Miracle on 42nd Street

L to R: The film’s title, “Miracle on 42nd Street,” in glowing gold font over a dark background, Larry David, Alicia Keys, Giancarlo Esposito, Angela Lansbury, and Terrence Howard.       

 

Miracle on 42nd Street is the 2020 NY Emmy-winning documentary about the history and impact of the Manhattan Plaza apartment complex in New York City.

“Manhattan Plaza is often called the ‘Miracle on 42nd Street,’ and if I did nothing else in my life but be associated with that, my life would be complete. It is the type of place to live that has to be duplicated throughout the major cities of this country.”

— Irving Fischer, Manhattan Plaza Builder

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The First Film About Affordable Housing for Artists

Starting with the history of the blighted Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood and the facilities’ initial commercial failure in the mid-1970s, the story recounts how – in a moment of bold inspiration or maybe desperation – the buildings were “re-purposed” as subsidized housing for people who worked in the performing arts. The social experiment was a resounding success in the lives of the tenants, as well as the neighborhood and local economy.

The film makes a compelling case for the value of subsidized housing for artists in America and the value of supporting the arts in the American economy. It features on-camera interviews with people whose lives were positively impacted by the complex, including Alicia Keys, Terrance Howard, Donald Faison, Larry David, Samuel L Jackson, Angela Lansbury, and many others.

History 

Manhattan Plaza is located in Manhattan’s historic theatre district, a neighborhood also known as Hell’s Kitchen. Located on the block between 42nd and 43rd Streets, it is often called the “Miracle on 42nd Street” due to the near-miraculous effect the complex has had on the once-blighted neighborhood and on the lives of its residents. Seventy percent of the occupants work in the performing arts, and thirty percent are Hell’s Kitchen residents who are elderly, disabled, or have been relocated from substandard housing.

Manhattan Plaza from 42nd Street

The film tells the story of how this innovative, affordable housing experiment came to be, the artists it has nurtured, the close community its residents and management have created, and the positive impact it has had on the economy of Manhattan’s West Side. The filmmakers, several of whom are current and former residents, are passionate about sharing the story of Manhattan Plaza with the world. It is a unique model of what can be achieved by bringing together over 3,500 people from differing cultural, ethnic and economic backgrounds.

Alice Elliott, Estelle Parsons and Lisa Shreve

We hope Manhattan Plaza will inspire new ways of thinking about affordable housing in cities around the globe. Its success was brought about by the creative community it housed, people whose dreams and goals might not have been realized had it not been for the opportunity of living in Manhattan Plaza. By making this film, we want to tell the story of the pioneering people, community leaders, government and business people who joined together to resurrect a blighted neighborhood. We have dedicated ourselves to spreading awareness about the “miracle” of Manhattan Plaza.

This film was funded by The National Endowment for the Arts.