As Forgotten New York documents in the Street Necrology of Downtown Brooklyn, the realms of Brooklyn Heights, DUMBO and Vinegar Hill used to be crawling with narrow alleys, that were likely lined with factories and tenements. Today, most of them are gone and frankly, I’m mystified how most of them, besides the ones obliterated by housing projects and expressways, disappeared in the first place as the streets they connected are otherwise intact. If you look at street maps of northeast cities from the early 1900s to now, alleys have made a gradual disappearance as they are demapped and buildings go up where they used to be.
One tantalizing alley that’s still intact is Harrison Alley, on the south side of Evans Street just east of Hudson Avenue. Evans Street itself is a one-block street that leads to another one, Little. You can see on Street View that it’s heavily wooded and gated and impenetrable to all except its residents. One building, #1 Harrison Alley, can be vouchsafed a glimpse at its very end.
Will Harrison Alley ever give up its secrets? I may need your help, if you know who lives at #1 Harrison Alley and will allow me past that gate.
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Yet there’s a street sign, which IINM means it has to be a public road. Whoever gated it off probably did so without legal authority.
I think that because of the influence of reformers like Jacob Riis and his photographs,alleys
were seen as incubators of crime and so the City set about getting rid of them wherever it
could.The famous Riis photo “Robbers Roost” comes to mind.
Kevin, may I recommend the web site regrid.com, which has collected land parcel data for apparently the whole country. It shows property lines, which as you know sometimes have odd angles that represent very old landholdings.
Their map shows 1 Harrison Alley, the brick building we can see down the end of the alley, as on the same property as 77 Hudson Avenue. There are 6 other narrow properties that extend from Hudson to Harrison, one of which, 73 Hudson, has no building on it, and sure enough streetview shows only a fence there along Hudson. Also notable– Harrison Alley is shown on regrid as a property zoned R6B, parcel ID 34433. Only the first few feet of it at Evans Street is ahown as a public street.