In this Google Earth satellite photo, you can see the old parking lot that used to front the Carl Fischer Music Publishers building. It was a pleasure to get off the subway on Broadway and head east for home, avoiding the crowds by cutting through this lot. On the sidewalk, milk crates full of used porn magazines (you can just make out the porn peddler's red umbrella circled in blue). A parking lot and a porn peddler may be odd things to wax nostalgic about, but certainly not when they've been replaced by a monster.
GREEN MONSTER: A startling addition to Astor Place
by Paul Goldberger
The New Yorker, MAY 2, 2005
The first thing you think when you see the new luxury apartment building at Astor Place—a slick, undulating tower clad in sparkly green glass—is that it doesn’t belong in the neighborhood.…
Of course, cities are often enriched by architecture that seems, at first, to be alien: the pristine glass towers of Mies van der Rohe and the sylphlike bridges of Santiago Calatrava have brought grace to countless harsh, older cityscapes. But this new building, which is on one of the most prominent sites in lower Manhattan, does not have a transforming effect. If, as Vincent Scully proposed, architecture is a conversation between generations, this young intruder hasn’t much to say to its neighbors. Its shape is fussy, and the glass façade is garishly reflective: Mies van der Rohe as filtered through Donald Trump. Instead of adding a lyrical counterpoint to Astor Place, the tower disrupts the neighborhood’s rhythm.
In an inelegant way, Gwathmey’s building has exposed a truth about this part of lower Manhattan: inside those rough-and-tumble old masonry buildings is a lot of wealth. By designing a tower with such a self-conscious shimmer, the architect has destroyed the illusion that this neighborhood, which underwent gentrification long ago, is now anything other than a place for the rich. The thirty-nine apartments inside the Gwathmey building start at two million dollars.
(text Copyright New Yorker magazine)
Before the monster, before the parking lot, this is what stood on the spot, captured here by photographer Rudy Burckhardt. If anyone knows the name of the building behind the Coca-Cola billboard, please let me know.