The DNAinfo archives brought to you by WNYC.
Read the press release here.

New Portrait Series Puts Focus on Emerging 'ChiBeCa' Neighborhood

By Julie Shapiro | April 20, 2012 7:57am
Filmmaker Casey Neistat.
Filmmaker Casey Neistat.
View Full Caption
Leah Overstreet

TRIBECA — When Frontrunner Gallery opened its doors on Franklin Street a year-and-a half ago, co-founder Leah Overstreet didn't know quite what to call her new neighborhood.

The gallery sits at the corner of Cortlandt Alley — east of traditional TriBeCa but not quite on the fringes of Chinatown — so Overstreet and her partners decided the area needed its own name.

After some thought, they dubbed it "ChiBeCa."

"It's not Chinatown or TriBeCa," said Overstreet, 35, a photographer who lives in Brooklyn. "It's a crossroads…. You've got the old and the new, the rich and the poor. You've go the industrial side and you've got the very fancy side."

The juxtaposition of those two worlds draws many artists who find it inspiring — including Overstreet, who spent the past year photographing the neighborhood's denizens.

Leah Overstreet, the photographer behind the
Leah Overstreet, the photographer behind the "ChiBeCa" series at Frontrunner Gallery.
View Full Caption
Leah Overstreet

The result is "The ChiBeCa Project," a show of 19 black-and-white portraits of local artists, residents and small business owners that opened Thursday night at Frontrunner Gallery.

Overstreet sees the neighborhood as the last enclave of affordable studio space in Manhattan, a place that is home to veteran and young artists alike. Visually, it is an almost forgotten architectural holdout of the city's earlier days, yet it is also a place bristling with energy from the vibrant communities that surround it, she said.

Overstreet embarked on her project because she wanted to capture this unique neighborhood as it  is — before TriBeCa and Chinatown encroach on it from both sides.

"I don't know if it's going to stay this way for long," she said.

As the backdrop for her portraits, Overstreet picked one of the most untouched streets in the area, Cortlandt Alley, which is often used for historical film shoots. Overstreet's subjects in the "ChiBeCa" series include studio artist Corrine Beardsley, filmmaker Casey Neistat and the owners of the now-shuttered Lafayette Grill & Bar at 54 Franklin St. 

While Overstreet and her partners at the gallery have been casually calling their neighborhood "ChiBeCa" for the past year or so, it doesn't seem to have caught on yet.

"People laugh," Overstreet said, "and they say, 'Oh no, not another neighborhood name.'"

"The ChiBeCa Project" is on view at the Frontrunner Gallery, 59 Franklin St., through April 30. Hours vary, so call ahead at 646-675-6727.