SoHo in Manhattan NY


See Also:

SoHo - "South of Houston street"

SoHo is short for "South of Houston street", north of Canal Street, and between Sullivan and Lafayette Streets.

This most diverse neighborhood in lower Manhattan has had a long history before becoming the heart and soul of New York City. Once the home of factories and warehouse buildings artists flocked to this area in the 50’s and 60’s because of the cheap loft space. Artists such as Phillip Glass, Twyla Tharp, Nam June Paik, Meredith Monk, Chuck Close, Frank Stella, plus many others helped create the ideal situation to make SoHo the Nexus of creative activity for a very magical time in the 1960's. SoHo came to represent the hip, avant garde scene.

SoHo - Home for World Class Art Galleries

Today, with stores like Intermix, SoHo is synonymous with trendy shopping, world class art galleries like Andre Zarre Gallery, a contemporary furniture center in Greene Street, some of the most sought after real estate ("Finding anything under $1 million in Soho is a job," so says Siim Hanja of Stribling & Associates), the future site of Mr Donald Trump lastest building and of course it's cobblestone streets and cast iron buildings. All of these reasons make SoHo the heart and soul of New York City.

It is also the backdrop for movie locations, fashion shoots, and one of the best places in the city to catch a glimpse of famous stars of many genres, many of whom live in SoHo. It's look and feel has been copied in many movie lots. SoHo has been used as a location to such movies as Men In Black (Will Smith), Ghost (Demi Moore, Patrick Swyze), Unfaithful (Diane Lane, Richard Gere), Hitch (Will Smith, Eva Mendez), Little Nicky (Adam Sandler), Spiderman (Tobey Maguire. Kirsten Dunst), Raising Helen (Kate Hudson, Garry Marshall Director), After Hours (Griffin Dunne, Martin Scorcese Director), plus many many more.

Some of the attraction in this area: Guggenheim Museum SoHo - the little brother to the Uptown Museum. The Museum of African Art, New York City Fire Museum (Historic NYC Firehouse Museum- great collection of Fire Engines and Equipment.)

Who lives in SoHo

It is very difficult to put together a composite sketch of the typical SoHo dweller. First, over 90% of people you see in SoHo don't live there. They shop, work or they go out, but don't live in SoHo.

If we were to look at the crowd from a historical perspective, people inhabiting SoHo in the 60's, 70's and 80's were artists attracted by large and vacant industrial spaces (good for hanging your paintings, you know). They squatted in empty buildings and since in the 60's pretty much all buildings here were empty, they gradually filled the neighborhood. A 1962 report on underutilized commercial zones in the city described SoHo as an enormous commercial slum. That was the starting point for gentrification. In the next 5-6 years plans for demolishing most of the neighborhood and building a highway here were actively discussed. Luckily, that never happened. 1970's saw a peak of artistic activity in the area. In the end, many artists were granted the right to stay by negotiating a deal with the city and the landlords whereby they bought out their illegally occupied spaces for what very soon seemed a ridiculously low price.

Subsequent transformations of SoHo is a classic tale of a gentrified neighborhood: the very same people who made it liveable and "cool" were forced out by the rising prices - unless these people were lucky to already own their lofts.

Today, much of the area is populated with Wall Streeters whose only distinguishing characteristic is that while they could have settled in million-dollar apartments, they chose million-dollar lofts instead. They are nice people and all but there's hardly anything "artistic" about them (again, apart from the taste for loft living).

Among "artistic" people, two categories have survived - those who made it big (famous actors, painters, musicians such as Sarah Jessica Parker, Matthew Broderick, Lenny Kravitz and dozens of others) and those who squatted in the 1960's, negotiated a sweet deal and now own their lofts. In other words, almost no one under 35.

Summary

Soho is a contradiction. It's noisy, overcommercialized and filled to the brink with Hollywoodian pretense. But it is also elegant, noticeably different from the rest of NYC (which is funny because many people have said SoHo is what New York is supposed to look like), and still artsy, somehow.

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