon.

Whenever I'm in a neighborhood dominated by any single ethnicity, it always feels like I'm treated a bit friendlier than when I'm in other parts of town. Maybe it's because I dress like a tourist when I shoot my photos and they think I'm some sort of rube who'll buy anything. But I like to at least pretend it's thanks to a sense of cultural outreach on everyone's part.


East Broadway Between Rutgers St and Clinton St

The northernmost street which still follows the natural contour of Manhattan, East Broadway is subject to several strange intersections as the grid plan attempts straighten itself out. The north side of this block begins with an interesting island created by Canal Street abruptly ending. The triangular patch of land is home to a single tree which looks just about as picturesque as possible. Seward Park, while dark and tree-filled is a welcome addition to an otherwise bland neighborhood. A branch of the New York Public Library separates the park from a housing project.

The southern side of the block is densely packed with a myriad of different buildings – ranging from restaurants to temples to apartments. Not having many buildings directly across the street creates a rather lop-sided feeling. 


Henry St Between Catherine St and Pike St

Starting on a dark, quiet lane, Henry Street is a bustling mixture of stores, apartments and restaurants. In a way it's appears very similar to the old New York neighborhoods from the early 20th Century. Without a chain store in sight, the entire area seems completely self-sufficent, relying on a number of unique services that are almost all locally-owned. Likewise, there are hardly any commercial buildings. All the storefronts have apartments sitting directly on top of them and very few of the buildings reach above six stories. With a bit of re-dressing, you could probably shoot a period movie here without much trouble. 

The main attraction (or distraction) here is the Manhattan Bridge. Leaping right over the center of the block with it's long approach ramp, it's a bit of an ominous structure. Every few minutes you can hear an N, Q, B or D train rumble overhead, adding to the dread. Walking under it, I had a strange sense of déjà vu when I noticed how similar it was to the Manhattan side of the Queensboro Bridge. Built in the same decade, the Queensboro shares a handful of structural similarities, including stone archways which jump over the street. In this case, I also noticed how similar the neighborhood below the anchorage was. Up on 59th Street the Queensboro market is home to a beautiful Food Emporium which sits inside the bridge itself. Down here the Manhattan Bridge has a supermarket sitting directly underneath it as well. Though, the vast cultural differences of the Lower East Side and the Upper East Side make it an easy comparison to miss; really they they only share a common function. Aesthetically the two markets are worlds apart.


Centre St Between Canal St and Broome St

Riding a thin line between Little Italy, Chinatown and SoHo, Centre Street is a very aptly-named thoroughfare. Sharing a common beginning and end point with its parallel neighbor, Lafayette St, Centre doesn't seem to get as much attention. With a few blocks of industrial storefronts featuring quite a bit of wholesale seafood, there isn't much for the average person here.

Architecture is a bit of a mixed bag. Canal Street is a hodgepodge of different styles with little concern for its surroundings – which isn't necessarily a bad thing. Sometimes the most authentic-looking New York streets are the ones without any defined style or era overwhelming the neighborhood. It's the classic melting pot image. Looking south, it's really striking to see Frank Gehry's Beekman Tower rising from the historic downtown skyline – I wasn't aware of how tall it was going to be until seeing it like this. 

Between Grand and Broome a tremendous Baroque-style building fills the entire narrow block. Originally police headquarters for most of the 20th Century it's now – ready? – luxury apartments. Yes, for the low, low price of 19 million dollars (and though I'm known to, I'm not exaggerating) you could have a 4-bedroom apartment just steps away from the tourist trap nightmare that is Canal Street. Still, it's hard to question the beauty of the building; it's really something to take in. But I'd probably cry myself to sleep each night knowing that my apartment cost the equivalent of a small Polynesian Island-nation's GDP.


Forsyth St Between Grand St and Broome St 

Today's photos were taken by my good friend Shalimar Luis. Please be sure to visit her website, which is full of her amazing artwork ranging from illustrations and painting to typography and graphic design.

A sister to Chrystie Street across Sara Roosevelt Park, Forsyth is a long mixed stretch of industrial, commercial and a dash of residential (sounds like a Sim City layout). While the park makes it feel a bit different than you'd expect, there's no mistaking that this is still Chinatown. The assortment of groceries for sale make that abundantly clear. 

The park itself is a great mixture of sports, art, and just plain-old sitting around. The narrowness of the park, especially when it's right up next to the street, can make it rather hard to get around sometimes- but as long as you keep to one side or the other, you'll be ok.