Tribeca – short for the Triangle Below Canal – was once a commercial center and then a magnet for artists. Today, it is one of the most exclusive residential neighborhoods in the world. Its lack of tourist attractions and nightlife might be its best feature, making Tribeca sought after for its privacy and seclusion.
Tribeca is bounded by Canal Street to the north; West Street to the west; Vesey Street to the south; and by Lafayette Street to the east. By the 1850’s, this area had established itself as the center of the dry goods and textiles industries in New York. Industry thrived until the early 20th century, when factory work began to move away from New York.
By the 1970’s, many of Tribeca’s warehouses and loft buildings were empty. Artists, who coveted lofts for their high ceilings and open layouts, began moving in illegally. The name Tribeca was coined around this time by a small group of artists living on Lispenard Street who called themselves the Triangle Below Canal Block Association, later shortened to the Tribeca Block Association.
Originally, the “triangle” in Triangle Below Canal referred to a block on Lispenard Street, between Broadway and Church Street. This block is wide at Church Street but narrow at Broadway, giving it a triangular shape on most city maps. A reporter for the New York Times mistakenly believed that Tribeca was the block association’s name for the entire neighborhood, not just their block, and reported it as such. The name stuck even though the neighborhood is not shaped like a triangle.
While some artists remain in Tribeca today, the neighborhood is primarily residential. Real estate values have soared since those first artists moved in. But for all of Tribeca’s charm and character, its main attraction is privacy. Many pay a premium to live in a downtown neighborhood with streets that stay pin-drop quiet at night – and it is easy to see why.