Before Soho was home to an Apple Store, Dior and a slew of other luxury retailers and multi-million dollar apartments, it was considered “land so unvaluable that the Dutch gave it to the slaves,” says NYU economist William Easterly. In a new video project called “Greene Street,” Easterly traces the history of just one block of Greene Street (between Houston and Prince Street) and distills 400 years of history into a fascinating and informative 1.5-minute film. In seconds you can see the incredible transformations that occurred along the tiny 486-foot stretch of the neighborhood, which includes reincarnations as the biggest red light district in NYC, the center of garment manufacturing in the U.S., a shantytown, an artists’ hub, and finally the high-end retail corridor we know it as today.
According to Easterly, we can learn a lot by examining the history of a place at a micro level. “I think the advantage of looking at things at the local level is you can really see the bottom-up way in which a lot of good things happen,” says Easterly in the video. “And conversely, you can see the possible damage that could be done by somebody trying to exert control from the top down without adequate local knowledge.”
On his site he adds, “The big picture alone may give us an unbalanced view that understates the role of innovation, creative destruction, and other rapid and surprising changes that occur at the local level. Plans happen at the macro-level, but change often happens at the local level.”
More on his Greene Street project can be found here.
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Neighborhoods : Soho