Some people, those living in the outer boroughs, like to tell me that New York is not vanishing at all because it's still alive and well in places like Queens and Brooklyn. But as we know, these boroughs are vanishing, too, neighborhood by neighborhood, and it's only a matter of time before they are completely sheathed in glass and Starbucks.
Park Slope’s South Slope, for example, is rapidly becoming condo-ized. Over the past year, at astonishing speed, sleepy little blocks long made up of working-class, aluminum-sided townhouses, brick and tar-paper tenements have been systematically leveled and rebuilt to look like the rest of the former city.
558 5th Ave rising over soon-vanishing neon sign
Much has been said about 16th Street. In just one block, there are more than half a dozen new developments. Between 5th and 6th Aves, there's Suite 16 at #198-210, something with semi-lunar balconies at #226, a primed empty lot at #228, Prospect Gardens at #251, The Athena at #245, and a rather dull gray number at #231 that has really upset the neighbors. Go across 5th and you've got the big, bad, controversial Vue.
#226 16th Street
#245 16th Street
#231 16th St.
Walk down 5th Ave and there's another condo building at #558 rising above the low-rise 99-cent stores, bodegas, and nail salons. A fenced lot at #514, surrounded by stone foundations, is littered with antique iron columns. At 13th Street, there is the monstrous #515 -- it used to be a Salvation Army where a chain-smoking woman at the back door presided over mounds of donated clothing, computers, and paperback books.
#558 5th Avenue
#515 5th Avenue
If 16th Street is over, 13th Street has just begun.
At the corner of 13th and 6th, there's a massive McFrankenMansion. It began its life as a multi-family tenement. Someone with the taste and sensibility of Russian mobsters added several rickety-looking roofdecks, suburban-style stonefacing, and an "exhibitionist special" glass-encased central stairway. The result is a three-car garage, single-family monstrosity.
13th Street's new fuck-you finger
Further up the block, amid low-rise brick buildings and odd little houses with front porches, another sore-thumb asserts itself as different, special, and immune to the established rules and norms of the block. In a word: narcissistic.
Interestingly, both of these developments, like many of those going up in the South Slope, are topped by an extra turret-like structure, a mini-tower that makes the buildings look like they’re giving the fuck-you finger to the neighborhood. Which, in a very real sense, they are.