If Baz Luhrmann can do one thing well, it’s wow an audience with stunning shots. In his Netflix series The Get Down, we see the director turn his always-cinematic lens on the hip-hop culture of New York City’s South Bronx in the 1970s. However, the South Bronx today looks nothing like it did some 40 years ago. So Luhrmann and his filming crew had to head to different parts of New York to recreate the vibe. Here’s where they filmed in order to transport viewers back to the past.
East New York
The South Bronx today looks nothing like it did back in the ‘70s. Due, in large part, to a never-ceasing wave of gentrification in New York City, the only place location scouts found to resemble South Bronx circa 1977 was East New York.
Avatar Studios on West 53rd Street in Manhattan was the filming location for all the recording studio scenes. The studio still has a vintage mixing board from the ‘70s that was used to give a touch of authenticity to scenes. Avatar is still an active recording studio, used by an impressive list of modern musicians including Alanis Morisette, Arctic Monkeys, Dr. Dog, Peter Gabriel, and Rihanna—just to name a few.
The Transit Museum
The Transit Museum in Downtown Brooklyn is home to a variety of subway cars and memorabilia from throughout New York City Metro history. The scenes featuring actors on trains were either shot here or on an abandoned train at the Queens County Courthouse. Then in post-production, editors added special effects to make it look like the trains were actually moving.
St. Mary’s Park
The 35-acre Bronx park was a popular hangout for youths in the ‘70s—as evidenced in the show by Zeke and his pals. It’s the largest park in South Bronx and remains one of the most popular places for locals to meet up in the warmer weather months.
The Writer’s Bench
The 149th Street Writer’s Bench has become a famous location in hip-hop history. In fact, the show opened its first season with footage of Dizzee exchanging ideas and spotting good graffiti with all the other creatives hanging out on the bench. Today, anybody can go and sit on the bench (forever marked with a plaque) at the 149th Street-Grand Concourse subway station.
Although the location of this now-defunct club was not a filming location, Club 371 in South Bronx was once a glitzy disco club and the basis for The Get Down’s Les Inferno. The club was located at 371 E. 166th Street, which is now an Islamic Cultural Center. The interior club scenes were actually filmed on a stage.
Andrew Freedman Home
“The Mansion” referred to in the show is actually a former retirement home, abandoned in the 1970s. It is now a community center and residency in the Bronx where some hip-hop legends—including the real-life Kool Herc—choose to live today.
1520 Sedgwick Avenue at 181th Street
This locale is the very address where Kool Herc threw underground parties, credited with kickstarting the hip-hop movement. In the series, the boys get this address as they attempt to find the bootlegger selling illegal Kool Herc tapes (and eventually meet the legend himself).
The step streets
An iconic part of Bronx culture are the steep steps that lead from street to street, affectionately referred to as “step streets.” The step streets are often strewn with litter (as portrayed in The Get Down) and have been a constant source of news stories and frustration for residents.