Alley Culture, City Breaks, Featured

Alley Culture: Manhattan


People who have never been to New York City often have a mental image of the city in their minds.  And that mental image typically includes some sort of dark alley–complete with fire escapes and dumpsters, a la West Side Story–where bad things go down late at night.  Well, I have some bad news for people with this mental image–it is, like the Sharks and the Jets, Tony and Maria, completely fictional.

First, New York City–and specifically Manhattan–is pretty darn safe.  I feel more comfortable there than in almost any other city in the world and I’ve most definitely never encountered a musically gifted gang of dancers rumbling, snapping, or otherwise cavorting about.  And second, even if ‘bad things’ do ‘go down’, they don’t go down in alleys.  Why?  Because there are no alleys in Manhattan.

There’s simply no wasted space in this city, so where alleys once were, you’ll find tiny gardens, air conditioning units, and sometimes even impossibly skinny houses built in between two larger buildings.  I’m not sure what’s being built in this alley, but there’s clearly some construction going on.  And when it is done, there will no longer be an alley.  On an island 13 miles long by a little over two miles wide, an alley is a luxury that can not be afforded.

Please note:  to continue the West Side Story metaphor, it is important to note that this photo actually was taken in Manhattan’s West Side, very near 10th Avenue at around 26th street.  It is viewed from above via the Highline, an elevated park that I highly recommend visiting.  

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