Thank you for your illuminating article last issue on ‘The Future of New York City: A Vision of 2016.’ Where can I start? What can I say?
I’m glad someone has assembled this load of atrocities, which is indeed going to change our city forever, in one place. Thanks for that, I guess. But am I the only one who thought the whole thing looked like a glossy sales pamphlet for an Arquitectonica condo in Miami? That, in fact, every project featured as an illustration, with the exception of the Moynihan Station re-do of the Farley Post Office, looked like a condo project in Miami? I suppose with global warming we are going to be enjoying more tropical weather, but if predictions are correct, all these waterfront projects will be up to their atria in river water anyway.
Ah. Aha. Look here: the entirety of this New York Magazine piece is, per their own categorization, Real Estate. Not a City piece, or an Editorial piece, or an Architecture piece, but a Real Estate piece. Real Estate is property, not design or history or theory. Commerce. And that’s about as far as this article reaches. Writer Alexandra Lange gives us a brief gloss (or is that glaze?) on the now well-flogged Jane Jacobs vs. Robert Moses battle of urban theory:
“Jacobs’s vision was lovely but limited, with little room for new buildings, new neighborhoods. Rereading her arguments, one develops a sneaking admiration for the size of Moses’ thoughts. For the city to grow, it needed major change. Under Bloomberg, big thinking is happening again.”
The preceding feels like it was thrown in after an editor pointed out that the whole piece had been written from developers’ press releases. “Uh, Alex, I think we need to throw in something that relates to architectural history (didn’t you get a degree in that?) or the readers might realize we’re just cobbling together future ad copy for our Real Estate section.” Sure, it was pretty impressive that Moses was such a maniac that he thought whole neighborhoods could, and should, be bulldozed in the name of “progress,” but more in a pathological way than in a what-a-really-good-idea kind of way. But now that Jacobs is dead, there has been a bit of an adolescent backlash: Nicolai Ouroussoff got all cranky about her in the New York Times a month ago too: “[Jacobs] never understood cities like Los Angeles, whose beauty stems from the heroic scale of its freeways.” Ouch. She’d only been dead a week.
So, fine. We can stand aside and describe it all as “big thinking” and laud it for “getting greener.” But isn’t it disingenuous to praise big thinking when all it represents is big money? Is New York City truly in danger of becoming the brochure wet dream created by New York Magazine? A city populated by a monoclass of riverside condo dwellers? Let’s hope not, we haven’t even gotten to the buildings yet...