New York

Dingy and Pristine: The Alleys of Tribeca

Updated: Nov 20, 2009 10:15
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New York City is chock full of storied streets and landmarks, and you only get to see a fraction of them from a sightseeing bus. They are all over the city, tucked in all its nooks and crannies, paved over, faded, dirty, and all easily overlooked on the way to work or some bagel place or another. The alleys of TriBeCa are no different. Subtle, industrial little urban cloisters hiding between Manhattan’s hoity-toity restaurants and high-end real estate. Two streets in particular have caught my eye during my traipses in the Triangle Below Canal.

photo by Andrew Prokos -- click image for link

Staple Street is a two block-long north-south alley running between Harrison and Duane, and flanked by Greenwich Street and Hudson Street. It features a pedestrian walkway adjoining the buildings on its east and west sides which looks like an old-timey mini-Minneapolis skyway. Built in 1907, legend has it that it was put in to connect the New York Hospital’s clinic on the east side to the tuberculosis ward on the west while eliminating the need to walk in public, possibly spreading the contagious bacterium. Well, that’s what an old guy in a bar told me. The New York Times said the building on the west side of Staple was just the Hospital’s “stable and laundry.” Personally, I think Vinnie tells a much more engrossing story, so I choose to believe his version. Trusting old men in bars has gotten me far in life.

You could eat flapjacks off the ground in this alley.

Collister Street: You could eat flapjacks off the ground in this alley.

Collister Street is a very similar two block alley between Laight and Beach Streets and also parallelled by Greenwich and Hudson. These little sidestreets are notable for their peculiarly isolated and secret yet safe feeling. They somehow feel dingy and pristine at the same time, like movie sets gathering dust until the next shoot. Home to multi-million dollar real estate, these pockets of pleasance ooze unassuming quaintness (that costs quite a pretty penny).

I love Mikes Papayas sign. It reminds me of the concessions cartoons at the drive-in.

I love Mike's Papaya's sign. It reminds me of the concessions cartoons at the drive-in.

But this is a column of, for and by the broke. So when you’re done ambling through the unaffordable, walk over to Mike’s Papaya a few blocks away on Reade Street at Church Street for 99-cent hot dogs that are solidly tasty and a hell of a value. Two dogs and a juice for $3.50. A nice reality check of a price after briefly floating in Tribeca’s economic stratosphere.

Black and white Staple Street photo by Andrew Prokos.

Mike’s Papaya
88 Reade St. (at Church Street)
subway: 1, 2, 3, A, C, E to Chambers St. or R, W to City Hall-Broadway

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Joe Petersen - Classist Columnist

Joe Petersen - Classist Columnist

Joe grew up in South San Francisco, spent a decade in Santa Cruz, and
relocated to Brooklyn in late 2008. He has been a waiter, a maintenance
man, a record store clerk, a professional radio DJ, an amateur
newcaster and a movie theater popcorn-slinger. Being broke is his
birthright, as he is from broke stock and has limited prospects. He
likes comic books and is obsessed with soul music.

1 Comment

  1. Broke-Ass Stuart - Editor In Cheap
    November 18, 2009 at 9:38 am

    I love all the weird little old school streets that exist in NY. You should check out Pomander Walk in the Upper West Side and Sniffen Court in Murray Hill. Bot hof them are in my NYC book. Sniffen court is where they shot the cover of The Doors album “Strange Days”.