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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 Little Italy (7)


Elizabeth St Between Kenmare St and Grand St


Lined with small shops and apartments alike, this narrow street packs quite a bit into a small space. It's certainly not a block you'd find in any tour guide. It doesn't offer anything groundbreaking, and seeing as it's just a few steps away from other tourist-friendly areas, there'd be little reason to visit here.

The feeling down here is rather authentic. The stores are a hodgepodge of different services, none of which are chains. The apartments look cramped and vary in quality. a few places on the east side of the block have some flashy and kitschy exteriors, but they're in the minority. 


Delancey St Between Chrystie St and Bowery


This is the very last block of Delancey before it transforms into the far smaller, and less note-worthy Kenmare Street. Home to the Bowery Ballroom and not much else, the neighborhood is very industrial, cold and unwelcoming.

Since Delancey is a direct route to the Williamsburg Bridge, there's always a painful amount of traffic to be had here. The narrowing of the block past Bowery doesn't help the situation at all. This block hasn't yet succumbed to the full force of redevelopment. Many of the buildings here are old, worn, and not too attractive. You can easily spot some of the larger skyscrapers from the Financial District peeking over the rooftops here, which act as a sort-of beacon.


Broome St Between Mulberry St and Elizabeth St

I don't know why, but when I went to visit Broome Street last week it was absolutely swarming with tourists. And I know what you're going to say: "Well of course it was"…but this was more than usual. I couldn't see any locals here at all. Everyone was either in tour groups, or taking photos, or watching the unidentified parade that was making its way down Mott Street. It felt like a visit to a museum.

The neighborhood certainly is attractive for visitors. It's got a lot of that old New York vibe which is disappearing so rapidly from other parts of the city. The buildings are old, short and quaint. The stores are mostly locally-owned, and the food is generally pretty good.


Mulberry St Between Broome St and Grand St


Where some of the worst slums in New York used to exist, you'll now find tourists and cafes. And though some of the original buildings remain and the streets are still overflowing with people and food, the vibe is entirely different. Often closed in to cars in the Summer, the street is an open-air bazaar filled with every type of italian food you can imagine. The gaudy decorations which span overhead are only outdone by the Bertolli sponsorship banners hanging every 20 feet.

In many ways, Mulberry in August and September is the street fair done right. While hundreds of fairs close down dozens of blocks throughout the year, they're all generally identical to one another – offering nothing unique from the previous week. Strolling through Little Italy the street vendors and cafes seem to offer far more appealing products than your normal street food. Sure, the impenetrable crowds remain, but at least the block has some character.


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.


Mulberry St Between Prince St and Houston St


Mulberry Street is the perfect example for why I started this blog. While many are familiar with the stretch of Lafayette Street between Prince and Houston, most (including myself) have probably never ventured west or east of it to see what the surrounding blocks offered. It's incredible how much the major thoroughfares distract from the smaller blocks only a few feet away. This is where the hidden gems can be found. This is what the tourists fail to see. It's these supposed blocks of no consequence which give New York its flavor.

The block has a great atmosphere, consisting of a church and several old brick buildings. A plaque on one of the fences talks about how this stretch of road used to be a popular "play street" in the middle of the 20th century. I can see why; with few cars and a secluded (but not sketchy) feeling I could imagine a whole group of kids working on an intense game of stick ball on a hot summer day.

Maybe it's still prevalent in the outer boroughs, but I never see kids taking over streets to play games anymore – unless it's one of those neighborhood-planned block parties. What happened? Was it video games? Did the city crack down on rubber ball sales?