Crosby Street

 

Are you ready to go back? WAY back? Here we go….

Filmaker Jody Saslow contacted me recently about a film he made when he was at NYU film school called “Crosby Street.” It is a beautiful portrayal of everyday life on Crosby Street in 1975 that profiles workers and residents alike at a time when gentrification was just peeking its head around the corner.

This film resonated with me in so many ways. As an archivist and historian, this film is an essential resource that documents our neighborhood’s heritage. These firsthand accounts are “proof” of what SoHo was like back then.

On a more personal level, this film brought back so many memories. I lived on the block profiled by Jody at the time he filmed it. I knew many of the characters that appear. We used to park our car in the garage where she interviews workers and I used to order grilled cheese sandwiches and milkshakes from the woman at the coffee shop. The writer who sits in his window and the woman in the chair were our neighbors, they lived on the second floor of our building.  I walked down that street every day to go to school.

This film is a fabulous portrait of a street at a particular moment in time. Although the buildings on Crosby street remain unchanged (aside from the glamorous Crosby Hotel that now sits on the site of the parking lot), the landscape has completely changed.  The street is now home to the MOMA store, Balthazar, Starbucks, and even Bloomingdales, not to mention countless “luxury lofts.”
I am so grateful that Jody has offered to share his film with us. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!
crosby photos 2
Here’s a description of the film:

Crosby Street is an affectionate cinematic portrait of a typical street in New York City’s Soho district during the dawn of its emergence. The film presents average people in the context of ordinary circumstances, offering the opportunity to experience a microcosm of urban life rarely examined: the anonymous, rather than the celebrated.

On Crosby Street we feel the pulse of the city through the people whose lives unfold here. We learn how societal shifts have forced changes in this 100 year-old industrial neighborhood. Workers express their feelings freely regarding their livelihoods that bring them here. Pioneering residents, and transients from the nearby Bowery, offer insights into the various moods and attractions of the street.

The film, made at a time when New York City was on the brink of bankruptcy, is an artifact of a Manhattan that was still a home to manufacturing, when the homeless were “Bowery Bums”, and hand-drawn wooden carts were still used for hauling. There is barely a hint of the emerging phenomenon of gentrification that would eventually make the street’s Soho neighborhood internationally renowned.

1975, 16mm, color, 18 min.

Mannheim International Film Festival
Melbourne International Film Festival
Vienna Film Haus
Polish Television Network
Showtime Television
New York Museum of Modern Art
Robert Flaherty Film Seminar

crosby photos 1

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15 Responses to “Crosby Street”

  1. Steve Linn Says:

    Dear Yuki,

    Jody Saslow is a guy. He was our neighbor. We lived at 101 Crosby and he lived at 105. He shared the building with the jazz drummer Barry Altshul. Their building became the Savoy Restaurant which is now The lower 40 West.
    Best regards, Steve

  2. Carol Goodden Says:

    Gosh, does that ever provoke memories. Gordon and I purchased an abandoned loft building on Crosby St. in 1973. I think it might have been 96 Crosby, but I can’t quite remember. It turned out that too much work had to be done to the building to turn it into artists studios so we forfeited our deposit and never went through with it. The film is wonderful and is very reminiscent of the style of the movie that Gordon made in 1971 – the FOOD film.

  3. Carla Danes Says:

    Jody lived next door to us on Crosby St and is our friend. He is a man. We showed this beautiful film as part of our son Asa’s wedding, who was married at Housing Works on Crosby St. last year. It was Jody’s gift. We are so grateful!

  4. Joanna Gangemi Says:

    That’s a gem. Congrats on getting it. jo

  5. Suzanne Stratton Says:

    A wonderful film. Surely captures the era. The only missing element is a occasional young man or woman pushing a tot in a stroller.

    Thanks!

    Suzanne

  6. Bethsheba Says:

    My Dad has a few stories about the fella with the cart. Ill have to get him to elaborate for me. Great memory.

  7. James Taylor Says:

    Incredible video. Love the glimpse (at 6:17) of “Wolf Paper & Twine” on the side of a truck. Their sign at Sixth Avenue & 21st is still there!

  8. Cindy Piersol Feldman Says:

    Just saw this and it reminds me why I sometimes say that all this was better than a museum. It reminds me of my complaint that official things are too clean.

  9. roadtripjamie Says:

    Reblogged this on HowCitiesWork and commented:
    Fabulous film — Soho in 1975. Full color, documentary, vox pop oral and visual history:

  10. JD Says:

    Oh how I miss Soho as it was: this is a gorgeous film. And as a NYC-raised artist, now struggling to survive in Queens, gentrification and the importance of preserving communities as well as true manufacturing zones, where artists and makers can coexist in peace (with affordable rents!) has never been more relevant. Pass #SBJSA, save manufacturing zones, #savenyc!

  11. Wendy Clarke Says:

    I lived at 61 Crosby street the same time this film was made. I started my video project, the Love Tapes when I lived there. I had a loft that was 5,000 sq ft. I’ve never lived in that much space again. When I visited NYC this year, I was shocked at all the fancy changes that have been made to the street and the neighborhood I now live in northern New Mexico.
    Thanks for this beautiful film.
    Wendy Clarke

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