Urban Transformation

The fascinating 400-year history of one New York City block

The moon rises over New York, as seen from the Eagle Rock Reservation in West Orange, New Jersey in this April 26, 2013 file photo. New York City is iconic in any weather, but the warm season adds a special flavour to its bustling streets, leafy parks and world-famous skyline. The summer is about to draw to a close, as fall begins in the northern hemisphere with the Autumnal Equinox on September 22. Picture taken April 26, 2013.

William Easterly, professor of economics at New York University, charts the economic destiny of one New York City block. Image: REUTERS/Gary Hershorn/Files (UNITED STATES - Tags: CITYSCAPE SOCIETY)

James Devitt
Deputy Director of Media Relations , New York University
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A new project goes hyperlocal—taking on just 486 feet of Greene Street between Houston and Prince Streets in SoHo—to explore cycles of development and decline over 400 years of New York City history.

William Easterly, professor of economics at New York University, traces a single block’s series of reincarnations as a red light district, the center of the garment boom, an artists’ haven, and finally a luxury strip. In doing so, he celebrates the role of individual citizens and entrepreneurs in charting the economic destiny of their neighborhood.

“I think the advantage of looking at things at the local level is you can really see the bottom-up way in which a lot of good things happen,” says Easterly in the video. “And conversely, you can see the possible damage that could be done by somebody trying to exert control from the top down without adequate local knowledge.”

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