Tribeca corner named for Argentinian rocker

The music blogger Alex Smith, whose website, Flaming Pablum, has been a historical resource for us before, sent word that the corner of Cortlandt Alley and Walker was being renamed yesterday for Charly Garcia, the Argentine singer-songwriter considered one of the most important and avant-garde figures of Latin American music. And it was a huge scene! These are his pictures.

This is all a deep-dive for me, since I had never heard of Garcia, so I am deferring to Smith to give us the story. He was kind enough to email a primer. If you want even more of the history, see his posts here, here and here. And it will not be a waste of time to watch the 5-minute video on graffiti artist Richard Hambleton, below.

Here’s the deal: Charly Garcia is still alive [I asked since I thought it was NYC policy to not name streets after living people]; he is now 72 and was not at the event. His connection to Tribeca is tenuous at best — he never lived here or did anything here other than to take one picture here somewhere around 1983. But that image, Smith argues, is on a level with the Abbey Road cover image, at least in Latin America. So here goes:

Garcia is a huge rock star in Argentina and throughout Latin America. In the early ’80s, he came to New York City to record at Electric Lady Studios on West 8th Street. While doing so, he was staying in an apartment on Waverly Place. One day, during his time recording the album, he went out for a walk with a photographer. By this point in the proceedings, he’d already picked out a name for this album and an image. But, in walking around Tribeca, he came across a striking swathe of graffiti and had his picture taken under the cryptic legend “Modern Clix.” So enamored was he of this, that he scrapped his original idea and re-titled his impending record CLICS MODERNOS, using that photo as the album cover art. [The album was released in 1983.]

In time, that album became a HUGE phenomenon in Latin American rock/pop circles.

But wait…there’s more!

The graffiti Charly posed in front of was actually a combination of three images:
1. The largest is one of famed street-artist Richard Hambleton’s “Shadowmen,” which used to appear all over lower Manhattan.
2. The tag next to that was from renowned graffiti artist Zephyr.
3. The words “Modern Clix” came from the name of a Lower East Side punk band of the same name, lead by a gent named Fran Powers. Powers no doubt added that tag to the wall.

Back in 2021, I spotted a photograph shared on Facebook by a tourist named Bo G. Ericsson who’d snapped the image in about 1983 — it was a long shot of Cortlandt Alley, looking south. Sure enough, at the intersection of Walker Street, I spotted the same graffiti that adorns Charly’s album. I posted it on my blog.

In short order, I got a note from an Argentine writer/filmmaker named Inaki Rojas who was thrilled that I’d pinpointed the exact location of the original graffiti — drawing a parallel to it being as iconic a landmark as, say, Abbey Road.

Inaki started piecing together a documentary series on the web about it, and word started to spread — to the point where people were making pilgrimages to the very spot. This all spurred one Mariano Cabrera to petition the city to get the corner commemorated on the 40th anniversary of its original release by erecting a plaque and re-christening the corner the CHARLY GARCIA CORNER.

Phew… that’s more or less the back-story.

 

13 Comments

  1. So interesting – Thanks for sharing!

  2. We tried to save that graffiti. To no avail. The owners of tthat building in the steam punk alley wanted the wall repaired and painted over. Now even Cortlandt Alley is upscale and gentrified.

  3. So many superlatives in the piece! The whole thing almost sounds like a spoof. Charly Garcia? Cortlandt Alley has mysteriously been gentrified and appropriated by the social media set for years, like the selfie spot in Dumbo, an Instagram must.
    While across Walker Street, towards Canal, under the perennial
    scaffolding, still a homeless shelter, the street urine soaked and reeks of pot and other waste, waiting to be discovered.

  4. This is exactly the kind of soft-headed mismanagement ruining New York. The CB objects on principle to a street renaming for a real Tribeca booster in Robert Deniro and makes an exception for some nobody with no connection to Tribeca.

  5. Wow, whole lot of anger here. That’s a shame. It should be remembered that there is a world outside of New York City, and I’m pretty certain that, at absolutely no point in his distinguished career, did Charly Garcia ever intend to imply or try to assert that he was from — or of — NYC. He was indisputably enamored with our lovely city, and took pains to come here (without any major label support) to record at Electric Lady on his own dime. He felt a kinship with the energy of New York City and wanted to tap into it, so to speak. This isn’t a recent “social media” thing either — this was 1983. He never claimed to be a New Yorker.

    While many folks here in the States are entirely unfamiliar with the man — as I was until fairly recently — he is widely considered an influential artist not just in his native Argentina, but throughout Latin America writ large. You might not know his music, but that doesn’t negate the fact that he has millions of fans literally all over the world. I’d suggest that respect is due, but y’know …. you do you.

  6. Please let’s not promote and glorify vandalism. People can graffiti on their own walls if they wish (codes permitting).

  7. Below are the Manhattan CB1 street co-naming guidelines. What is the “strong argument” that Charly Garcia “had an extraordinary and highly acclaimed accomplishment or involvement for the public good linked to MCD1”?

    “MANHATTAN COMMUNITY BOARD 1
    STREET CO-NAMING GUIDELINES

    “Manhattan Community District 1 (MCD1) is unique given its narrow street grid, historical street names, and history of human loss. In order to fully respect our district’s history, Community Board 1 (CB1) sets standards and reviews applications for street co-naming with stringency and great care. These guidelines are meant to ensure that the honor of co-naming is available for future generations of honorees and that the selected honorees will be considered significant by future generations. Given these issues, we strongly encourage applicants to fully consider other ways to memorialize those who they believe deserve to be honored in MCD1

    “CB1 is open to considering efforts, at the applicant’s expense, to display a plaque or other commemoration that describes a proposed honoree’s community contributions and significance on a building, sidewalk, lamp post or other appropriate space or structure in our district. An application for an individual, an organization or an historic event that has already received a street co-naming within the City of New York (NYC) or has already been named on, or qualifies to be named on, a public memorial within MCD1 is strongly discouraged from applying to co-name a street. […]

    “Individuals
    Prospective honoree must:
    1. Have been deceased for at least 20 years;
    2. Have been a person of great significance to NYC, a key person in an event of historical note* that occurred in NYC or have brought about significant changes through their twenty or more years of community involvement in Manhattan Community District 1 (MCD1); and
    3. Have the reason for his/her/their selection be closely associated with the proposed street and block/corner being proposed for co-naming.
    *an individual whose death occurred under extraordinary circumstances of crime, accident, disease or a societal problem and that death led to a greater awareness within society of that issue. Alternatively, a person that helped to solve that problem/issue may be considered.

    “Organizations
    A prospective honoree must be a nonprofit organization that
    1. has demonstrated an extraordinary and continuous commitment of at least 30 years that has benefited the community and/or community members in MCD1; and
    2. is currently located on the street and block proposed for co-naming or has a very significant association with the street and block proposed for co-naming.

    “Historic Events/Places
    A prospective honoree must be:
    1. an historic event/place that is recognized as significant by a historical society or other appropriate group; and
    2. mentioned in at least one major film, book, and/or international news story; and
    3. identified on a widely available map at or near the proposed co-naming location.

    “Other
    The Board may, at its discretion, grant a naming that does not clearly fall into any of the three categories. However, the applicant must provide a strong argument that the proposed honoree had an extraordinary and highly acclaimed accomplishment or involvement for the public good linked to MCD1 and the location proposed for the co-naming. […]”

    • Maybe, James, and I realize this might be hard for you, because it involves an opinion contrary to your own, but just maybe you should consider that while you may never have heard of Charly Garcia, that he is WIDELY REVERED beyond the confines of TriBeCa, and that the album that boasted a photograph from that corner has been celebrated around the world.

      A single glance at Wikipedia confirms: Clics modernos is the second solo studio album by the Argentine musician Charly García, released on November 5, 1983 on SG Discos and Interdisc. It was a decisive work to consolidate the modern trends that would mark the profile of Argentine rock during the 1980s and saw García heralded as a “revolutionary” for his musical and lyrical boldness. It was ranked at number two in the Argentine edition of Rolling Stone’s list of The 100 Greatest Albums of Argentine Rock.

      Billboard Magazine … an industry staple … called Garcia’s record one of the “greatest Latin albums of the past 50 years,” further extrapolating: If Clics Modernos only contained the haunting “Los Dinosaurios,” which became a cry from the ashes of Argentina’s devastation by the military dictatorship, it would be enough. But the album, which includes more of Garcia’s best songs, would change the sound of Argentine music. Recorded in New York with Clash engineer Joe Blaney, the recording brought synthesizers and dance beats to Garcia’s emotional, socially conscious piano rock.

      It’s an accomplishment. He’s earned it. What’s your grievance? (beyond possibly a myopic xenophobe, `cos that’s the impression you’re creating).

      • If he is “WIDELY REVERED beyond the confines of TriBeCa,” then perhaps the street named for him should be located somewhere beyond the confines of Tribeca, like in South America. He has nothing to do with Tribeca, and certainly far less than someone like Robert De Niro, for whom no similar exception was made.

        • James, this is not a location issue, this is ART, LOVE, PASSION, the whole AMERICA ( North, Central and South), a talented and well recognized artist in the whole world, making people happier. Spread the love, you will happier too! Thank you for spending your time in this dialog. We can disagree in our concepts, but Charly Garcia is already an idol, with or without your Tribeca Corner…now it’s a little bit our too. Don’t worry! The corner will be more famous and well know than ever.

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