Tuesday, September 9, 2008

City of Glass

EV Grieve points us to this week's extensive article in New York Magazine on the transformation of New York into a city of glass.

Chronicling the massive architectural shift, Pulitzer Prize-winning critic Justin Davidson gives readers a pretty incredible before-and-after collection of photos and such startling numbers as: "In the past fifteen fat years, more than 76,000 new buildings have gone up, more than 44,000 were razed, another 83,000 were radically renovated."



Davidson is critical but ultimately optimistic about the changes. He writes, rather eloquently, "I hear in the cacophonic symphony of construction the sound of a still vigorous and hungry city. I see in all that moving of dirt and hoisting of concrete panels the New York I’ve always known: unsentimental and steadfast in its refusal to stay the same, yet vigilantly proud of its past."

Part of me wishes I could see it this way. To have such hope would be less painful. Instead, I'll stick with urban nostalgist and poet James Merrill, a league I'm happy to let Davidson put me into when he writes:

"As pieces of the city evaporate, they take our memories with them. It gets hard to remember which block that old Chock Full o’Nuts was on or what was next to a lamented laundromat. This chronic amnesia is part of the New York condition. In his 1962 poem 'An Urban Convalescence,' James Merrill captured the feverish yet methodical sacking of the city and the way it toys with our sense of comfortable familiarity.

As usual in New York, everything is torn down
Before you have had time to care for it.
Head bowed, at the shrine of noise,
let me try to recall
What building stood here.
Was there a building at all?


Among Merrill’s disciples is one Jeremiah Moss, who maintains the engagingly gloomy blog Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York, which he terms 'an ongoing obituary for my dying city.' His topic is the steady erosion of the city’s texture. He is the defender of all the undistinguished hunks of masonry that lend the streets their rhythm and give people a place to live and earn a living: bodegas, curio stores, a metalworking shop in Soho, diners, and dingy bars."

3 comments:

esquared said...

I'm crossing my fingers for this inevitability. Can't wait until all these condos come tumbling down.

KayVee said...

Mmmmmmmm . . "Chock Full 'o Nuts" -- one of my favorite early a.m. haunts back in the late 70s. Which brings to mind the many lunches I ate at the Woolworth's counter! I have to say, as I remember it, the food was actually pretty darn good.

LSR the ONE said...

do people still "eat"? or do they just drink coffee& nosh on some big cookie? or is 'eating' for the working class? since they do fast food, or have too, then whats the message here? (unless they bring their lunch like my grandpa did, grandma used to put it in a metal lunch box. maybe fast food is faster). the 'new" new yorkers, or young new yorkers "dine"- right?? SO, we only need #1) fast food, #2) some resturants w/reservations #3) chinese takeouts for singles. oh i forgot, #4) some chain resturants in those large condo complexes. welcome to new york. how un appealing.