Cortlandt Alley has the distinction of being the longest alley in Manhattan. It runs three blocks (between Canal and Franklin Streets) Both Chinatown and Tribeca claim this popular location.
Given its gloomy, sinister, atmospheric ambience, it is the backdrop for countless films, commercials and music videos. It is weirdly inviting.
It stirs curiosity to its past. It features old, rusty, windows and precarious fire escapes, intriguing graffiti on the walls. Consider it a portal that will lead you to another time and place. Explore!
You will find a tiny museum, a ping pong training center, secret gambling hangouts, and yes, luxury apartments. You are in a historic district that dates back to 1817. It owes its name to Jacubus Van Cortlandt a descendant of a landowning Dutch colonial family.
Clearly, a lot has changed since the alley came into being over 200 years ago. Memories are easily conjured up. I personally remember many a night in the 1970s at the Mudd Club, which stood at White Street and Cortlandt Alley.
This area below Canal was considered a bit dangerous and only the adventurous ventured down there. The punk rock scene was here! Art, fashion, music converged here! Denizens often seen were David Bowie, Madonna, Mick Jagger, The Ramones, Patti Smith, The Talking Heads, fashion icons, Anna Sui, Betsy Johnson and the fascinating literary giants, Allen Ginsberg, and William S Burroughs. Artists such as Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring and Andy Warhol danced the night away.
Do you know what’s right up my alley? Fun facts! Am certain you too will find a few about Cortlandt Alley amusing. Bruce Wayne’s parents were mugged and met their death there! Crocodile Dundee fought his way there. Will Smith in Men in Black 3 fights an alien and a graffiti artist in this same gritty alley. Believe it or not, even the Smurfs have been there! Of course, every police drama shot in New York has filmed there!
Cortlandt Alley continues to beckon directors from all over who insist on the real thing.
However, let us not forget that other options are out there! Directors and producers can’t ignore the ease and convenience of a green screen on a film set. They avail themselves of both. It makes sense financially as well.