Checking in on a couple of tombstones--the new buildings that mark the gravesites of two of my favorite vanished Times Square institutions--I found again just how completely the past is erased.
Where 1551 Broadway once held not just the Howard Johnson's, but the Gaiety and a whole lot of history, the American Eagle Outfitters building has risen.
It looks quite tall, but when you really look at it you realize it is less building and more scaffolding for advertisements. There are a few floors that actually have windows and interiors, but look at the rest. It's a middle finger just waiting to be covered up with billboards.
Over on 8th Avenue, at the former site of the Playpen and the Funny Store, two gems demolished in December 2007, Tishman's new hotel tower is being faced in stone and white glass:
The buildings that stood before these new structures were, in a sense, "green." They were constantly being recycled. They lasted for a century and went through several permutations and uses. You could see their history in their faces, layers under layers, of time's passage.
Will these new buildings ever become anything but what they are? I think of the final lines of James Wolcott's must-read piece in this month's Vanity Fair:
"What bothers me is that if New York plunges into a second go-round of the 70s, this time with additional angst, we’ll still be stuck with all those spiky glass buildings that have gone up in recent years, reflecting our own overreaching folly back at us with sterile mockery. Really, I much prefer rubble."