New on 29th, 2012
Evolutionary biologists tell us that sustainable systems never stand still. They’re always changing, whether we notice it or not.
A city is a living system made up of millions of interconnected pieces, people and shared understandings that make it work. Few American cities are as dynamic as New York, where every year tens of thousands of people arrive from all over the world in search of opportunity. It’s joked that the most popular topic of conversation among New Yorkers is real estate. Who got that good apartment on the sixth floor? Did they really get a working fireplace for $2,400 a month?
Unlike in Los Angeles, where I’ve heard of people who drive three and four hours each way to get to and from work from some distant arid valley, most New Yorkers like to stay within reach of Manhattan. That means they’re constantly keeping their eyes out for the next affordable place. It appears that the new “next affordable place” is Long Island City, located in the most southern part of Queens.
During our brief visit to New York last week we stayed in a relatively new hotel in Long Island City. Until a few years ago Long Island City was a pretty hardscrabble industrial area. But that’s all changing. In their quest to create housing for all those people coming to New York, developers are replacing empty industrial buildings with shiny new high rises full of million dollar condos and apartments. (The ones closet to the river do have, I’ll admit, million dollar views of Manhattan.) They tout Long Island City as:
“Cutting-edge. Vibrant. Dynamic....the Next Big Thing. Populated with artists, visionaries, entrepreneurs, and innovative small businesses, a forward-thinking approach to life.”
I don’t know many artists who could afford to live in such places as are being built in Long Island City. The mood is definitely more BMW than beatnik. And I hesitate to apply that description to the block shown above.
Most people might scratch their heads at the thought of someone paying top dollar to live in an extremely skinny apartment in this neighborhood. (I was advised by a hotel employee not to walk on the street after dark.) But apparently that’s not how developers think. A developer saw an empty narrow lot and went for it.
I’m disappointed that the designer of this building shows no respect for its surroundings. And despite the attempt to gussy up an otherwise extremely narrow and plain box of a building with a little color and a curve in its façade, one has to wonder just how stylish it’s going to look five years from now when the soot from the nearby elevated trains and the 59th Street Bridge settles onto those colorful exteriors that look more suited to Miami or Orlando than to New York.
I embrace change. But I don’t get what’s going on here. But maybe I’m just not ready for “the next big thing.”