The Secrets of Chinatown’s Cortlandt Alley in NYC

Cortlandt Alley-Chinatown-Secrets-NYCCortlandt Alley in Chinatown. Photo via Flickr by zokuga

If you’re looking for a glimpse of old New York City, look no further than Cortlandt Alley in Chinatown. The building facades are heavily rusted and appear to be in a state of disrepair. Remnants of the areas industrial past, such as loading docks and fire escapes, line the walls and remain intact.

Urban explorers have taken a fascination in the street, which seems to hold many mysteries. When Scouting NY took a trip to the street four years ago, he discovered a subterranean Ping Pong facility in a space he expected would house criminal activity–it did indeed have iron bar clad windows and he often heard screaming from within. There’s also a fascinating museum built into a freight elevator, a curiosity we covered early last year.

The Museum on Cortlandt Alley

The northern most end of the alley is at Canal Street, traveling all the way to Franklin Street at its southernmost end. The street was originally laid out in 1817, when it was merely a small street running parallel to broadway. The street is named, akin to Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx, for the Van Cortlandt family. The powerful family is rooted in the foundation of New York– Oloff Stevenson Van Cortlandt arrived in 1637.

Cortlandt-Alley-Chinatown-NYCBack entrance of 72 Walker Street in Cortlandt Alley by Flickr user Gene Han

The street may also appear familiar to music fans. The band Vampire Weekend filmed its music video, Cousins in the alley. The whole video occurs solely within the alley with neon tape covering the walls, a large painted neon target at the end of the street, and the band moving throughout the street.

Cortlandt Alley is just one of many smaller alleys or streets throughout New York City where music videos were filmed– Sheryl Crow shot a music video on Gay Street in the West Village. Many famous album covers as well have been photographed throughout the city, and we previously profiled the man behind Pop Spots, who tracks down and rephotographs locations where iconic album covers were shot.

Get in touch with the author @spencercnyc

 Chinatown, Cortlandt Alley, Daily What?!, Secrets of NYC

2 Responses
  1. The video for “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” was also shot on Gay Street.

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