Every so often—like now, the beginning of spring—we at The Commercial Observer strive to unearth long forgotten trivia buried somewhere in the annals of New York City real estate history.
In this week’s issue, we’ve dug up questions spanning technical minutiae, the stomping grounds of a young Martin Scorsese (pictured) and, of course, a little History 101 that should be familiar to real estate professionals young and old. Below, Commercial Observer staff writer Billy Gray provides the questions and answers.
Pangs of New York
Martin Scorsese, who grew up on the then-mean streets of Little Italy, has joined the fight to slow the luxurious transformation of the Bowery. The director recently wrote a letter to City Planning Commission Chair Amanda Burden that announced his solidarity with the Bowery Alliance of Neighbors as the organization seeks revised zoning limits on the east side of the thoroughfare, a former Skid Row and, before that, theater and vaudeville destination.
Film & TV
To moviegoers, the intersection of New York real estate and film exists as a loop of timeless screen images. Audrey Hepburn gazes into the Tiffany window. Woody Allen and Diane Keaton sit in the shadow of the 59th Street Bridge. Meg Ryan feigns an orgasm at Katz’s.
Whether their scenes were filmed in the city or recreated on a Burbank soundstage, filmmakers have always relied on New York for the dramatic backdrops that its skyline, landmarks, restaurants, avenues and enviable apartment interiors provide.
But 80-odd years after the entertainment industry decamped for Los Angeles—its persistent warmth and sunshine conducive to long shoots, its sprawl hospitable to mammoth studio lots—an increasing number of Hollywood pros are leaving their temperate backyards and making New York their backlot once again with a handful of transactions for actual brick-and-mortar office spaces across Manhattan.
“I moved to New York eight years ago because of the level of work that was happening here,” said Eric Robertson, the visual effects supervisor at the digital studio Mr. X, which expanded from Toronto to Manhattan last year. “That and the fact that a lot of filmmakers were coming home from L.A. People just want to live here because it’s such a hotbed of creativity. And everyone loves New York.”
Of course, the film and television industry never left the city. John Cassavetes, Martin Scorsese, Woody Allen, Spike Lee and Darren Aronofsky are just a few homegrown cinematic bards who preferred to stay put. New York University’s Maurice Kanbar Institute of Film and Television famously churns out indie darlings. And quintessential New York TV series like Law & Order and Sex and the City were produced locally to gritty and glossy effect—even if Seinfeld was shot in Studio City.
But over the past decade, cultural, economic and political forces have coalesced to bolster New York’s reputation as Hollywood East.