Flashback: The Manhattan That Stole Carrie Bradshaw’s Heart

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The year was 1984. That’s when Carrie Bradshaw, a doe-eyed Connecticut teen who’d always dreamed of the big city, got her first glimpse of Manhattan.

“I have arrived, to the place so many before me have come to live out their dreams,” Bradshaw mused while crossing Brooklyn Bridge, setting her sights on the famous New York City skyline, during the series premiere of The CW’s The Carrie Diaries, a Sex and the City prequel based on Candace Bushnell’s young-adult series.

“It was the beginning of my Manhattan love story,” she said.

But the Manhattan that AnnaSophia Robb’s Bradshaw — a reinvention of the beloved SATC character made famous more than a decade ago by Sarah Jessica Parker — falls for is a world away from the concrete jungle of today.

For better or worse, the city that never sleeps has changed over the last three decades — since that fateful day back in 1984 when one Ms. Carrie Bradshaw first fell for the city she came to call home.

Celebuzz remembers what Manhattan was like back then — and how far it has come since.

Twin TowersTwin Towers
Any New Yorker will tell you: The city’s skyline will never be the same after Sept. 11, 2001. When Bradshaw first came to the Big Apple, the landmark Twin Towers of the World Trade Center stood out in lower Manhattan. But the once-tallest buildings in the world came crashing down on 9/11, after Al-Qaeda-affiliated hijackers flew two jets into each tower, resulting in nearly 3,000 deaths. And though The Carrie Diaries’ first episode took place in the shadow of the WTC, the show creators chose not to include the towers.

Call the Police
When baby Bradshaw first stepped into NYC, she had better be thinking safety first. In the late 1980s, crime rates spiked in the Big Apple, as the crack cocaine epidemic hit the city streets. But since 1990, violent crime has continue to decline. Much of that thanks goes to the New York City Police Department, which cracked down on wrongdoings in a heavy-handed way in the 90s. So by the time Bradshaw was settled into her quaint East 73rd Street brownstone apartment, the Upper East Side was safe and sound.

Meatpacking districtMeat to Manolos
Not even two decades ago, the Meatpacking district (or the Gansevoort Market, as it’s officially known) was the grittiest industrial corner of the city, home to — as the name would suggest — butchers, meat-cutters and factories full of carcass. But by the 1990s, the once-blood-stained streets of the waterside neighborhood turned trendy as high-end eateries, nightlife hotspots, and haute fashion boutiques opened up shop. Sex and the City actually captures the area in transition when Samantha (Kim Cattral) moved to the area and faced off with a few neighborhood prostitutes.

Melting Pot Multiples
Back when high school-aged Bradshaw was merely dreaming of becoming a Manhattan success, New York City was home to just more than 7 million people. But those bustling Time Square streets, Broadway theaters, Park Avenue boutiques, and West Village restaurants became all the more cramped over the years. By 2010, the Big Apple’s population had crossed the 8 million mark, making it a bit harder for Bradshaw to stand out in the most populous city of the United States.

No Smoking in New York CitySmoke Signs
Back in 1984, Bradshaw could have lit up in just about every corner of New York City. But that began to change with the first Smoke Free Air Act in 1988, when smoking was banned in public restrooms and taxis. Cigarette aficionados suffered another blow in 2002, when smoking in indoor spaces — including restaurants and bars — was outlawed. And in 2011, that restriction even reached the outdoors, extending to the city’s parks, public beaches and even some pedestrian plazas like Time Square. So nowadays, Sex and the City’s Bradshaw would have new reason to kick her Marlboro Lights to the curb.

The World of Publishing
On the series premiere of The Carrie Diaries, Bradshaw has a chance encounter with famed international fashion editor Larissa Loughton (Freema Agyeman), who takes the bright-eyed Connecticut teen under her wing within the world of Interview magazine, a glossy founded by the late great Andy Warhol during the golden era of print publications. The glamour of it all quickly sweeps young Bradshaw off her feet: the models, the fact-paced photo shoots and, of course, the fierce fashions. Even two decades later, Sex and the City sees Bradshaw penning a weekly column for fictional newspaper, The New York Star, and freelancing for Vogue, or what she terms “Mecca.” But nowadays, the magazine industry is but a bare-bones skeleton of its previous self, mostly stripped of its big budgets, high circulation and mainstream media prowess.

New York City subwayThe Underground
The 1980s New York City subways were, well, sub-par: filthy trains, failing tracks, tons of graffiti, too many outlaws and some of the strangest of passengers in the continental United States. But the transit authority seized those 10 years as a chance to clean up the underground system, successfully kicking off the 1990s with (graffiti-free!) stainless steel subway cars and lower crime rates — though those strange riders may be, for better or worse, here to stay.


The Carrie Diaries airs Mondays at 8PM on The CW.