Dingy and Pristine: The Alleys of Tribeca
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.
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.
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).
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.
88 Reade St. (at Church Street)
subway: 1, 2, 3, A, C, E to Chambers St. or R, W to City Hall-Broadway