Thursday, November 29, 2007

Bound up

I snapped this photo on Monday evening at the intersection of Crosby and Grand Street. Even on a rainy night, when you pull yourself into your umbrella, these blocks feel wide. Long buildings anchor ample sidewalks which slope unevenly to the street, faking spaciousness.

In Greenwich Village, streets of the same size inspire intimacy, with trees and narrow townhouses, and trash cans crowding the sidewalks. Even in the midtown canyons, it can be easy to forget about the giants that tower overhead. Restaurants, delis, and glass lobbies reach out to the pedestrian.

On Crosby Street, nothing reaches out to you. If you want to find the lone bar on this block, you have to look hard. Back entrances shrug, as do the smoke-break employees. There are no skyscrapers, but the standoffish architecture wasn't built for pedestrians. The mottled pavement and absence of landscaping boil the city down to it's basic elements - humans surrounded on all sides by human creations.

Today, a film crew huddled on the same sidewalk seen above. On camera, a shabbily-dressed woman picked around some garbage cans. In the background, a truck idled in the middle of the sidewalk. In the Village, the same scene might come across as ironic; all of these lovely townhouses, and this woman stands out in the cold. Here, though, the street imparts no irony. It's the perfect place for an abandoned person.

Maybe that's what draws so many film crews to Crosby Street - and to SoHo in general. You might go elsewhere in search of human scale, but here it's just an intractable chunk of city.

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