Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Canal Street (Manhattan)
Canal Street is a major street in New York City, crossing lower Manhattan to join New Jersey in the west (via the Holland Tunnel) to Brooklyn in the east (via the Manhattan Bridge). It forms the main spine of Chinatown, and separates it from where it meets Little Italy. It also forms the northern boundary of the Tribeca neighborhood and the southern boundary of SoHo.
Canal Street gained its name from a literal canal that was dug in the early 1800s to drain the contaminated and disease-ridden Collect Pond into the Hudson River. The pond was filled in in 1811, and Canal Street was completed in 1820 along the angled path the canal had followed. The elimination of Collect Pond actually made the surrounding land even marshier, as the area had many natural springs that now had nowhere to drain. The historic townhouses and newer tenements that had been built along Canal Street fell into disrepair, and the eastern stretch of Canal Street came within the ambit of the notorious Five Points slum that emerged as property values and living conditions plummeted.
Today, Canal Street is a ramshackle but bustling commercial district, crowded with low-rent open storefronts and street vendors. Tourists as well as locals pack the Canal Street sidewalks every day to frequent the open-air food stalls and bare-bones stores selling items such as perfume, purses, hardware, and industrial plastics at very low prices. Most of these goods are grey market imports and many notoriously counterfeit, with fake trademarked brand names on electronics, clothing and personal accessories (including the fake Rolex watches that have become a Manhattan cliché). Pirated CDs and DVDs are also very common, offered for sale on the Canal Street sidewalks in makeshift stands and suitcases or simply laid out on bedsheets, often before they are even officially released in stores or the theater. Widespread sale of these counterfeit goods persists along Canal Street despite frequent police raids.
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