Help me make an office look like NYC streets on the cheap.
March 28, 2014 2:29 PM   Subscribe

Normally I'd just go do it. But, two hours ago I was asked to help turn an office into NYC streets in the 80s, for an office party that's happening on Wednesday (in London). Yeah, I know, but it might actually get me a job if I do it well. I've got two large spaces to work with and terrible overhead office lighting. I need cheap suggestions to give it an NYC flair! More info in the extended explanation.

We've got two small hotdog carts. And already(!) I've secured a graffiti artist and a breakdance troupe. But, what's next?

• I was thinking of creating fake steam vents (suggestions on how to do that would be excellent, but I'm thinking I'll just buy or rent a couple of fog machines). If you've got experience with fog machines, advice would be appreciated.

Other ideas:
• Toy taxis dotted around the place, fake drain pipes
• The faint sound of NYC streets (horns, people swearing, sirens, whatever) over the speakers

...any other suggestions?!

The two large spaces are around 1,000 square feet each (but I'm terrible with dimensions, so that's a very rough guess!). Oh, and I can't have homeless people soliciting fellatio. I already thought of that, and it's too gritty because there's going to be a Duke present...
posted by omnigut to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (30 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
If you can get a few Tvs, set them up to look like jumbotrons with scrolling advertisements for your firm.
posted by Nanukthedog at 2:35 PM on March 28 [1 favorite]

NYC Coffee Cups

Also Keith Haring art.
posted by susanvance at 2:45 PM on March 28 [5 favorites]

This may be kind of "inside info," but it would be very, very New York-ish, and easy to do on the cheap -

1. Have a couple of different people serving pizza, from two different tables placed right next to each other. They can absolutely both be serving pizza you've gotten from one single place, but you need to have them at two separate tables. And - one of these tables must be labled "Famous Original [pick a name here]" and the other must be labeled "Original Famous [same name]". (That's because: for a long time there was a bit of a war between two pizzerias named "Famous Original Ray's" and "Original Famous Ray's", each one claiming seniority.)

2. If one of the hot dog carts could also serve fruit smoothies, this would be a fantastic nod to another NYC food standby called Gray's Papaya. They specialized in really cheap takeaway meals of hot dogs and tropical fruit smoothies - typically papaya, coconut, banana, or pineapple. They started selling their "recession special" combo meals of two hot dogs and a small smoothie sometime in the late 80's.

For more inspiration - do a search online for pictures from inside the New York New York Casino in Las Vegas. I visited there about 10 years ago, after 10 years of living in New York, and it was insane the level of detail they put into the ambiance. (They managed to find a stack of menus from a specific takeaway restaurant in New York that is notorious for overloading building lobbies with their menus, and had them scattered about.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:46 PM on March 28 [5 favorites]

3 card monty, newspaper racks with period papers (Post, village voice, NY Press), chocolate eggcreams, italian ice, electronics storefront with period gizmos - 50% OFF GOING OUT OF BUSINESS.
posted by Sophont at 2:46 PM on March 28 [2 favorites]

Put up some homemade street signs with famous names, like "42nd Street" or "5th Avenue".
posted by Melismata at 2:47 PM on March 28

'80s? I would definitely go for some peep-show-ish Times Square facades, I think it's possible to pull off the basic unsavory feel without getting too offensive.

Also: Big boom boxes. You can make these up out of cardboard fairly cheaply.
posted by straw at 2:50 PM on March 28 [1 favorite]

Maybe you can get some ideas from the 80s NYC streets props and set used for Sesame Street?

The mailbox looks like something that could be quickly put together out of cardboard and made to look pretty exact.

I would also think about adding the distinctive round oscar-the-grouch-style trashcans (though you might need to paint plastic bins to get the right shape-size)
posted by anonymisc at 2:55 PM on March 28 [1 favorite]

I am LOVING these ideas. I just found fake fire hydrants, a "ghetto blaster" the size of my grandmother and I think I can fake a newspaper stand or two.
posted by omnigut at 3:00 PM on March 28 [1 favorite]

Rock show posters on plywood behind scaffolding
posted by Sophont at 3:06 PM on March 28 [2 favorites]

Print off some subway signs - perhaps stick them over a door to create an entrance to the subway.
posted by AnnaRat at 3:12 PM on March 28 [3 favorites]

Rock show posters on plywood behind scaffolding

..of '80s bands, of course. There was the legendary residency that the Clash did at Bond's in 1981, for example, with some images of the posters here.
posted by scody at 3:16 PM on March 28

put up some of these:

Dan Smith Will Teach You Guitar
posted by cristinacristinacristina at 3:37 PM on March 28 [3 favorites]

In addition to the steam grates, have cones. Strew used coffee cups and tabloids on the ground. Also, graffiti. Have any servers or bar tends wear scruffy ripped jeans and other 80s gear. Sounds fun!
posted by cestmoi15 at 3:44 PM on March 28

A pedant's note - the Dr. Zizmor ads and the Dan Smith guitar ads are definitely post-80s. I didn't see Dr. Zizmor ads until the 90s, and I went to college with Dan Smith in 1992!
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:17 PM on March 28 [1 favorite]

Oooh, I love Sophont's posters on plywood behind scaffolding idea, but immediately went to Andrew Lloyd Weber shows: Cats and Starlight Express seem totally '80s.
posted by straw at 4:18 PM on March 28

HAHAHA, freakin love the Dan Smith and Dr Zizmor ideas, but yes, perhaps a bit too new! Posters are perfect — easy to stick em up, chuck a bucket of water over some, rip others and voila.

And yeah, subway signs and road signs are a must.

Thank you all!
posted by omnigut at 4:26 PM on March 28

If you are doing road signs, you must include a Don't Honk sign -- they started in the eighties (and were just all torn down recently).
posted by susanvance at 6:15 PM on March 28 [1 favorite]

Google on NYC silhouette skyline and do a cut-out to put against the wall.
posted by BlueHorse at 6:42 PM on March 28

Boom Boxes
Get some Canal Jeans Company Buttons made up
posted by brookeb at 6:59 PM on March 28 [1 favorite]

posted by antiquated at 7:16 PM on March 28

glitter on the floor to mimic the broken glass that is embedded in the pavement
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 3:39 AM on March 29

I get really over-ambitious and way too excited about stuff like this...

If you have cubicles or individual offices, would it be possible to designate them as famous NY spots of the 80s? Like, Bob's cube could be a sleazy Times Square, and Mary's cube could be CBGBs, and Oscar's cube could be a subway car? You could just slap up some pictures and toss around evocative bits of garbage, and put on a tape of appropriate music and/or sound effects. It seems like people would have a lot of fun exploring the cubes, it'd almost be like one of those walk-through haunted house deals. You could also get your co-workers involved in decorating their own cubes. It could be really funny to see what Bob does to turn his cube into Times Square.

I want to do this thing so much. I actually want to go work in an office, just so I can put this party together.
posted by Ursula Hitler at 4:18 AM on March 29

There are some beautiful 80s band flyers here.
posted by sophieblue at 5:37 PM on March 29

In addition to subway signs, subway lamp posts are everywhere. These are the balls which are top half green and bottom half white. Here's a picture. Though I'm not sure everyone will get it... My kids live in NYC and they were surprised when I looked for the lamp to find a station. They'd never heard of it, even though they walk past them every day.
posted by CathyG at 11:00 PM on March 29

Cover as much of the space with graffiti as you can. Then it will be just like New York was in the 80's.
posted by freakazoid at 8:36 AM on March 30 [1 favorite]

Make egg creams

This is a cheap drink to make ( but of course purists will argue it's not authentic unless you use specific US brand ingredients etc) and it is unique to NYC , even mainly unique to Brooklym/Manhattan perhaps? You usually buy it in cheap mom-and-pop convenience stores/bodegas but it's made up for you on the spot, it doesn't come in a bottle or can or anything,
posted by Bwithh at 1:21 AM on April 3

Also seconding the Papaya juice and hot dogs combo suggestion. very NYC.
posted by Bwithh at 1:22 AM on April 3

In addition to subway signs, subway lamp posts are everywhere. These are the balls which are top half green and bottom half white. Here's a picture. Though I'm not sure everyone will get it... My kids live in NYC and they were surprised when I looked for the lamp to find a station. They'd never heard of it, even though they walk past them every day.
posted by CathyG at 11:00 PM on March 29 [+] [!]

Wow, I lived in Manhattan for a few years, took the subway almost every day- never heard of this and don't remember seeing them! They should probably paint them bright pink or fluorescent orange instead or something .
posted by Bwithh at 1:25 AM on April 3

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