Photo by Glen Wilson, © 2019 Warner Bros. Ent. All Rights Reserved

The movie Motherless Brooklyn, written, directed and starring Edward Norton, opens this Friday. The film, a long time in the making, is based on the noir mystery novel set in 1950s New York City by Jonathan Lethem. Urban enthusiasts will be delighted to find that the central plot involves topics of urban renewal and gentrification, made compelling through a whodunnit adventure. Fans of New York City history will recognize a thinly-disguised Robert Moses character, called Moses Randolph, played by Alec Baldwin, a Jane Jacobs-inspired character called Gabby Horowitz played by Cherry Jones, and an all-star cast rounded out by Willem Dafoe, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Bobby Carnavale, and Bruce Willis. Norton plays the tourette-inflicted detective Lionel Essrog, who doggedly tries to get down to the bottom of the murder of his former boss. The filming locations for Motherless Brooklyn are a delight to behold, effectively recreating a New York that is both lost and still with us thanks to the very people that inspired the book.

Without spoiling any plot points, we share with you more than ten filming locations to look out for in Motherless Brooklyn!

1. NYC’s Public Baths

The pool at the Hansborough Recreation Center. © 2019 Warner Bros. Ent. All Rights Reserved

Moses Randolph likes his daily swims and the real Robert Moses was certainly a swimming proponent: he was responsible for the building of twenty-three pools and bathhhouses throughout his long career (and many accumulated titles). In an early scene in Motherless Brooklyn, we see that he has closed off one of the city’s public baths for his own personal use. He exits through the Neoclassical-style Asser Levy Public Bath, heads down the stairs, and gets into his car. This New York City landmark is located on East 23rd Street in the Kips Bay neighborhood and named after one of the first Jewish residents ever of New York City and the first to ever own a house here. Levy made his way from present-day Lithuania to Amsterdam and to the New World in Dutch New Amsterdam in 1654, starting as a tradesman and becoming a wealthy and influential lawyer and businessman over the ensuing decades.

In one of the final scenes of the film, Randolph and Lionel Essrog meet at a beautiful indoor pool. Perhaps this is meant to be the interior of the Asser Levy public bath, or another location. Regardless, this blue-tiled pool is located inside the Hansborough Recreation Center on 134th Street in East Harlem.

2. New York County Supreme Court

Photo by Glen Wilson, © 2019 Warner Bros. Ent. All Rights Reserved

Moses Randolph is sworn in to a new role by the mayor in the rotunda of the New York County Supreme Court in Lower Manhattan. In a following scene, you understand how much sway Randolph has when he expresses his displeasure at the mayor. We are also introduced to the Jane Jacobs-inspired character, Gabby Horowitz, in this scene, who is sitting in the audience and predicts Randolph’s ire.

The New York County Supreme Court’s rotunda is easily the most impressive part of the building with beautiful WPA murals entitled “The History of the Law” designed by Italian artist Attilio Pusterla and painted by him and a team of artists. This courthouse is often filmed at, whether on the steps on inside the rotunda, seen recently in Billions.

3. The Robert Moses Building

The attention to historical detail is very impressive in Motherless Brooklyn, and this was one of the filming locations that made us smile. The office of Moses Randolph, exterior at least, is filmed at Robert Moses’ actual office and headquarters on Randall’s Island. Originally named The Administration Building, the Robert Moses Building was constructed by Aymar Enbury II, who worked on many of Moses’ other architectural projects. The building was completed in 1937, and can be found today next to the Triborough Bridge on Randall’s Island. The Administration Building was meant to be used as the center of operations for the bridge. However, it quickly transformed into a major base of operations for the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority, and its director, Robert Moses.

Alec Baldwin as Moses Randolph, aka Robert Moses with Edward Norton as Lionel Essrog. Photo by Glen Wilson, © 2019 Warner Bros. Ent. All Rights Reserved

The interior scenes were shot mostly in the ballroom of the New York Academy of Medicine, with digital backdrops added to make it appear as if it was under the Triborough Bridge. In an interview with us, production designer Beth Mickle said, “Aside from the one little entrance vestibule, everything else had been remodeled…What we did do, we went in and they had some old emblems from the Triborough [Bridge] Authority that we took photos of, and we made our own plaques and emblems all based on what we saw there which is all original.”

4. Bedford-Stuyvesant

Photo by Glen Wilson, © 2019 Warner Bros. Ent. All Rights Reserved

In Motherless Brooklyn, Fort Greene is the neighborhood in focus as an urban renewal project. Today, Fort Greene does not have quite the same look as it might have had in the 1950s. So, Bedford-Stuyvesant is used instead, with set design to make the street in question look even more abandoned than it is. The substitution works, as both neighborhoods are known for tall, stately brownstones. Townhouses in Fort Greene sell for upwards of $3 million these days, but Bedford-Stuyvesant is on the up too.

5. Harlem

Photo by Glen Wilson, © 2019 Warner Bros. Ent. All Rights Reserved

Laura Rose, played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw, lives in Harlem, around the corner from a jazz bar that becomes a central location in the film. In the movie, many jazz greats perform in the first floor club, and Lionel gets his first introduction to the music genre here. The location for the jazz club was a building at 773 St. Nicholas Avenue, which unfortunately burned down during the filming of the movie.

6. Hamilton Heights

Photo by Glen Wilson, © 2019 Warner Bros. Ent. All Rights Reserved

In the opening of the film, Lionel and his colleague are staking out an apartment where their boss Frank Minna is taking a meeting. Frank is being cautious and provides a code in case things go wrong. These scenes are filmed in Hamilton Heights, in Manhattan, a neighborhood named after one of America’s founding fathers, Alexander Hamilton, whose house is still located here (albeit in a different location).

7. New York Public Library

© 2019 Warner Bros. Ent. All Rights Reserved

Lionel starts digging into the past of Moses Randolph and he heads to the Rose Reading Room at the New York Public Library to investigate some old newspaper archives. In this stunning room, which was restored and reopened in 2016, Lionel makes an important discovery that changes his understanding of the intrigue at hand.

8. Washington Square Park

Gabby Horowitz and her team stage a protest under the arch in Washington Square Park. The real Jane Jacobs did too, and it was also shown in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, when Midge Maisel inadvertently runs into the protest, meets Jane Jacobs, and gets brought on stage.

This park is where Jacobs and her supporters protested Robert Moses’ plan to cut a highway through Greenwich Village to build the massive Lower Manhattan Expressway.

9. Vintage NYC Subway

Photo by Glen Wilson, © 2019 Warner Bros. Ent. All Rights Reserved

Laura and Lionel get on the subway, which is definitely filmed in one of the historic subways still maintained by the New York Transit Museum. You can even find vintage advertisements inside, and old amenities like fans and wicker chairs. You can see some of these vintage trains for yourself by visiting the museum, which is located in Downtown Brooklyn, or on one of the nostalgia train rides offered throughout the year.

10. Penn Station

Penn Station as recreated in Warner Bros. Pictures’ drama “MOTHERLESS BROOKLYN,” a Warner Bros. Pictures release. Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures © 2019 Warner Bros. Ent. All Rights Reserved

Edward Norton insisted that the original Penn Station had to be recreated for the film, versus using something like Grand Central as a stand in. A combination of VFX and a set built on a soundstage brought the demolished train station back to life, and you look at our in-depth analysis on how this was done (with more images) here. A pivotal scene takes place here, and Norton understood how the station’s fate ties into one of the main themes of Motherless Brooklyn. 

Join us on our next tour of the Remnants of Penn Station where you’ll be able to see the original glass blocks in person, along with numerous other pieces left of the old station:

Tour of the Remnants of Penn Station

11. Robert Moses State Park

© 2019 Warner Bros. Ent. All Rights Reserved

Robert Moses had influence outside of New York City as well, building highways out to Long Island and creating new state parks. One scene shows Robert Moses State Park, on the south shore of Long Island, as well as Fire Island.

Motherless Brooklyn opens on Friday, November 1st. Next, read our in-depth look at how old Penn Station was recreated for Motherless Brooklyn. Next, see the NYC-area filming locations for Joker.