Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Holiday news

Friends and neighbors,

Get ready for more development: Streit's Matzohs is selling its four-lot factory on Rivington Street for $25 million. If the buyer digs his foundation before the new zoning of the LES, he can use the community facility bonus to increase the size by over 40%. Fortunately, it's not in the LES commercial zone, so it won't be another huge hotel. But the site is next-door to ABC No Rio and the block is lined with one architectural gem after another, some of the oldest in the city.

Some holiday presents
As we watch history disappear around us, artists have turned to a mode older than scripture: the lament. Photographers publish their work on blogs with names like Lost New York, Vanishing New York, Lost City:
http://www.lostnewyorkcity.com/
http://lostnewyorkcity.blogspot.com/
http://vanishingnewyork.blogspot.com/

To see the real LES, don't miss the inside, underside photo chronicle
http://neithermorenorless.blogspot.com/

There's a documentary just out too, New York Lost. For a limited time you can view it here:
www.youtube.com/newyorklost
(Well say, is that developer Sion Misrahi waxing poetic about the inevitability of change? He doesn't mention that change means hundreds of millions in profit for him. Could it be that's why contemplating change moves him so profoundly? I know change is a necessary law of the universe, that change is time itself. I didn't know that glass towers, yuppie invasions, banks and chain stores were a law of the universe or that the end of community and neighborhood were universally necessary. Must all change be for the worse? Misrahi, couldn't you find a way of filling your pockets that doesn't entail destroying neighborhood communities, killing their arts, culture, character and history? What happened to the time when "change" meant approaching a better future for all, not just bulldozing the past for one man's profit?)

New Yorkers seem to have given up on all the cherished utopian dreams that motivated movements and held us to a hopeful future that might someday reflect our deepest and most heartfelt aspirations. We've settled for Whole Foods instead.

For the record, I haven't spent a penny at Whole Foods and I don't see any reason why I would. Its glass wall, extending the entire length of the block, prevents any street life from gathering. The place is an affront to any vision of urban improvement, urban life, urban culture, urban activity, urban taste.

Greatest city in the world? You've got to be kidding. There are dozens of cities in newly industrialized, developing countries all over the world that do the oppressive glass wall just as well or better. New York is becoming just a cold Singapore with chewing gum freckles.

Years ago, Jane Jacobs explained to us what was wrong with modernism: communities need street-life, storefronts, stoops. Community is folks hanging out in their neighborhood. That's what stoops, storefronts and street-life give you -- community.

Yuppies from the suburbs haven't got a clue what a neighborhood community is, never having experienced one outside the window of their SUV. But here they come, imposing the suburban mall on the one place in the world where the cure for mall-aise grows indigenously. Like the rain forest, once you raze the urban neighborhood you lose all the unique species of urban character. And once you replace it with glass and steel, you can't grow it back again. Instead of great corned beef and kielbasa you get banks that smell like stale disinfectant. Stomach that with your Starbucks.

The holidays afford us reflection on the past and a moment looking toward the future -- a briefly hopeful moment, before that future is upon us and we turn again to mourning. Why can't we take that moment to renew our utopian dreams and envision the kind of city we'd like New York to be?

The future doesn't have to be just for Misrahi. It can be about us and for us.

A joyful holiday to you and yours,

--R

1 comment:

beehive maiden said...

i have never and will never buy from that whole foods. i just shop at Healthfully on 4th street between 1st and 2nd or at Earth Matters on Ludlow. At least they seem to be run by independent, old-school types.