New York, You've Changed: Ghostbusters, Part One

Reliving the magic ofthrough pictures of New York, then and now.
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Today marks the first installment of "New York, You've Changed,"
a new Scouting NY series in which the New York featured in movies is
compared with the city of today. This is not meant to be the usual list
of shooting locations and addresses to visit next time you tour the
city. Instead, this is a full shot-by-shot dissection to see what New
York once was and what it has become, for better or worse. I've tried
to recreate the angles and framing as best as possible, and have
presented the shots (more or less) in the order they appear in the
film. Please leave feedback!

Though there are many movies I'm excited to cover for "New York,
You've Changed," I had no choice but to start with the movie that first
introduced me to New York City ...

I first saw Ghostbusters whenI was about 8 years old and instantly fell in love with it. I watchedit over and over, to the point where I could recite the entire film.Watching guys trapping ghosts with backpack nuclear accelerators waslike a child's fantasy come to life, and I defy you to find a kid ofthe 1980s who will not confirm the magic Ghostbusters carried in their youth.

I had neverbeen to New York City at the time, but the film made me desperatelywant to go. The public library, the university, the firehouse, Dana'sapartment building ... New York seemed completely different from Boston,the only city I knew as a kid. Unfortunately, I only set first set footin the city in 2000, and by then, New York was a completely differentplace.

Ghostbusters wasshot in New York over a four week period beginning in October 1983, thenreturned to L.A. for months of soundstage photography. Yet in thoseshort four weeks, director Ivan Reitman and team managed to captureenough of the city to make Ghostbusters an iconic "New York"movie. The New York of 1983 is very different from the post-Giulianicity of today -- it feels dangerous, gritty, dirty, tough, angry, andexciting. It seems like a struggle just to cross the street. How muchhas New York changed a quarter of a century later? Let's have a look...

The filmopens at the New York Public Library, which has a ghost residing in itsstacks. The first image of the film cranes to one of the NYPL's lions ...

... whichseems to be thankfully unchanged all these years later. One ofReitman's goals in shooting was to focus on New York statuary, and itseems appropriate to start off the film with one of the city's mosticonic symbols.

At the time of shooting, the Ghostbusterscrew was disappointed to find that the library was going throughrestoration work, and had to shoot tight to avoid showing too muchscaffolding. Nevertheless, this shot reveals the extent of the work ...

Today, thelibrary is yet again under restoration -- the top portion is covered incanvas, and the bottom right area is blocked off. While the mainreading room was shot on location, the stacks were actually filmed inLos Angeles.

Next up isColumbia University, shown beneath the logo. I'm not sure if it's amatter of color correction, a bad film transfer to DVD, or that NewYork was simply much smoggier back in the day, but I've never seen thecampus look so dingy ...

Today, like the New York Public Library, the campus is essentially the same, although the building on the right in the Ghostbusters picture,Ferris Booth Hall, was demolished in 1996 to create the much largerAlfred Lerner Hall, the current student center. Other than thereseeming to be much less smog than in 2009, little has changed, a rarityin New York.

When we first meet the Ghostbusters, they're working out of "Weaver Hall," the "Department of Psychology."

In reality,Weaver Hall is actually Havemeyer Hall, a classroom building primarilydedicated to science and math (in fact, this building has what Iconsider to be New York's finest lecture hall -- you can see itrepeatedly in the Spiderman films; nice to know Peter Parker and PeterVenkman hung out in the same building). In comparing the two pictures,you can see that we've come so far since the 1980's -- we now recycle,and we no longer believe in handicap access! (just kidding, I'm surethere's an alternate entrance somewhere). Here's the full building,located in the north-western portion of the campus:

After getting booted from the university, Peter and Ray have a life-altering conversation on the east side of the campus.

I wasshocked to see that Columbia has not installed a plaque on this blockannouncing that "Bill Murray drank here." If there was one single scenein a film that made me think "drinking is what the cool kids do" as achild, it was this. Other than some noticeable differences in foliage,Columbia continues to look the the same.

As theycontinue their conversation, you get a reverse view, and again, you cansee the difference in student centers. Also note that a gate has beenput up, preventing you from going into the area where they have most oftheir conversation.

Afterdeciding to go into business for themselves, the crew takes a trip tothe generically-named "Manhattan City Bank" to take out a mortgage onRay's childhood home ("Everyone has a third mortgage nowadays"). I cantell from the footage that they were filming across the street from theNew York Public Library ...

...but I think the entrance to this building has been completely renovated.

The onlyclue that this is the correct location is that wall of stone on theleft hand side, which seems to match in color to the above photograph.I think the original entrance was more inset.

Finally, the Ghostbusters find their home: Tribeca's iconic Hook & Ladder #8 (also seen in Hitch and Seinfeld).

Note the newglass-curtain building on the right. The building to the left, whichwas probably considered a dump in 1983, is now the Bubbles Loungechampagne bar. Times have changed. The alley next to the firehouse isused for firefighter parking.

Shortlyafter Ray proclaims "You've gotta try this pole!", we head uptown toDana's apartment at 55 Central Park West. Our first shot is of thebuilding towering over the skyline, as seen from Central Park. Comparethat to the actual view ...

Dana'sbuilding is dead center, but in reality actually seems somewhat squatcompared to the surrounding buildings. Of course, the first image isactually a matte painting, in which a very realistic painting issuperimposed on actual footage of Central Park. Not only did they givethe building a much more menacing appearance, they also blotted out anumber of the surrounding buildings. I wrongly assumed the field wasCentral Park's Great Lawn; it's actually the Sheep Meadow. Stand on theeast side under the trees to get the correct view.

This is an aerial photo of the building in 1983 ...

...and a sketch of the addition:

Originally,the filmmakers had been planning to use 1 Fifth Avenue, the firstbuilding north of Washington Square Park, for Dana's apartment. Notonly is it much taller ... also features a roof that would lend itself naturally to a temple...

...especially compared to the top of 55 Central Park West:

Also, it wasperfectly located for an iconic shot of the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Manpassing by (or perhaps destroying) the Washington Square Park Arch.Unfortunately, the 1 Fifth Ave condo association couldn't come to anagreement on filming, and shooting was moved uptown.

Back at 55 Central Park West, we first see Dana leaving a cab while struggling with groceries.

Notice a difference? While the buildings are very much the same, New York's cabs have certainly changed ...

Dana walksacross the street to the entrance of the building, nearly getting hit(if there's any major difference between New York of the 1980's andtoday, it's that I could stand in the street for a good 30 secondstaking pictures with cars swerving around me without a problem).

I believethat's a new bus stop pole. It also looks like the building might havehad central air installed, as the air-conditioning units have beenremoved. But all-in-all, still very much the same. I love the light-uptaxi globe positioned over the entrance:

Louis Tullytries to get into Tavern on the Green! The Ghostbusters montage it upthrough New York! And more! Part 2 coming Wednesday!


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