Recalling New York's Recent Past in Google Street View Images

It's easy to get lost in Google Street View, the images made by Google's roving spinning cameras. The company's pictures, while sometimes criticized for their invasion of privacy, make a strange but useful record of the recent past. They're strange because of the POV, captured from atop a moving truck, and therefore, from the slightly high and unusual vantage point in the middle of the street. No one normally experiences the street this way, unless they're riding on the top of a truck or on a hayride. The Street View images are nevertheless useful as a compendium of images of the recent past. What's lost today may still exist in the virtual reality of Google's cameras. Here's just a small sample of what I found in Google Street View from a virtual walk this morning.

The DKNY sign on Houston Street and Broadway has since been painted over by Hollister, the occupant of the building.
Coming from another direction on Houston Street, the mural is gone.
The cameras caught the intersecting streets at different times.

With the incessant concerns in the city over the status and future of historic landmarks, it's time to check in again with the current Google Street View maps and see if we can capture images worth saving. This week, for example, a 200-year-old building at 35 Cooper Square faces an uncertain future. If the demolition order goes through, then we'll not see it again. It's time to snap a screen grab and send it to the archive folder.

Behind the green tree - 35 Cooper Square, an endangered structure.

Just a brief look around throws up some other fascinating images from the recent past -

It's not much to look at and the food wasn't that good, but Senor Swanky's at LaGuardia Place and Bleecker is no more.
Google Street View is a good place to recall favorite places that have recently closed.

Village Paper suffered from a devastating fire in February 2010. The building was gutted.
This location will soon be a restaurant. Village Paper, renamed Village Party Store, moved to E. 8th.
In Google Street View, none of this has happened yet.

Nor has the Frank Gehry-designed 8 Spruce Street risen on the New York skyline.
Brooklyn Bridge Park, rolled back to its beginnings.
Another use for Street View is to remember what the green of summer actually looks like.

And beyond the surprise of such greenery in Washington Square Park, this section of the park 
has been completely renovated.
This is the virtual reality of the park as it was.

Many people are doing amazing work with Google Street View images. For example:

• See Jon Rafman's extraordinary curated collection of Google Street Views from around the globe. It will rock your world.

Red Bull Street Art View is a collaborative collection of Street Views with street art. Add your own.

Get busy. There's a lot of work to do in here. Go on in. You're on the Bowery.

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