It’s hard to imagine Times Square before it became the Disneyfied, Toys-R-Us-bag-toting-tourist-and-kiddie-infested postcard of Capitalist America that we hate so dearly today. Luckily, we’ve come across the photo collection of Gregoire Alessandrini to remind us that those days were more than just folklore. While attending a local film school in the mid-90’s, Alessandrini always carried a camera with him, allowing him to document NYC’s rapid transformation during the Giuliani “reform” days. He recently posted a couple dozen photos of the then-raunchy 42nd street area to his blog. It’s hard to believe that such drastic change can happen within less than two decades.

“You could just point your camera anywhere and shoot old Keith Haring murals, empty lots of graffiti and RIP murals, crazy people and wild parties, cinematic atmospheres in the desolate Meatpacking District, 42nd St. sleaze still alive, old signs and storefronts. The New York atmosphere in general.”

While the peep shows, philosophical marquees, and massive tobacco billboards may be gone, the Times Square sleaze lives on — now it’s just got a better costume.