Old Wine, New Bottles: WTC Clusterf**k

May 27, 2006

It’s been a few days since I hammered away at the WTC disaster, but Miss Representation takes up the slack in a big way with another one of his scathing take-downs. This is a must-read, but I’ll whet your appetite here:

“…it’s a total clusterfuck. Not a total clusterfuck like last year, when no one knew what the Memorial would look like, or even what the final program was; when the deconstruction of 130 Liberty was marred by poor oversight and flawed planning; … when no progress was being made on the Freedom Tower; when Pataki was a bumbling idiot who couldn’t marshal the forces … to finalize any site planning; when no one knew how anything was being paid for, but that all the money was definitely running out. No, now it’s a new kind of clusterfuck, one that — I was going to cut and paste the above paragraph, for dramatic effect, but even that isn’t worth it. Can we agree once again how unfathomable it is that these people can speak without shame in public? If this were medieval Japan … wouldn’t they all have committed ritual suicide by now for their failings?”

I wrote an article for the July issue of Planning magazine (a trade publication for professional urban planners) arguing that the utter lack of planning at Ground Zero is the root of all the problems there. But given how milquetoast that publication is, I wasn’t able to make the case as strongly as it really needs to be made. I took the above photo from the Winter Garden, which overlooks the pit.

Here is the PDF version of the article.

Gov’s Island: Still Floating

May 25, 2006

The Governors Island Alliance and the Regional Plan Association held a fundraiser last night to move plans along for this historic island just off the tip of Lower Manhattan, the first European settlement in New York (established by the Dutch in 1623). The weather could not have been more perfect. I hope something spectacular comes of this unique place in my lifetime.

Sculpture for Living: Don’t Take That Literally

May 20, 2006

I happened to be walking by the Astor Place “Sculpture for Living” high-rise condo building in the E.Vil. (aka, the Green Monster, which hasn’t been selling very well, especially after the bad reviews) when I came across a much more literal “sculpture for living” just outside the entrance. There were no less than a half-dozen cops standing around waiting for this dude to pack up his “sculpture for living” and move it on down the block.

E.Vil.: Too Slender for Big Box

May 17, 2006


Crain’s has a big real estate edition, and one of the stories is about how small spaces have immunized the East Village and Lower East Side from big retail chains. Hallelujah.

“Welcome to the East Village, a modern-day real estate anomaly, virtually untouched by the astronomical rents and multiplying mass merchandisers that have afflicted neighborhoods from Harlem to SoHo in recent years.”

In addition to the nabe’s small spaces, the article attributes the lack of major retail chains in the area to two other factors: low density and a more economically diverse population (which distinguishes it from the West Village, although this point isn’t made).

“The population of Community District 3, which encompasses the entire Lower East Side, is 164,000, according to the 2000 Census. By comparison, Community District 8, which comprises the entire Upper East Side and Roosevelt Island, has 217,000 residents. Though the East Village is no longer the blighted slum it was as recently as the 1980s, average income levels lag those of many other Manhattan neighborhoods.”

Need I say it again? Hallelujah.

I took the above photo of the artist DeLaVega in front of his gallery/shop on St. Marks Pl. Below: Another quirky small shop on St. Marks, Dumpling Man, which is owned by Lucas Lin.


And Now the Memorial Fight

May 17, 2006

The “Freedom Tower” fight has been settled with Larry Silverstein (for now), and we move quickly into the memorial fight. The latest estimate for building the memorial came in at an alarming $1 billion, and Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg jumped in to say that it should be capped at $500 million. This provided an opportunity for those who have various beefs with the design to use its cost as a wedge; namely, those who think the memorial should be above ground are now saying the design should be radically overhauled. [See Times article today.]

Michael Arad’s original design, which was selected from more than 5,000 entries, put the memorial under ground with water falls and galleries. I haven’t studied the design closely, but I can well imagine that the decent into the memorial would be a powerful experience. I can also imagine the benefits of having different levels serving different purposes, the most solemn area being below ground, and more relaxing and serene areas at ground level. No one who is contemplating the horror of this tragedy wants to encounter kids running around acting goofy. But there needs to be room for joyfulness as well as solemnity, and giving those emotions separate levels to take place is one good solution.

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Hotel Chelsea Blog Party

May 1, 2006


Living With Legends, the Hotel Chelsea blog, hosted a party over the weekend. The blog has been chronicling the dark and quirky side of living in the Chelsea Hotel for a year now, and I have to say, it was one of the more interesting evenings I’ve had in awhile. I met fascinating and slightly crazy artists, musicians, composers, photographers, designers and writers who have lived in the hotel for years and even decades, and boy do they have stories to tell. The party took place in an apartment where Thomas Wolfe once lived (and wrote You Can’t Go Home Again — how appropriate), which is now occupied by photographer Julia Calfee (her B&W photos adorn the walls). Debbie & Ed, Living With Legends bloggers, live one apartment over.

Click here to see a slide show of the Living With Legends anniversary party.