Canal Street has this gravitational pull which has the potential to suck all life from any surrounding area. While blocks like this suffer from a drought of things to do or see (save for a restaurant or business or two), Canal is positively overflowing with crap and people – causing a bottleneck that is almost impossible to escape from. I'll grant that this isn't aways true, and the sphere of influence is limited to only a few blocks, but it's a noticeable effect.
The neighborhood has some stunning old-world architecture which is being offset by a collection of very strange modern buildings. Personally I like this sort of dichotomy, but I can understand the cries of New Yorkers who lament to loss of previous marvels.