I was just reading an article about Miramax by Entertainment Weekly movie critic Owen Gleiberman, in which he described Tribeca as “shabby-chic.” It made me laugh—Tribeca ain’t Bushwick, or even Williamsburg, or even Park Slope. But what does Tribeca call to mind? It’s a question I thought about when launching this site and trying to devise a logo—the area’s only distinctive architectural motifs, to my mind, are the loading-dock platforms and metal awnings on certain streets. (They didn’t make for a great logo, though the current one remains a bit of a placeholder….)
Because I know what Tribeca is, this is generally a non-issue for me. But what about people who have never been here? What does Tribeca mean to them? As we all know by now, Subaru has a Tribeca SUV; as I reported last month, there’s a new malt-liquor drink, marketed to women, called Tribeca Light. They’re just two of the many products that use the Tribeca name. But to what effect?
“Like the neighborhood for which it was named, the Tribeca fruit bowl is both historic and modern, simple and elegant.”
“Imagine yourself sitting in Manhattan’s trendy Tribeca neighborhood, sipping espresso and watching the passers-by. Now imagine yourself sipping coffee at home from this classically styled mug of Lenox fine china.”
“In lower Manhattan, Tribeca is known for its classical lines and graceful architectural elements. On your table, this Tribeca coffeepot will be appreciated for its classical shape and subtle, white-on-white design elements.”
“Just as New York’s trendy Tribeca neighborhood would be lost without Broadway to the east and the Hudson River to the west, the Tribeca cup would be lost without this elegant bone china saucer rimmed with platinum.”
Does the coffee mug pictured above have anything in common with “the ultimate in stylish storage for your CD collection,” Container Store’s Tribeca CD bin? It’s made from the same material as seat belts; Dearborn or Grosse Point might have been better choices. And how about Anywhere Fireplace’s floor-stand Tribeca model—there are also Soho, Chelsea, and Gramercy versions—with a stainless-steel face? I suppose a certain industrialness can be detected in both (though not in the china, at least by me).
Or perhaps that’s what’s called “urban edge,” as in my favorite Tribeca product description, for Cooper Classics’ Tribeca Mirror (from an online retailer called The Sportsman’s Guide): “Tribeca. New Yorkers know it stands for the Triangle Below Canal Street. They also know if they want to take up residence in this celebrity-filled neighborhood, they better have some big bucks on them. Though you can get this contemporarily styled mirror for considerably less. The perfect way to add an urban edge to your home and give the illusion of more space in rooms that are smaller than a New York City efficiency apartment.”
It’s interesting to
compare two handbags named Tribeca. Coach has a whole line of Tribeca accessories—shoulder tote, checkbook wallet, clutch, swingpack, wristlet, crossbody bag, french purse, and an agenda. (“Wristlet” is a little too close to “cutlet” for my comfort.) The $298 tote is “soft pebbled leather with crinkle patent trim,” and it boasts a “Horse & Carriage logo plaque” and “Button branding.” Big Buddha’s soft-sided, faux-suede Tribeca shoulder bag, on the other hand, shares few attributes—including a retail price of $85—with Coach’s stiff number. I suppose they do have one thing in common: Neither would want to be in the same room as the Tribeca women’s boot from P.W. Minor, “the world leader in footwear for people with diabetes, arthritis, and other specialty foot needs.”
What does Tribeca stand for? The answer is clear: whatever the heck you want.