With the current stay-home and social distancing orders in effect, community members are coming to terms with how our typically vibrant district is suddenly very empty. Yet, just because you are staying in doesn’t mean you can no longer experience the beauty, history, and energy of SoHo Broadway. Below, we have put together a list of books and movies to help give you that little taste of the neighborhood without having to worry about keeping a six foot distance from people out on the street.
As one of NYC’s most iconic neighborhoods, SoHo has been the subject of many books, both fiction and non-fiction. Thankfully, our friends at the SoHo Memory Project put together an extensive list of SoHo books, and below we highlighted a few of our favorites. Though non-essential businesses may be closed, including bookstores, if you are interested in one of these books we encourage you to order from long-time local bookseller McNally Jackson, which is still selling online.
Since its 1982 publication, Loft Living has become the classic analysis of the emergence of artists as a force of gentrification and the related rise of “creative city” policies around the world. Prescient and dramatic, Loft Living shows how a declining downtown Manhattan became a popular “scene,” how loft apartments became hot commodities for the middle class, and how investors, corporations, and rich elites profited from deindustrializing the city’s factory districts and turning them into trendy venues for art galleries, artisanal restaurants, and bars. From the story of SoHo in Lower Manhattan to SoWa in Boston and SoMa in San Francisco, Zukin explains how once-edgy districts are transformed into high-price neighborhoods, and how no city can restrain the juggernaut of rising property values.
In the 1970s, New York City hit rock bottom. Crime was at its highest, middleclass exodus was in high gear, and bankruptcy loomed. Many people credit New York’s “master builder,” Robert Moses, with turning Gotham around, despite his heavy-handed ways, including proposed local projects such as the Lower Manhattan Expressway. Roberta Brandes Gratz contradicts this conventional view. She argues that New York City recovered precisely because of the waning power of Moses and the growing influence of Jane Jacobs, the pioneer of organic renewal projects. As American cities face a new economic crisis, Jacobs’s philosophy is again vital for metropolitan life. Gratz gives an on-the-ground account of urban renewal and community success. Her writing—at once personal, political, and instructive—breaks down how the impossible was achieved.
Reno, so-called because of the place of her birth, comes to New York intent on turning her fascination with motorcycles and speed into art. Her arrival coincides with an explosion of activity—artists colonize a deserted and industrial SoHo, stage actions in the East Village, blur the line between life and art. Reno is submitted to a sentimental education of sorts—by dreamers, poseurs, and raconteurs in New York and by radicals in Italy, where she goes with her lover to meet his estranged and formidable family. Ardent, vulnerable, and bold, Reno is a fiercely memorable observer, superbly realized by Rachel Kushner.
SoHo, with its beautiful cast-iron architecture, has been used as a backdrop in many movies set in or about NYC. Below are a few movies that are actually set in the neighborhood, we hope you enjoy checking them out as you attempt to do work from your couch or other comfortable location at home.
After Hours is a 1985 American black comedy film directed by Martin Scorsese, written by Joseph Minion, and starring Griffin Dunne with an ensemble cast. The film follows Paul Hackett, portrayed by Dunne, as he experiences a series of misadventures while making his way home from New York City’s SoHo district during the night.
Ghost is a 1990 American romantic fantasy thriller film directed by Jerry Zucker, written by Bruce Joel Rubin, and starring Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore, Whoopi Goldberg, Tony Goldwyn, and Rick Aviles. The plot centers on a young woman in jeopardy (Moore), the ghost of her murdered lover (Swayze), and a reluctant psychic (Goldberg) who assists him in saving her.
The Night We Never Met is a 1993 American romantic comedy film directed by Warren Leight. The film stars Matthew Broderick, Annabella Sciorra and Kevin Anderson. Upset with his current living arrangements, Sam rotates occupancy of a flat with slob Brian and painter Ellen. Each of them get the apartment to themselves two days each week. Sam and Ellen never see each other, they just leave notes. When Sam and Brian swap their schedules without telling Ellen, she mistakenly believes Brian is the one she’s falling in love with.
The Greatest Showman is a 2017 American musical/biographical drama film directed by Michael Gracey in his directorial debut, written by Jenny Bicks and Bill Condon and starring Hugh Jackman, Zac Efron, Michelle Williams, Rebecca Ferguson, and Zendaya. Featuring nine original songs from Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, the film is inspired by the story of P. T. Barnum’s creation of Barnum’s American Museum on Broadway and the lives of its star attractions. P.T. Barnum’s history in SoHo Broadway was covered in previous Lookback post.
With a plethora of streaming services available, the time to binge watch a tv show has never been easier or more apropos than this PAUSE. In SoHo, one television show has become incredibly iconic: Felicity. The series revolves around the fictional college experiences of the title character, Felicity Porter (portrayed by Keri Russell), as she attends the “University of New York” (based on New York University), which lies across the country from her home in Palo Alto, California. Throughout the series, Felicity and her friends worked at probably SoHo’s most well-known destination, the now closed Dean & Deluca. For anyone who wants to see NYC 20 years ago, and for anyone looking for a new series to binge, be sure to give Felicity a watch.