Thursday, February 5, 2009

Chelsea Still Rising

The new view of West Chelsea, as glass boxes grip the High Line, accompanied by Armani billboards in matching shades of icy glacial blue. This scene, with crane slicing the sky, epitomizes our present day.

The High Line, like a suddenly wet watering hole in a dry desert, has attracted condo and hotel towers like thirsty rhinos to its shores. They push and shoulder each other out of the way, crushing whatever gets underfoot.

And the developers demolishing the most ancient of meatpacking plants insist the High Line is a hardship, a detriment to construction. Tell that to the rest of the builders who just keep on building.

Nearby, 456 West 19th has been topped with a rollercoaster rail. No, that's just more undulation.

Also on the rise, HL 23 with its misshapen foldy bits beginning to recline over the High Line. Here its crane casts a shadow onto "Highline 519." And what is that below, a brick tenement with tin cornice? Shouldn't that have been demolished by now?

HL 23's "Sales Tin" features a quote from the building's architect from the following statement:

"In the early 1980s, I lived in New York City and spent a great deal of time in far West Chelsea, imagining and even drawing designs for buildings that would celebrate its gritty, industrial romance and the beautifully decaying form of the High Line. I cannot overstate how satisfying it is for our firm to create a formally challenging, artistic project here more than 25 years later, addressing a practical demand for the people who will live inside the building and a local demand for the public who will experience it from the sidewalks, the High Line, and from other buildings throughout the West Chelsea arts district."

There's almost nothing left of that romantic grit and industry, that beautiful decay. Not even a yunnipocalypse can save it now. There's too much glass. Too much stainless steel. We'll be shielding our eyes from their glare for eons to come.

But with everybody broke, will anybody actually be living here? Or will West Chelsea become nothing more than a decaying ghost town made of glass and blindingly bright ideas?

See more photos here

Further reading:
Glassing West Chelsea
Chelsea Towers West (Soylent Green)
The Condo Shall Inherit the Earth (Sylvia Plath)


Anonymous said...

Across from HL 23 you'll be pleased to know that big hole in the ground will stay as such—they haven't done any work there for months. The money ran out.

Anonymous said...

some people may move in, but it will probably become a ghost town as you predict.

Jesse Archer said...

The strollers are coming! The strollers are coming! Maybe it's time to move? Buenos Aires still has that beautiful decay. In spades.

Anonymous said...

Shouldn't it be looked at in a positive light that as they build and rebuild and upgrade that there are jobs created and money made. It can't be all that bad to have new construction.

Unknown said...

What a shame. In the late '80s I looked at a rental in the townhouse that used to be just west of the High Line, apparently where "HL 23" is being constructed. It was a large studio taking the whole top floor, kind of a homey DIY-type aesthetic, but pleasant, if not exactly stylish. Looked out right onto the High Line. The rest of the house was owned & occupied by the (seemingly, nice) family renting out the studio. I ended up taking a one-bedroom on the south side of W23rd, four buildings east of the 10th Avenue corner, within view of the townhouse. I lived there until 2005, when I left NYC. I often wondered if I'd made the right choice. And now it's gone, along with the romantic grit and industry of that whole area.

Well I hope the owners made a killing. They seemed like urban homesteaders, people willing to take a quaint old place in a slightly off-center location and gradually make it their own, on their own time, without multi-million dollar designers and crippling mortgages. Maybe if there were more like them we wouldn't be in the financial mess we're in now.