Skip to main content

My Augmented New York Unreality: Google Street View's Eerie Portrait of a New York Past

(Editor's Note: Since I posted this, it looks like the Google Street View has been updated. - October, 7, 2009)

I'm experiencing a surreal and eerie flashback, because the images of Google Maps' Street View of my Greenwich Village neighborhood have become fascinatingly out of date. While opening Google maps the other day to update one of the self-guided walks on this site, I happened to switch over to Street View. There, at the southeast corner of Bleecker and MacDougal Streets, an intersection I know well, I was surprised to see the now-shuttered location of Cafe Figaro still open - tables with checkered tablecloths on the sidewalk, a couple seated at one of them, and the doors and windows open to the streets. It's been a long time, it seems, that the restaurant left the corner (it has since moved east to the middle of the block) and replaced with a Qdoba, a Mexican chain restaurant. In this uncanny altered reality, I decided to virtually stroll around the nearby streets and check out what else was open in this other-worldy Greenwich Village. After all, it looked like a nice day in there.


View Larger Map

What month and year was it? I ventured from this spot west to Sixth Avenue and up to the IFC Theatre. From reading the names of the films on the marquee, I was able to date the Google Street view images to late September of 2007. Walking from the theater east on W. 3rd. St. I saw that the facade of the Blue Note jazz club was revealed - the grand piano was plainly visible and not behind scaffolding like I've seen it these last few months. On Bleecker, Le Poisson Rouge had not opened on Bleecker. Senor Swanky's was still in business. Other turns on nearby blocks revealed restaurants and cafes that have departed, banks that once planned a location but have gone out of business, and storefronts not yet renovated. In a surprising discovery that may hearten preservationists (or not), in Google's Street View imagery of Greenwich Village, Washington Square Park has not been renovated.



Selecting and roaming through other neighborhoods and then comparing the sights with recent visits revealed the noticeable changes in the city over the past two years. While change is intrinsic to the life of the city, this is a particularly rich time to compare and contrast then and now. In its thousands of sequential still pictures seamed together through image software, Street View provides a ghostly image of New York at the outset of the recession, a year before the flamboyant collapse of Wall Street firms last fall.

Short of these macroeconomic issues, the Street View window back in time can help you revisit a favorite restaurant or store that has since closed. Maybe you'll wander down the street to visit a cafe and then recognize yourself sitting there. For your privacy, Google has blurred your face. You're now a ghost in your own hallucinatory reality, an apparition in your city of two years ago. Furthermore, your perspective is that of a camera on top of a truck, creating the illusion of floating above the ground, stuck in endless traffic in the middle of the street, revisiting your old haunts.

Comments

Vanilla Press said…
Hello..Firstly, I love your blog!
I have been wanting to return to Usa..particularly New York since 1995, & finally we are going next week, me & my 2 kids.
The only thing is, we are going to Boston..because my husbands works apartment is located there, but I just want to spend 1 night in NYC!
I hear its only 3 hours away by train, can you give me any advice regarding getting from Boston to NYC on a budget for 1 night?!
I would really appreciate it
Thank you
Jasmine
Ireland
Teri Tynes said…
Hi, Jasmine. Thank you so much!
I spent some time this morning checking into deals and prices for you. I love the train from Boston to New York. Good news is that Amtrak has extended its fare promotion on Northeast Regional service through December 16, 2009 with 25% off the lowest published coach fare. This promotion, according to Amtrak.com, may be combined with their Kid's Half Price fare. Definitely check into this on the Amtrak website.

You'll be departing Boston's South Station and arriving at NY's Penn Station.(8th Ave., between W. 31st and W. 33rd.)

If you need a hotel, NYC.com has a good list of family-friendly hotels. While I typically recommend affordable inns and European-style hotels off the beaten path, kids often like the magic of giant hotels in Midtown near Times Square. But look for the Affordable Accommodations in NY on this website. Maybe there's something in between. Do try to make your plans soon, because this is a busy time in the city.

How exciting! I hope you have a great time.

Teri
Pascale said…
mm I love Google St. view, I also noticed the pictures they use were a little bit... old... but anyway ! This is my only option to stroll along the streets of NYC at the moment, being very, very pregnant... but I'll be back next year for sure !
Teri Tynes said…
Hey Pascale,
Congrats on the little one coming your way!
The other funny images I noticed while strolling around in these Sept. 2007 Street View pix were around the Highline. It was far from opening then, and the Standard Hotel is shown during construction.
Good luck with everything!
Come back soon (with little one, of course), because I always love your photos of New York.
Teri
Renée Finberg said…
don't you love that google map thingie ??

i am so glad you came by and left a comment.

i am going to add you to my sidebar
xx

Popular posts from this blog

Museums in New York Open on Mondays

Please see this post for current announcements of reopenings . Please consult the museum websites for changes in days and hours. UPDATED September 23, 2020 Advance tickets required for many museum reopenings. Please check museum websites for details. • The  Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)  reopened to the public on  August 27 , with new hours for the first month, through September 27: from 10:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday to the public; and from 10:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m.  on Mondays for MoMA members on ly. Admission will be free to all visitors Tuesday through Sunday, through September 27, made possible by UNIQLO. See this  new post on WOTBA for a sense of the experience attending the museum . •  New-York Historical Society  reopened on  August 14  with an outdoor exhibition, "Hope Wanted: New York City Under Quarantine,” in the rear courtyard. The exhibit by activist Kevin Powell and photographer Kay Hickman will highlight how New Yorkers weathered the quarantine

25 Things To Do Near the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)

(updated 2016) The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) at 11 W. 53rd Street is near many other New York City attractions, so before or after a trip to the museum, a short walk in any direction could easily take in additional experiences. Drawing a square on a map with the museum at the center, a shape bounded by 58th Street to the north and 48th Street to the south, with 7th Avenue to the west and Park Avenue to the east, proves the point of the area's cultural richness. (A map follows the list below.) While well-known sightseeing stops fall with these boundaries, most notably Rockefeller Center, St. Patrick's Cathedral, and the great swath of famous Fifth Avenue stores, cultural visitors may also want to check out places such as the Austrian Cultural Forum, the 57th Street galleries, the Onassis Cultural Center, and the Municipal Art Society. The image above shows an intriguing glimpse of the tops of two Beaux-Arts buildings through an opening of the wall inside MoMA's scu

A Walk From Lincoln Center to Zabar's

If you happen to be attending a noon or matinee performance in Lincoln Center or otherwise happen to be hanging around there for whatever reason and find you've got some time, I recommend a stroll up Broadway to Zabar's, the famous Upper West Side food emporium. This stretch of Broadway takes in the sights of several new housing sky-rises, several theaters, and some flamboyant former apartment hotels of the early 20th century. Flâneurs will love the Belle Epoque ambiance of these overly-ornamented buildings, and the distance from W. 66th or so to W. 80th is not so taxing, especially if you're dressed in shoes for the opera. View Larger Map Several noteworthy structures along the way - The Dorilton, 171 W 71st St., from 1900-02, at the northeast corner of Broadway, is considered a Beaux Arts masterpiece. The 72nd St subway station dates from 1904 and is a funny little thing. Verdi Square, at the convergence of Broadway, Amsterdam, an W. 73rd, is a nice small park fea

25 Things to Do Near the Metropolitan Museum of Art

(updated) Sitting on the steps in front of the Metropolitan Museum of Art is one of those iconic things to do in New York City. On a sunny day, the wide steps can become crowded with the young and old, the tourist and the resident. It's tempting to stay awhile and soak in the sun and the sights. Everyone has reasons for lingering there, with one being the shared pleasure of people watching along this expansive stretch of Fifth Avenue, a painting come to life. Certainly, just getting off one's feet for a moment is welcome, especially if the previous hours involved walking through the entirety of art history from prehistoric to the contemporary. The entrance to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Fifth Avenue The Metropolitan Museum of Art should be a singular pilgrimage, uninterrupted by feeble attempts to take in more exhibitions along Museum Mile. Pity the poor visitor who tries "to do" multiple museum exhibitions in one day, albeit ambitious, noble, and uplift

The Marx Brothers in New York: Interlude - On Groucho Walking

This special new series about the Marx Brothers in New York continues this week, following the brothers into a career in Broadway and into the movies, but first I would like to take a little time to discuss Groucho's peculiar way of walking. Sometimes described as a "lope" or "stoop," Groucho's silly and often lecherous walk became just as an important part of his persona as his glasses, eyebrows, cigar and greasepaint moustache. He didn't walk this walk all the time, but as you recall from the films, Groucho would often bend his knees and lean forward as he proceeded from point A to point B. To imitate Groucho properly at a costume party, it's important to get this part down. • Groucho explained that it was simply a bit of inspired improvisation. From the book Hello, I Must Be Going by Charlotte Chandler, he says, "I was just kidding around one day, and I started to walk funny. The audience liked it, so I kept it in."(pps. 153-154) Chand

25 Things to Do Near the American Museum of Natural History

After visiting the American Museum of Natural History, explore attractions on the Upper West Side or in Central Park. Visitors to New York often run around from one major tourist site to the next, sometimes from one side of the city to the other, and in the process, exhaust themselves thoroughly. Ambitious itineraries often include something like coffee in the Village in the morning, lunch near MoMA, a couple of hours in the museum, a ride on the Staten Island Ferry in the afternoon, cocktails at the midtown hotel, a quick dinner, and then a Broadway show. It's a wonder people don't pass out at the theater. While sitting on the steps of the American Museum of History, consider exploring the Upper West Side and nearby sites of interest in Central Park. There's a better way to plan a New York trip. Consider grouping attractions together geographically. Several posts on this site address this recommended approach. The Wild West of the Tecumseh Playground Groupin

25 Radical Things to Do in Greenwich Village

A list of 25 things to Do in Greenwich Village with history of protest, old cafes, and signs of change. Hipstamatic iPhone images of contemporary Greenwich Village by Walking Off the Big Apple (Revised and updated.) Flipping through  Greenwich Village: A Photographic Guide by Edmund T. Delaney and Charles Lockwood with photographs by George Roos, a second, revised edition published in 1976, it’s easy to compare the black and white images with the look of today’s neighborhood and see how much the Village has changed. A long shot photograph of Washington Square taken up high from an apartment north of the park, and with the looming two towers of the World Trade Center off to the distant south in the background, reveals a different landscape than what we would encounter today.    On the north side of the park, an empty lot and two small buildings have since given way to NYU’s Kimmel Center and a new NYU Center for Academic and Spiritual Center Life. The Judson Memorial Church

Museums in New York Open on Tuesdays

American Folk Art Museum , 45 W. 53rd St. Asia Society and Museum , 725 Park Avenue (at 70th Street) Guggenheim Museum , 1071 Fifth Avenue (at 89th St.) Pictured left International Center of Photography , 1133 Avenue of the Americas at 43rd Street The Metropolitan Museum of Art , 1000 Fifth Avenue NEW: Beginning May 1, 2013 MoMA will be open seven days a week. 11 W. 53rd St. The Morgan Library & Museum , 225 Madison Avenue at 36th Street Museum of the City of New York , 1220 Fifth Avenue New York University, Grey Art Gallery , 100 Washington Square East Mondays and Tuesdays are the hardest days to remember which museums are open. See the list for NY museums open on Mondays here .

A Weekend Walk on the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail

Imagine strolling from town to town near the eastern shores of the Hudson River, walking a well-trodden path lined with trees and stately architecture and with easy access to cafes, local shops, and train stations for an easy ride home. Imagine a weekend when the sun is bright and the sun is warm, and many other people - but not too many - are out enjoying the same weather and the same stroll. Such were the pleasures on a recent Sunday, in the latter part of this unseasonal winter, along the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail not too far north from New York City. View of the Hudson River from the Keeper's House The Old Croton Aqueduct, the system that once delivered fresh water from the Croton River to New York City, was a huge and complex marvel of engineering. The trail sits on top of the aqueduct system. This post describes a walk along just a section of the trail, the one that begins at the Keeper’s House in Dobbs Ferry and ends in Irvington. Recommended purchase - a map det

Circling the Met: A Springtime Visit to Central Park and the Metropolitan Museum of Art

For a double feature of art and nature, the Metropolitan Museum of Art happens to be conveniently situated in Central Park. The front of the museum faces Fifth Avenue, its monumental wings stretching the blocks between E. 80th and E. 84th. The sides and the back of the museum are within easy walking distance of several prominent landmarks within the park.  Cedar Hill in Central Park Before a visit to the Met, consider taking a walk around the museum beginning on the southern side. A walk in the park can serve as a good preparation for a museum visit, because looking at or noticing the shapes and colors of the built and natural environment can enhance the art experience. Cedar Hill in Central Park The path south of the 79 Street Transverse leads to a scene at Cedar Hill very much like a panorama, with a vast wide-angle expanse of green grass and hill. Take the first path that leads back over 79th Street to the southern side of the museum. This path brilliantly disguises the motor traffi