The Crossroads of Luxury

On the corner of Canal and Greene is a crossroads for luxury in NYC.

A hive of luxury spread. Or a symptom of it. There are few places in the world where you can experience fashion in the way you can here.

The northern end of Greene Street is where you get the real handbags; the southern end, the fake ones.

Head north up the cobblestones streets and renovated old cast-iron factory buildings of the 5-block Greene Street, and you pass by a formation of top-flight luxury stores along with a smattering of well-to-do galleries – a bastardized reminder of the neighborhood’s past.

A building previously owned by a sculptor.

People balance their phones on the cast-iron buildings or ask a passive partner to film them as they strut across the street.

That strut spread like a virus.

The store security guards are happy to talk about celebrities they’ve seen. Occasionally you see an entourage. Or learn that you missed Jeff Bezos by an hour.

A low-key Keanu was my favorite sighting. I’ve seen him a couple times. If there is a next time, maybe I’ll have the courage and be prepared to ask him for his portrait.

I have no idea who this is.

Luxury cars drive up, safe(r) from the dings and dents of Canal Street and finally in their element.

Near the corner of Prince and Greene are a Louise Vuitton store, Apple, Fendi, Tiffany, and Dior.

On weekends, bouncers stand outside Louise Vuitton.

(Don’t miss the middle finger).

During the week, the street is quieter, except for occasional lines of people waiting outside of BAPE or AMIRI for limited edition releases at jaw-dropping prices.

And on the southernmost block of Greene, just before Canal, is a lone remaining unrenovated building, once an artist commune called the Fluxhouse, although the Fluxhouse sign was ripped off a few years ago. I want to badly meet anyone who still lives here.

Arriving at the corner of Canal and Greene is the crossroads, with another old building overlooking.

A red neon sign with Silence often illuminates the street during dusk.

Under scaffolding, black men – both young and middle-aged – sell fake handbags, watches, sneakers, and real weed. Fake luxury sneakers sit on blankets outside of an Origins store, with real, expensive, and rare sneakers wrapped up in plastic. Sometimes they are the same sneakers.

Recently the police did a massive raid up and down Canal to round all the sellers up. They took thousands of pieces. The sellers have been slow to return.

I wondered if this was a man in charge of the raid.

As you walk east on Canal and towards Broadway, small pop-up luxury stores and galleries park in storefronts that used to sell fake handbags, until Bloomberg’s police force began raiding them in the 2000s. As time passes, the quality of the pop-up stores gets higher and higher.

The people-watching on Canal is magical.

(I was emailed by this woman’s boyfriend who found this photo because he was interested in street photography. It’s now on their wall!)

The Pinnacle apartment in the Woolworth Building | $79 million | Williams New York

The intersection of Broadway and Canal sits under the watchful eye of the Woolworth Building, a gorgeous gothic skyscraper, once the tallest in the world, and nicknamed “The Cathedral of Commerce.”

The Pinnacle apartment in the Woolworth Building | $79 million | Williams New York

In 2012, an investment group bought up the top 30 floors of the building and painstakingly renovated them to put in 33 luxury apartments. The five-story, 9,680 square-foot penthouse, nicknamed “The Pinnacle,” was listed in 2017 for $110 million. In 2019, that price was reduced to $79 million. It’s ironic that the one thing in New York that actually might be worth its price still has not sold yet. A Basquiat painting sold for $110.5 million in 2017!

Below The Pinnacle, blankets line the streets with fake goods during certain times of the week, while mostly Chinese men and women hold catalogs of fake goods, a slick way to avoid the police.

Some of them hopefully were able to avoid the raid.

On nice weekends and during the holiday season, hordes of excited and slightly concerned tourists and people from New Jersey stand around in groups looking for bags.

Some don’t even get out of their cars.

Outside of the Stadiums Goods storefront is often a line of sneakerheads and hypebeasts with blue Ikea bags or black contractor garbage bags filled with sneaker boxes to sell. There are few better bellwethers for the economy than the length of the line at this store.

Over the holidays were the longest lines I’ve ever seen.

Finally, smack in the middle of the island, you make a turn on Canal down Cortlandt Alley, located on the edge of Tribeca, the most expensive neighborhood in Manhattan. Here sits a few hidden blocks, one of them containing perhaps the last remaining large factories from this old neighborhood.

72 Walker Street. A gorgeous green entrance with an authentically dusty red and yellow sign.

Parked trucks idle, filled with dresses that are frequently destined uptown for Macy’s. One of the delivery men once told me that’s where they deliver a lot of the dresses to.

Bulky men toss fabric from the trucks into the service entrance. Mostly Asian women walk in and out.

It’s a wonder this building has hummed along here for so long.

Finally, a block further south and you are at a stark intersection of the old and new. Even the homeless who sleep here occasionally have designer chairs.

Stokke Steps Chair – $219

You can stand with your back turned to the entrance of Au Cheval, a trendy hamburger-flipping restaurant and fancy coffee place with a dark speakeasy feel, wood paneling, and sleek art.

Look left and you will see old iron and graffiti, and a lone elevator operator who spends lots of his day outside. To the right is a different world, renovated, chic, galleries, and a cafe at the back of the Walker Hotel.

The hamburger smell tugs at you.

(The old Pearl Paint on Canal Street, now $12k-$15k apartments above a furniture store)

View apartment photos | Pearl Paint Lofts real-estate listing

10 thoughts on “The Crossroads of Luxury”

  1. Very interesting article. Your text gives the photos context and adds dimension to street photos (a genre that often lacks interest for me). Do people actually line up to buy clothes?

  2. James,
    I loved looking at this portfolio/series of images. You chose a great title for it! You’ve certainly captured the diversity of this corner in New York. Now, you have me wanting to return to New York and hire you again for a couple of photo walking tours.

  3. Love the photos and captions. Back in the 1970s, my grandfather used to take me as a kid from Ridgewood to Central Park and we would walk down Broadway to Battery Park. He would tell me the history of all those old buildings and point out the incredible architecture and craftsmanship of the buildings. I would take pictures with my Sears 110 Instamatic camera. I fell in love with NYC on those walks. I still take those walks when I’m in NYC but it’s been obvious to me for many years that the city has lost its soul.

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