Neighbourhood: Manhattan

Text & photography by Hamish Robertson (Afterzine)

It’s been 14 years since I first visited Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood, and nine years since I first lived there. The foot traffic has doubled annually, the accents have changed from American to pan-European to pan-everywhere. It used to be a hive of factories, then factories and artists, then artists and independent stores—cool factor, check—and now it’s a smattering of independent stores flanked by flagship spaces for global brands. Locals now refer to SoHo—usually with disdain—as an outdoor mall. (Sidenote: they won’t admit it but New Yorkers appear to secretly love malls.) Yet within the current overpopulated madness, the intersection of Prince and Mercer Streets, against all odds, remains a gem of a micro-borough, a neighbourhood within a neighbourhood. Upon arriving in New York City I spent a little over four years—morning, noon, and night—at that intersection. It was, and still is, a cast of characters like none I’ve ever encountered, the street their stage.

New york manhattan

On one end of the spectrum, hotel guests of the Mercer Hotel provide a glossy, transitory ensemble of phone-throwing actors, sushi-dieting fashion designers, chain-smoking models, and pajama-wearing pop stars. At the other end was a charming, dapper homeless gentleman who lived on the steel steps of what is presently a luxury atelier. For cash-in-hand he would kindly help us load our monthly magazine deliveries up our steep office stairs. The same year he appeared on the cover of a local magazine, reportedly bagging a comfortable five-figure salary. He has always reminded me to be courteous, well turned out, and hard working. Prince and Mercer is an aptly named crossing, a catwalk of characters contributing to a rich and complicated yet comforting and enduring textile. It’s been many years since I worked there but I still visit often. I’ve never walked the block without a welcoming Hello. My first home in New York City will always be second to none.

From N˚4: Flight.