Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Weird Way West

Let's take a trip up the far west side of Greenwich Village, during which we will encounter a new world, a post-Apocalyptic vision of glass towers, and end up at Palazzo Chupi, face-to-face with Schnabel himself.

At 685 Washington Street, plywood plastered with fembot queens conceals a gutted lot waiting for another tower of power to grow from the ruins of the old Village.

We turn down once-quaint, cobblestoned Charles Lane, cast into shadow by Richard Meier's ice-towers, soon to be joined by 166 Perry Street, rising now to its future glassy undulation. Here, the world feels sterile and bare. Sheets of slate shift unsteadily underfoot like ice floes. Hudson Blue contributes its sliver to the chilly atmosphere.

We keep walking up West. A banner for "Something Super" appears, but as we move closer it becomes "Something Superior." The Superior Ink factory is vanished, against the protests of preservationists. A hulking tower-townhouse combination is putting on its prefabricated brick face.

On the opposite corner, tiny green 399 West 12th crumbles under a questionable demolition. Built in 1880, bought years ago by Bill Gottlieb, it is 1 in 150 buildings he acquired and left intact and untouched. Gottlieb and his immediate heir now deceased, the fate of these 150 remains uncertain. But with nearly $1 billion in the portfolio, the vultures are descending to gobble them up.

Looming over the green demolition, 385 West 12th has risen and awaits its metal skin.

One stands out above the rest. We turn back to 11th, following the hot-pink palazzo in the sky.

It isn't glass. It isn't metal. It does not undulate. Unsure of how to feel, we stand actually admiring the artistry, right down to the faux make-it-look-real "no parking" signs, when what to our wondering eyes should appear? Julian Schnabel on his way to the Tribeca Film Festival where his Lou Reed film, Berlin, is premiering.

He waits for his car. Nearby, a woman appears with cellphone, also waiting for a car. She tells her phone, "You're giving me my life lesson in carpets. Whatever happens, I need them to be pristine." Schnabel stands silent, shaggy, leonine in the middle of the street, not once betraying the fact that, hidden under his long cashmere coat and colorful scarf, he is sporting purple pajamas.


Anonymous said...

As someone who once lived in the West Village, I found this article depressing. One of the charms the area once had, low population density, is now gone. It is now a neighborhood of people demanding pristine carpets!

Mark said...

The little green building was once the site of The Inca bar, as mentioned in one of the Bill Gottlieb profiles. The hideous building that adjoins it replaced 12 West, a seminal gay dance club of the Seventies.

Anonymous said...

In 2 years when everything is erected this will probably one of the highest population densities of assholes in NYC. What was that line about these glass towers from Fight Club - "Home was a condo on the fifteenth floor of a filing cabinet..." more like an autopsy drawer for the living dead. - E