The buildings around me seemed unreal. Some buildings were art deco while others revealed a neoclassical flare. I was waiting for someone to say, “Lights, camera, action!”
Then I approached that staircase. I never imagined the enormity of its size; it seemed to go on forever. There we were. Standing at the bottom of 60 Centre Street, was little me and a stroller filled with my two best gals.
Police officers were posted on practically every corner, keeping a watchful eye. I felt awkward snapping photos, fearing I would be arrested and charged with something. I didn’t know if it was legal to do.
What came to mind were the countless episodes from the Law & Order franchise I practically know by heart. I managed to muster up some courage and took a few shots of the iconic building where so many press conferences were held, the defense attacked the district attorneys and families of the victims took the acquitted accusers’ lives. On occasion, the accuser had taken his own life, usually as the episode was coming to a close creating a sensational pause for viewers. When I would finally manage to exhale, I would ponder how the story could have ended differently. What experience or circumstance might have brought about a happy, uplifting ending?
I guess my beau really has me pegged because when I came home the first thing he asked me was if I re-enacted walking down the steps. I was like, “Look. I barely had enough inner strength and courage to take a picture of the building. I wouldn’t dare prance up and down the stairs.” Besides, I had the girls with me. Do you think I would schlep a stroller up and down all those steps?
After the conversation I began to deeply miss the former me. If you knew the former me you’d know very little could or would have held me back. The former me would have asked complete strangers to capture the moment with my Flip Camera while seeing after NOLA NYCole and Bella LaRue.
History always has a better story to tell. Who knows what it once was better than the past? Today there are structures that, by mere appearance, are reminiscent of a much older, ancient past. But before they were ever constructed was a kind of New York far different than what I see before me.
Back then, this was the Five Points. Back then refers to the early nineteenth century. It has been called the most notorious neighborhoods in New York City. Think the book and movie, Gangs of New York. Whether on the receiving end or inflicting it upon others, the criminal element was impossible to avoid.
Within the Five Points was Collect Pond, one of the city’s sources for fresh water. But due to becoming grossly polluted, it was filled in 1811. “How polluted could the pond have been?” might be a popular question to ponder. Imagine carrying the burden of blame for being the source of spreading typhus and cholera. Then filling in the pond makes perfect sense.
The Five Points had its share of woes. We’re talking shanty town, complete with notorious people committing notorious crimes throughout its gang infested slums. It was equipped with a brewery which back then was a sign of sin and perversion. But the Five Points took the journey towards becoming Foley Square, a mecca for… Oh, shall I say it? Well, it took the journey towards law and order we know today.
When looking around Foley Square there are civic buildings that flaunt the architectural pizazz of the time. Each structure is a work of art filled with well-kept fixtures and statues.
In 1926 the Board of Alderman showed tribute to prominent Democratic Party leader Thomas F. “Big Tom” Foley (1852–1925) by naming the city park in lower Manhattan’s Civic Center neighborhood after him. Foley was an alderman, sheriff, Tammany Hall First Assembly District leader and a political member for Governor Alfred E. Smith. Foley was also the proud owner of a saloon in the Five Points.
Watch where you step because you may just may have landed on a piece of something shiny. Around the square one can find five historical medallions made of bronze that depict a piece of the area’s history. While Foley Square was under development, an 18th century African-American burial ground was unearthed and is expressed in one of the medallions.
Whether it may be the Five Points or Foley Square, this piece of New York has been a major part of the city’s existence. One day in time that has changed the way we know the world today is September 11, 2001. When our country was struck by the terrorist attacks on 9/11, Foley Square’s close proximity to the World Trade Center lent itself to serve as a triage center. May the need to do so again never come to fruition.
On a softer side, we can take a look at how many of us have become familiar with Foley Square. While I’m sure I’m missing some, below are movies and tv shows that racked up some serious screen time at 60 Centre Street.
Miracle on 34th Street, 1947
12 Angry Men,1957
The Godfather, 1970
Legal Eagles, 1986
Wall Street, 1987
Regarding Henry, 1990
Carlito’s Way, 1993
It Could Happen to You, 1994
Miracle on 34th Street, 1994
Laws of Attraction, 2004
What Happens in Vegas, 2008
The Bounty Hunter, 2010
Cagney and Lacey, 1981-1988
Law and Order, 1990-2010
Law & Order: SVU, 1999-
Law & Order: Criminal Intent, 2001-2011
Made in Jersey, 2012
It’s sufficed to say that almost every building along Centre Street has significance that surpasses merely being the backdrop for a television show or movie. If only their walls could talk, even the naughtiest person would blush. I suppose such a venue has a variety of uses besides deciding between right and wrong. Between laying down the law, 60 Centre Street has even been the venue for a Tribeca Film Festival party thrown by Vanity Fair. I think New York favorite Joan Rivers should consider using one of the courtrooms to host Fashion Police. That would be the perfect venue to find all those fashion victims guilty as charged!
Civil Division of the New York County Supreme Court
60 Centre Street
New York, NY 10007-1501
Architect: Guy Lowell
- Built from 1919 to 1927
- Classic roman architecture
- Granite façade
- Its 100-foot wide staircase has been featured in countless movies
- Officially the seat of the New York County Supreme Court in 1927
- City Landmark, 1966
- Civil lawsuits
- personal injury
- contract cases
- Felony criminal case