Thursday, May 22, 2008

When Condos Kill

Back in November I made the rather predictable prediction that the low-rise buildings on the southeast corner of 14th and 3rd would soon fall. Curbed confirmed it in December, revealing the big, glass-box monstrosity to come. And this week, the corner has fallen into rubble.

before:


after:

more pics of 14th and 3rd

I don't think it's a coincidence that this corner has come down so soon after the rise of the Toll Brothers' gargantua, 110 Third. It seems that wherever luxury condos sprout, their low-rise neighbors come down within months. Is it condoschmerz, that killer virus, that poisons everything in the vicinity?

Look at what has happened to the block of 6th Avenue between 17th and 18th. Earlier this year, the super-expensive ($1400 a square foot) 100 West 18th condo moved in and quickly added a chainbank-trifecta of Chase, Modell's, and Duane Reade on its first floors.

before:


Today, the rest of the block, except for one holdout frame shop, has shuttered. Two video shops closed, including Red Light District, which moved to 8th and 21st. New York City Bagels is closed and For Rent. And World Famous Pizza, on the corner of 17th, is already gutted and halfway to renovated. That's four small businesses dropped dead. Let's not be surprised when these low-rises come crashing down for yet another glass box.

after:


look who's come to visit the dead pizza corner!

more pics of 17th and 6th

The debate here is not about the inherent value of bagel shops, adult video stores, and tanning salons. It's about the breakneck pace of destruction in this town and the way luxury buildings commit mass murder--not only do they destroy the businesses and homes they immediately replace, they also have a domino effect. Just being in proximity to them is hazardous to the health of the city's diversity and human scale.

So what's next to go? My crystal ball says it will be the southwest corner of 14th and 3rd, where these low buildings look like doomed woodland creatures trembling in the crosshairs of the Toll Brothers' big gun:

before:

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

I live right nearby on 16th st and I've been watching that new condo go up...it was sad to see the small shops torn down when they started, worse to see the garish new retail tenants (as if 6th ave wasn't a crappy mall to start with!), and horrible to see the last stragglers closing down. I worry that the parking lot across the street, home to the weekend flea market, may fall to condo-land soon. Nor can I stand the constant construction dust between that place on 18th and the yves building. Yuck.

Jill said...

I will miss Robin Raj which always had fascinating stuff in the window but nothing similar inside. The mystery of how they chose their window displays will never be known. I don't know where else I will buy little plastic bottles. These stores are/were the character of our 'hood that will never be replaced as it turns into one giant outdoor shopping mall of blandness and uniformity. And, you can't buy food in a shopping mall, which is why we have no place left to get fresh meat, fish and fewer and fewer that sell produce.

JackSzwergold said...

The real issue that this post highlights very well is there are increasingly smaller places for small businesses to get set up.

And it's also connected to the chain stores coming to NYC. Take for example, Target and K-Mart. I needed to get some dry-wall anchors today and my instinct being born in NYC was to go to Canal Street. Back before it was filled with bootleggers, the place was basically a hardware/handyman/electrician supply mecca. True surplus! And it was great. Now, not much there like that. Except the rubber/foam store. Which will most likely disappear in the next decade; who do they sell to?

Manufacturing leaves NYC because of increased cost and the small stores and shops that support local manufacturing disappear. And soon enough the lofts filled with workers are now filled with folks who don't want cheap pizza and bagels. Thus, those other stores close.

Where did I get my dry-wall anchors? K-Mart. Literally the only place I found that was open that had them.

What's sad is if you look at Etsy and eBay, just picture any major seller there as a shop owner. Seriously. 30 years ago, someone who made jewelry from their home or sold old toys could open a storefront and set up that way. Now, the stores are for the truly rich. And small mom & pop industries are back in the home.

It's all out of balance and I am rambling a bit, but at what point does someone look out their glass cocoon they paid $2 million for and say: "Why do we live here?"

zuzuz said...

Hard to believe but even 8th street used to have charm and character.

Lived in Soho when it had real AIRs before it was "discovered".

It's not just condo builders--it's NYU--which has a mania for tearing down older, smaller buildings, booting out local rent controlled people and building cheap, fast dorms.

Bad bars, fast food joints, and mall stores follow the students. Over time, NYU will have cooked its own goose because the area will have lost the cache students come here from the middle of the country, to find.

Really appreciate your blog.

lauran said...

6th & 3rd avenues have been torn down for the last 35 plus years. @one time there were small building all up 3rd- midtown & all the way thru the e.70s i was shocked in the 1980s taking the bus up 3rd. felt i was chocked. & 6 ave downtown started w/one discount chain drugstore on corner of 8th street-welons. that streets been awful thru the late 60s & on. & 8street became a low end chain place as the boutiques closed. as for 3rd & the e.50s, that was the antique district. then in the 70s it was all cheesy fast food & chains. i had thought that NYC had some zoning. & later east river drive, 1& 2nd ave e.90s etc would be for skyscrapers. looks like its all open game now? which areas have a legal height?? also to respond to one comment about NYU students. they are not in new york for the charm, they would study in vermont or boston for that. they want a big city.