This Is The Most Filmed In Alley In NYC
July 13, 2018 10:24 AM   Subscribe

New York City is not a city of dark, dangerous, moody alleys, but that has not stopped Hollywood from portraying it as such.

When is the last time you hooked a left into an alley to cut across to the next street? Or to feed a feral cat? Or to stash a backpack? Or to hide from someone, right there, behind one of those dumpsters, crouched in a picturesque layer of fog?
posted by poffin boffin (49 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
 
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posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:40 AM on July 13 [2 favorites]


Quite a few years ago, there was a film set in 1940s NYC (I think it was one of the Captain America films) that was actually filmed in Manchester and Liverpool in Northern England because it looked more like NYC than NYC.
posted by winterhill at 10:40 AM on July 13 [6 favorites]


Yeah, now that I think about it, during my one trip to NYC I actually saw fewer back alleys and laneways and such than I see here in Toronto.

I pass fake NYC subway entrances and fake NYC yellow cabs all the time walking through Toronto. It's quite amusing.
posted by Fish Sauce at 10:46 AM on July 13 [4 favorites]


Related stories from Big City, U.S.A., and neighboring Anytown:

Location scouts upset again over green bike lane in downtown L.A. (Los Angeles Times, March 30, 2013)
Location scouts are once again red-faced over the bright green bicycle lane in downtown Los Angeles.

City officials painted a 1.5-mile strip of Spring Street neon green in 2011 for a bike lane as part of larger effort pushed by Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa to make streets safer and more inviting to cyclists.

"As we all know, unlike other major cities, our downtown footprint is very small and limited and we've used this stretch for [an] 'anywhere in the world' big city for years and it is vital to us for many projects, " Ed Duffy, business agent for Teamsters Local 399, which represents location managers, wrote in a recent email to members.

After weeks of negotiations, the mayor's office assured location managers last year that the city would let the stretch of Springs Street (Google streetview) between 3rd and 9th fade away, Duffy said.
Where in the world is this? (Google streetview pop quiz, no cheating!) This house may be familiar from Breaking Bad, in which case you might guess (correctly) that this is Albuquerque, New Mexico. This street isn't quite so forested as an adjacent street (Streetview again), but this area is commonly used as Anytown, USA in films because of the big, green trees and the very un-New Mexico lawns.

Back to the alley in question, here's Cortland Alley in Streetview, squeezing past a UPS truck.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:49 AM on July 13 [4 favorites]


If we DID have as many alleys as movies seem to think we do, we wouldn't need to leave massive piles of garbage just sitting out on the sidewalks.
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:52 AM on July 13 [17 favorites]


There's a handful of streets in Cincinnati and my neighboring hometown (Hamilton, OH) that look enough like 1950s New York that Todd Haynes filmed parts of Carol there.
posted by Strange Interlude at 10:52 AM on July 13


Those trees and lawns may contribute to the "anytown" look, but the roofs (both materials and pitch) are very Southern/Southwestern.
posted by explosion at 10:52 AM on July 13 [3 favorites]


I pass fake NYC subway entrances and fake NYC yellow cabs all the time walking through Toronto. It's quite amusing.

I once saw a guy trying to hail one as they were being driven to a nearby set. It was stopped at a light and he was trying to get the driver's attention.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 10:53 AM on July 13 [1 favorite]


we wouldn't need to leave massive piles of garbage just sitting out on the sidewalks

Ha. I don't live in the city, but in high school we used to go to shows at clubs in the Bowery (which is near this alley) all the time. My main memory of the area around there at night was that it was deserted and there were just mountains of rotting garbage everywhere.

I was down there a few weeks ago and the thing that struck me most was that the piles of trash were much smaller, if they were there at all.
posted by uncleozzy at 10:56 AM on July 13 [1 favorite]


I used to work in a office overlooking Cordlandt Alley and we could look out the window almost any week and see a fashion shoot or something.

(Also my dog peed on every inch of that alley, but he was not the first)
posted by moonmilk at 10:58 AM on July 13 [3 favorites]


I have no memory of these but apparently I found a Swoon and a TRS-80 in Cordlandt Alley.
posted by moonmilk at 11:02 AM on July 13 [3 favorites]


SAMSON
posted by poffin boffin at 11:02 AM on July 13 [1 favorite]


it's actually a gateway to kowloon walled city

you think the city was demolished? oh sweet summer child
posted by Foci for Analysis at 11:03 AM on July 13 [7 favorites]


ALL TRS-80s are gateways to Kowloon Walled City.
posted by moonmilk at 11:05 AM on July 13 [10 favorites]


Chicago, on the other hand, has plenty of picturesque (or plain, if that's your preference) alleys to shoot in.
posted by me3dia at 11:05 AM on July 13 [6 favorites]


This is legit one of my biggest pet peeves. NEW YORK CITY DOES NOT HAVE ALLEYS OKAY

Also it completely takes me out when someone tries to pass off a 1 train as a C train or whatever the hell it is they do because of the MTA's arcane filming rules. I think the show that tried to get this right the most was Treme, but even they (IIRC) tried to pass off Smith-9th as Church or something like that, which is not correct guys.
posted by Automocar at 11:08 AM on July 13 [3 favorites]


The plan that shaped the Manhattan grid explicitly excluded alleys. It's why Cortland is below 1st. There are probably alleys (or similar streets) in the other boroughs (especially queens), but who wants to film there? Queens is not gritty or urban enough.

Boston, on the other hand, has tons of alleys. It's due to its streets being a mismatch of cow paths, game trails and drunken wanderings by various locals.
posted by Hactar at 11:10 AM on July 13 [2 favorites]


the video compilation of film shots using the alley is hilarious for all the times ppl come running out of the alley into the middle of times square, leaving it up to the viewer to imagine the tiresome 20 minutes they've just spent on the R which always smells of hot nutsack
posted by poffin boffin at 11:13 AM on July 13 [6 favorites]


any time i see a film purporting to show a boston street scene i am angered by the absence of turkeys
posted by poffin boffin at 11:14 AM on July 13 [17 favorites]


Thanks to the Nolan films, every time I go to Chicago I am angered by the absence of Batman. I mean, if it became Gotham City for real, that would be cool. Having to keep an oxygen mask on hand in case of attacks of green gas that caused terminal laughing sickness would be a small price to pay for the significant chance, over time, of becoming a costumed sidekick.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:19 AM on July 13 [1 favorite]


Why aren't these ever the location where Paulie gets his thumb cut off in Pope of Greenwich Village.
posted by rhizome at 11:21 AM on July 13 [2 favorites]


as somebody somewhere else once said, Hollywood gets everything wrong. But we only tend to notice when it crosses our fields of expertise
posted by philip-random at 11:22 AM on July 13 [5 favorites]


Why aren't these ever the location where Paulie gets his thumb cut off in Pope of Greenwich Village.

Or where the cop shits his pants.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 11:24 AM on July 13 [1 favorite]


Interesting that NY doesn't have alleys. SF does, and they show up in weird places. You'll be walking a few blocks to get to BART and Oh hey! it's a little alley!
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 11:24 AM on July 13




I was down there a few weeks ago and the thing that struck me most was that the piles of trash were much smaller, if they were there at all.

Even the garbage can’t afford the rent.
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:35 AM on July 13 [23 favorites]


From the Location scouts mad about bike lanes:
"That bright green strip doesn't exist in any other city," Balton said,
They think that LA is the only city with marked bike lanes??

Very strange.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 11:45 AM on July 13 [1 favorite]


My city has an alleyway behind almost every single street (that's where we put our garbage) and they've doubled for NYC's nonexistent alleys many times. Here's Vin Diesel in the alley behind my street that's supposed to be somewhere in Manhattan.
posted by octothorpe at 11:50 AM on July 13


They think that LA is the only city with marked bike lanes??

Very strange.


You could almost see these things from space (well, for a week or two until they all got real fucked up looking from daily use). And when they put them in around 2011, I do believe they were one of the first "we're just going paint a giant part of the street day-glo green" bike lanes around.
posted by sideshow at 11:58 AM on July 13


Also, the main reason for the "uproar" was that the lanes where only in the part of town used by film crews for NYC since NYC doesn't look like NYC anymore.
posted by sideshow at 11:59 AM on July 13


There are green bike lanes all over NYC and have been for years.
posted by enn at 12:04 PM on July 13


Yeah, but people often shoot period stuff that predates bike lanes by decades.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 12:28 PM on July 13


The New York City of my mind is made up of alleys, fire escapes and water towers. It's architecture is defined by Will Eisner. Batman patrols the streets while Spidey swings from tower to tower. Every police detective is John McClain. Every scientist is Egon. Every housewife is Lucy or Ethel. Every gang member is a Shark or a Jet. It's a vivid place, like no place on Earth.
posted by SPrintF at 12:34 PM on July 13 [6 favorites]


it's all nyu dorms now, sorry
posted by poffin boffin at 12:40 PM on July 13 [7 favorites]


I dunno, there are a lot of streets in the financial district that feel distinctly alley like, even if you're walking in to get your thai takeaway or something.

I will remark that I found John Wick remarkable in the sense that for a movie mostly set and actually filmed in NYC, they chose some very un-NYCesque locations that weren't immediately identifiable unless you really knew the city and I liked that.
posted by crankytalking at 1:25 PM on July 13 [1 favorite]


Oh. I've walked down that alley when there wasn't any movie shoot going on. But not recently.
posted by lagomorphius at 2:15 PM on July 13


The New York City of my mind is made up of alleys, fire escapes and water towers. Its architecture is defined by Will Eisner.

Probably like a lot of comics fans, I heard of Eisner well before I saw any of his work, so I tend to associate that sort of cityscape with Frank Miller, who lifted it wholesale for Daredevil. Even then, Miller's pet tropes (visual and otherwise) were so set that a certain hirsute Northamptonian saw fit to present them in satirical form. I still see traces of these visual cues a lot in Marvel Netflix.
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:19 PM on July 13


I wish NYC had alleys - then we could have trash collection from bins in alleys rather than mountains of smelly garbage on the sidewalks.
posted by eustacescrubb at 2:21 PM on July 13 [1 favorite]


Batman's swinging grounds are Gotham, which is clearly Chicago (and is full of alleys).
posted by aspo at 2:44 PM on July 13 [1 favorite]


I've shot in that alley, but who hasn't? I know some more "authentic" sketchy alleys that I use occasionally but they don't have the stereotypical look - just dirty and dangerous.
posted by blaneyphoto at 3:07 PM on July 13


This thread is the first time that I realized Gotham City was NOT supposed to be weird, dystopian Chicago. I always figured it was.
posted by thivaia at 5:09 PM on July 13


Is this the alley where Carrie Bradshaw gets mugged in Sex and the City?
posted by West87thStreet at 5:26 PM on July 13


Batman's swinging grounds are Gotham, which is clearly Chicago (and is full of alleys).

There are some place in Chicago that don't have alleys. It's weird. Although a friend of mine who lives on street with no alley likes his quiet back yard.

The old part of the town I grew up in has the streets on a grid, and the alleys on an offset grid, with long narrow yards in-between. You could more or less walk the entire town without ever leaving an alley except to cross the street and I never wondered why. Because in the olden days horses went up and down the alleys and everybody wanted the stables as far away from the houses as possible.
posted by lagomorphius at 6:06 PM on July 13


Doyers Street always seemed to have some interesting possibilities.
posted by PHINC at 7:06 PM on July 13


Great Jones/Shinbone alley in Noho also gets some intermittant use. [John Wick3, Elementary, etc.]
posted by Lex Tangible at 12:44 AM on July 14


The New York City of my mind is made up of alleys, fire escapes and water towers. It's architecture is defined by Will Eisner. Batman patrols the streets while Spidey swings from tower to tower. Every police detective is John McClain. Every scientist is Egon. Every housewife is Lucy or Ethel. Every gang member is a Shark or a Jet. It's a vivid place, like no place on Earth.

You pretty much just described Chicago.
posted by srboisvert at 7:28 AM on July 14 [2 favorites]


This thread is the first time that I realized Gotham City was NOT supposed to be weird, dystopian Chicago. I always figured it was.

Funny, I always figured that people realized that Gothamist wasn't a newspaper about Chicago. You can get dirty, grimy and dark without alleys. You just need people not to care and to decide to abandon the cities.
posted by Hactar at 11:29 AM on July 14


There are probably alleys (or similar streets) in the other boroughs (especially queens), but who wants to film there? Queens is not gritty or urban enough.

Defensive Queens resident comment incoming: I think you owe yourself a 2018 summer walking tour of Queens. Jackson Heights / Corona / Lefrak City / Flushing / Ozone Park / Jamaica / College Point / around JFK / parts of the rockaways. And if that's still not gritty and urban enough for you at least come and see our alleys, yes we have them.
posted by laptolain at 4:24 PM on July 14


My favorite thing about Queens is that it is possible to turn left from 58th Pl to 58th Rd and then left again onto 58th St and then left again onto 58th Ave and then you're back where you started: a block bordered entirely by streets named 58th.
posted by eustacescrubb at 5:59 PM on July 14 [6 favorites]


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