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TV and film productions head uptown in search of a vanishing New York

12th Avenue Viaduct in Harlem

Miss the old New York? The one without the soulless bank and drugstore chains on every corner? You might want to follow the noses of production designers on two noteworthy new TV series (and one movie that's about to start filming).

Two great shows that came out this fall, The Deuce on HBO and season 3 of Narcos on Netflix, used uptown streets to create an old New York some still remember–and even miss. And it was just announced that "Moonlight" director Barry Jenkins will shoot his adaptation of James Baldwin's "If Beale Street Could Talk" on Edgecombe Avenue in Harlem sometime this month. The love story is set in the 1970s.

Present-day 133rd Street under the 12th Avenue Viaduct in West Harlem (top photo) is part of a unique old industrial neighborhood that's still mostly under-the-radar to the average New Yorker. Those who pass there frequently (Fairway, anyone?) will recognize the area in the third season of the cocaine-trade series Narcos. In one scene set in New York (above), a Cali Cartel member who handles operations in the city calls his partners back home. The era in question? The mid-1990s.

Amsterdam between 164th and 165th Streets feels like a typical commercial block you might find in Washington Heights, lined with mom-and-pop delis and restaurants (above two photos). Except this little stretch played a starring role in the porn-and-sex-industry drama The Deuce, dressed up as sleazy Times Square in the '70s (see below). One of the reasons the show's production designer chose the street is "its lack of boxy chain stores and glass condos," she explains,

Of course, this doesn't surprise me. Whenever visitors of a certain age walk through parts of my neighborhood for the first time, they tell me it takes them back. "New York in the '70s," said one 50-year-old who attended grade school on the Upper East Side as we took a stroll up 136th Street to Amsterdam. It was summer, and open fire hydrants sprayed water onto the street. Old New York is still here, you just have to go a little further uptown to find it.

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