4. Cortlandt Alley is the most filmed in alley in all of New York City

Cortlandt Alley, where many of New York City's alley shots in films and television shows come from.
Cortlandt Alley, where many of New York City’s alley shots in films and television shows come from.

Running for three blocks between Canal and Franklin Streets is Cortlandt Alley. Named after the Van Cortlandt family, who played an integral role in creating the foundations of New York City, the alley was originally laid out in 1817. Over the years — with its old storm shutters, rusty fire escapes, and graffiti on the walls — Cortlandt Alley has been featured in television shows, commercials, and movies to visually portray a dark and gritty side to New York. In Gotham, Bruce Wayne’s parents are mugged and murdered there, while in Crocodile Dundee a street fight takes place. Cortlandt Alley was the main set piece for Vampire Weekend’s music video Cousins

However, despite its prevalence on the screen, the impression Cortlandt Alley gives is not as accurate as outsiders might be led to believe. Currently, there are only a handful of alleys in Manhattan — all located south of Canal Street. For filmmakers looking to specifically capture a dank dilapidated alley in New York City, only around four to five exist, leaving Cortlandt Alley as one of the few available options. As Nick Carr, a location scout, said in a 2011 interview with Bloomberg’s CityLab, “I try to stress to these directors in a polite way that New York is not a city of alleys. Boston is a city of alleys. Philadelphia has alleys. I don’t know anyone who uses the ‘old alleyway shortcut’ to go home. It doesn’t exist here. But that’s the movie you see. Your impression of New York is that it is the city of alleys.”