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The History of Tribeca


Tribeca is one of New York City’s oldest neighborhoods located in Lower Manhattan. The name “Tribeca” is an acronym for “Triangle Below Canal Street.” The “triangle,” which looks more like a quadrilateral shape, is a reference to the boundaries between Canal Street, West Street, Broadway, and Vesey Street. It is the home to the Tribeca Film Festival. The name was created by artists in the 1970s who occupied the downtown area at the time. The neighborhood is now twice the size of SoHo, its neighbor to the north. Tribeca now “contains some of the city’s newest — and tallest — buildings” (Senison).


Tribeca was one of the first residential neighborhoods to be developed in New York. This residential development began in the late 18th century. Several streets were named after Anthony Lispenard, who owned a farm there at the time. The current Canal Street was named after Paul Bache, a son-in-law of Anthony Lispenard. “By the mid-19th century the area transformed into a commercial center, with stores and loft buildings constructed along Broadway in the 1850s and 1860s.” Further development of the neighborhood was encouraged as the New York City Subway constructed an extension of the IRT Broadway and the Seventh Avenue. This allowed for better access to the area by New Yorkers who ride the subway. “By the 1960s, Tribeca’s industrial base had all but vanished and the predominance of empty commercial space attracted many artists to the area in the 1970s.”


The neighborhood started off as farmland and was turned into a residential neighborhood by the early 19th century. It then became a mercantile area “centered on produce, dry goods, and textiles.” Soon after the neighborhood was flooded by artists, actors, models, entrepreneurs, and other celebrities. Tribeca’s neighbor, “SoHo” was named by the “members of the SoHo Artists Association” after “looking at a City Planning map which marked the area as ‘South of Houston.’” The name spread as city planners would also casually use the term “SoHo” for the neighborhood. The Lispenard Street residents were inspired by the SoHo Artists Association and followed suit by picking out a name for the neighborhood by looking at the City Planning map.


In 1996, the Tribeca Open Artist Studio Tour, a non-profit organization run by artists, was founded. Their mission was to “empower the working artists of Tribeca while providing an educational opportunity for the public. The organization would continue to provide a free walking tour annually for 15 years. It showcased Tribeca’s best creative talents. Unfortunately, “Tribeca suffered financially after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.” The government supported the neighborhood by providing government grants and incentives to kickstart their economy. The Tribeca Film Festival was created to aid the long term recovery of lower Manhattan. The festival not only showcases NYC’s filmmaking, it also aims “to enable the international film community and the general public to experience the power of film by redefining the film festival experience.” Tribeca is now a “popular filming location for movies and television shows.”


The Tribeca Film Festival was founded by Robert De Niro, Jane Rosenthal, and Craig Hatjoff in 2001. In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, the event was supposed “to stimulate the economic and cultural revitalization of lower Manhattan through an annual celebration of film, music, and culture.” It was a celebratory gathering of “visionaries across industries” of filmmakers, artists, innovators, and the global creative community. Starting in 2010, audiences nationwide were able to experience the annual event from the comfort of their home. The Tribeca Film Festival Virtual streamed “live discussions with filmmakers, panels, red-carpet coverage, and a collection of the festival’s short films.” The festival is a platform for many styles of storytelling, through “independent filmmaking, creative expression, and immersive entertainment.” “Tribeca supports emerging and established voices, discovers award-winning filmmakers, curates innovative and interactive experiences and introduces new technology and ideas through panels, premieres, exhibitions, and live performances” (Tribeca Festival).

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