Alphabet City

On an almost-blank wall where East 46th Street intersects Avenue A in the area called Alphabet City in New York, is this graffito in three-foot-high black letters, saying BELFAST, with the cross-stroke of the T extended into an arrow pointing east, to Belfast. I have a photograph to prove this, but it’s lost. In New York, no one that I ask seems to know the meaning of this careful scrawl, whether it’s a gang, the code-word of a gang, a fashion, a club, or the name of the city where I was born; but the latter seems unlikely, though Alphabet City — barricaded liquor stores, secretive tobacco shops and elaborate Russian Orthodox churches – resembles Belfast, its roads pocked and skid-marked, littered with broken glass and crushed beer-cans. (from Ciaran Carson’s Belfast Confetti)

If I had read this before my trip to New York, I would have tried looking for the BELFAST graffiti — a text message between two cities, or an urban equivalent of geocaching, if you will. But as I didn’t, I will simply offer some pictures I did capture of and around Alphabet City — an aptly-titled neighbourhood in the East Village. What do you do when you run out of numbers to name your streets and you can’t go any lower than 1st Ave? Switch to letters — hence, Alphabet City with Avenues A, B, C, and D extending all the way to the East River. Easy to remember, I suppose!

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