Saturday, August 24, 2019

Then and Now: 7th Avenue and 23rd Street, NYC

Location of the "Y.M.C.A." video from 1978

West 23rd Street at 7th Avenue, NYC,
23rd Street at 7th Avenue, NYC, in 1978 (Still from Village People "Y.M.C.A" video, courtesy Casablanca Records).
It is no great secret that the Greenwich Village/Chelsea area of Manhattan long has been favored by artists and musicians. If you're familiar with the area, you immediately notice it popping up in popular videos by Madonna, Alanis Morissette, and too many other artists to list. I was watching the Village People music video "Y.M.C.A." and noticed that it appeared to have been filmed in and around Greenwich Village in Manhattan. A little digging verified that it was, so I wondered what the main location looked like recently. That led me to do a comparison of 23rd Street at 7th Avenue from 1978 to 2017.

West 23rd Street at 7th Avenue, NYC,
23rd Street at 7th Avenue, NYC, February 2017 (Google Street View).
The Village People filmed the main scenes from "Y.M.C.A." on the middle of the 23rd Street block between 6th and 7th Avenues in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan. The street has changed only a little bit in the intervening four decades.

West 23rd Street at 7th Avenue, NYC,
Northwest corner of 7th Avenue at 23rd Street, NYC, August 2013 (Google Street View).
One building, in particular, verifies that we are in the right location and looking in the correct location, and that is the four-story building at the northwest corner of 23rd Street and Seventh Avenue. This is 224 West 23rd Street, which was built in 1900 and doesn't look like it has changed much since then (1900 or 1978, take your pick). It is completely retail, which is a bit unusual because these buildings often have some apartments above the street level. The building on the opposite, northeast, corner appears to be the same but has undergone an extensive remodel.

West 23rd Street at 7th Avenue, NYC,
215 West 23rd Street, NYC, September 2017 (Google Street View).
The building with the prominent "Y.M.C.A." sign on it in the 1978 video is still there and hasn't changed very much, either. It housed the McBurney YMCA from 1904 to 2002, when the YMCA relocated to 125 West 14th Street, NYC. The building was built around 1900 and since 2002 features luxury condominiums. Note that the streetlamps haven't changed since 1978, but they've added a tree in front of it.

West 23rd Street at 7th Avenue, NYC,
23rd Street between 6th and 7th Avenues, NYC, September 2017 (Google Street View).
The location where the Village People were dancing is a nondescript part of the sidewalk. It appears to have been in front of what is now a Domino's Pizza. Just another stretch of sidewalk in Manhattan that made cultural history and which nobody notices today.

I hope you enjoyed this entry in our "the more things change, the more they stay the same" series. This area of Manhattan is in a lot of music videos because it always has been a hotspot for artists and musicians. Please visit some of our other pages in this series!


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