Gentrification

Outpost of Brooklyn

 

W Vale

(The William Vale Hotel, Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Image by Greg Gordon. 2016)

Perched on stilts, an Architecture of striation and, in a lot of ways, playful fun, has risen in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. The building has become the latest curiosity in the New York Architecture landscape because it directly challenges the conventional buildings rising in the city, and it also contains diametrically opposing structural systems. An interest indeed amongst the boring glass boxes peppered throughout The City.

An Architecture of Elevation. As the viewer tends to look up and at the building, it invites the passer by to stare skyward. It is a box, perched on legs, and elevated above a plaza. Hearkening back to the pure modernism of the 60’s with brutalist tendencies. The lower half exhibits a musculature akin to arms holding up a delicate layer cake. There is a directness and forcefulness to the gesture which is refreshing.

Without entering, there is a feeling that this place will become successful; Not for its gentrifying nature, but potentially only for providing delight from the relentless grid of The City. This building makes one want to find out more.

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2015 Urban Morphology Roundup

Thank you readers for your continued interest in our blog throughout 2015. Gordon’s Urban Morphology has grown substantially in readership over our prior year as we continue to highlight subjects in New York’s built environment which have galvanized The City in one way or another.

Continuing the tradition from last year, here is our Round-Up of our most popular posts based on user clicks:

 

VISUALHOUSE NEW YORK 2030

VISUALHOUSE NEW YORK 2030

Our most popular post of 2015: Readers imaginations soared to the heights of the Supertall Skyscrapers in Imagination City


Cantilevered Condo

Our most controversial post which touched on the provocative positions which Architecture can take:  The F#ck You Building on The Fringes of Delancey


Essex_Main

The blandness of the Essex Crossing Development, sold to the public as a development which was once much more attractive: A Bait and Switch in The Lower East Side


Fountain View 2 WTC

The redesign of Two World Trade Center, and the impressions this change left us had us lament in Hunchback of The Trade


Nordstrom Spire

And New York’s next great Supertall had its top lopped off in The Central Park Spire, Revisited


Two Tenements Down_2

While our most poignant post revisited a piece of Tenement history, befallen by the wrecking ball in Two Tenements, Down


 So, there you have 2015’s top posts. Thanks again for your readership and stay tuned for 2016 where we’ll continue to strive to bring fresh perspectives on our Changing City. Happy New Year from Gordon’s Urban Morphology.

The Anonymous Building

2-North-6th-Place

(The Anonymous Building, Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Rendering via J&A Concrete. 2015)

The Anonymous Building rises on the Brooklyn waterfront. Modernization and Development with no context to Place. New York, New York. Anywhere, USA.

The Gentrification movement has had its grip on large swaths of The City, most notably now, in Williamsburg, where local offender “The Egde” condominium continues to sprout glass boxes without a connection to surroundings. Only views to the outside skyline can be had for a price of admission, and a token concession of affordable units allocated to those lucky enough to win the lottery.

The Anonymous Building has crept into our public consciousness as an Architecture which lacks any clear distinction, or personality; In many respects, an architecture of reluctance. Though a lack of assertion is not always a bad thing. There are countless ways a responsible “background” building can stand its ground as a contributor to its surroundings, usually with thought and connectivity to landscape.

The Anonymous Building, in its desire to be nothing in particular, has become an agent of compromise in our expanding New York. Sheer scale and demand have outpaced the ability (or desire) for meaningful Design to adapt to our rapidly changing Urban Context. So much so, that the solution has become an Architecture that disappears from memory. The Anonymous Building, Anywhere, USA.

More info on The Anonymous Building can be found HERE:

Third Edge Tower, Now Rising. From Curbed

40 Story, 554 Residential Unit Tower Rising. From YIMBY

 

Two Tenements, Down

Two Tenements Down_2

(Two Tenements, Down. New York, September 2015. Image by Greg Gordon)

Urban Memory:

Two Tenements, Down. A companion piece to our prior post, Two Tenements Standing, chronicles the demise of two stalwart buildings which stood guard over Grand Street for over a Century. Somehow, in the mess of the 50’s Urban Renewal destruction, they escaped the mass demolition of tenement complexes in the surrounding blocks and served as steady reminders of a New York, since passed.

Two Tenements Down will now be New York ghosts. For the inhabitants of this City, their absence will remain as a memory marker to a generation. And chronicled by the painter Hedy Pagremanski, Two Tenements Down are memory pieces edified through artistry, serving as a snapshot of urbanity in rapid change.

Hedy

(Hedy Pagremanski painting Two Tenements, Standing. Image by Josh Haner from The New York Times)

Two Tenements, Down. Fragments in a malleable Urban Mass of brick, mortar, steel and dreams. Buildings rise and buildings fall. Architecture is never permanent. These structures, once bulwarks on a bustling Grand Street, full of push carts and carriages, have given way to the pressures of modernity, understandably so.

Two Tenements Down are a chronicle of Urban Change, in a City bursting at its seams. They deserve a memory piece only Hedy can preserve in the vibrancy and color of a Lower East Side’s past and present.

1-Riis-Family-Living-in-One-Room-New-York-City-Slum-1890

(Tenement Life from Memory Past)

People on the street stop and pause, in partial wonderment and a semi-state of disbelief as the backhoe tears at the tenement walls. Two Tenements, Down. The moment has arrived and the moment soon will pass, when the excavator begins the process anew, digging for the future of the new Urban Settlers.

Links of Relatable Note can be found Here:

Two Tenements, Standing. From Gordon’s Urban Morphology

New York Tenement Museum. A place to learn about the Urban Architecture of New York Past.

 

Canyons of New York

Canyons_1

(Urban Canyons of New York, Image via ILNY / Skyscraperpage. 2015)

New Brusque City, via Urban Canyons of The rising Westside. Up and around the environs of West 42nd Street, Our Urban landscape is being transformed into a new, and oftentimes unrecognizable, landmass.

Buildings of immense scale and height resting side by side, non-deferential to sunlight or privacy for their inhabitants. This phenomenon of relentless, developer driven construction has picked up pace since the last recession ended here a few years ago. It continues unabated and will continue until this stretch of Manhattan’s Westside becomes one big Urban Canyon. Fast forward to The not-too-distant future: One will be able to rise to the perimeter of these luxury boxes, via sky-elevator, and look down into the shadowy chasms of the streets below.

This particular piece of Manhattan is past the point worth saving for harvesting any meaningful relationship to the human condition. It has transformed into a spectacle unto itself. Might as well keep going and make it complete as New York’s next great tourist attraction. The Grand Canyon of Manhattan. Come here twice a year to watch Manhattanhenge, between the slivers of sky. Come here to race down 42nd Street, where parkland on The Hudson awaits. Come here with a selfie stick, and drop the plastic wrapper which it came in, onto the windswept streets of New Brusque City.

A Tale of Two Bridges

Two bridges 2_Cybrary

(A view of Two Bridges, The Brooklyn and Manhattan. Image from Cybrary Man)

The Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges, both connectors across the East River, have succumbed to separate development controversies; each revealing a uniquely New York socio-economic subplot, with the same outcome.

Pierhouse_3

(Construction Photo of the Brooklyn Bridge Viewblocker)

A long story short: A medium size development called Pierhouse is being built next to the Brooklyn Bridge. It’s a fairly low lying structure, short by Manhattan standards, but it blocks the view from the Brooklyn Heights Promenade. It has gotten the community of Brooklyn Heights up in arms because the beloved view of the Bridge from the promenade has been compromised; A justifiable concern when, as city dwellers, access to space is a precious commodity.

Just up the river, The Manhattan Bridge is getting its own neighbor in the form of an 80 story Monolith Tower. A gated luxury villa replete with a now banned “poor door” for lower income residents. The controversy surrounding this development involves the encroachment of the market rate consumer into a below market rate community. Another justifiable concern.

extell-LES-residential-tower-2

(A vague rendering of The Manhattan Bridge Monolith. Image from City Realty)

The controversies surrounding the two developments have been puzzling to say the least. The realization of the Pierhouse “view blocking” debacle came after the building was mostly built. The community rallied (without success) when the structure was almost topped out.

The Monolith Tower of Manhattan Bridge has been shrouded in secrecy since the day the development plans were released. There has been no coherent rendering of the entire project, only hints to its size, its discriminating entry sequence and vague references to a “luxury market rate product” coming to the Lower East Side.

Viewed from differing perspectives, these developments and the controversies surrounding them makes one wonder how “value” is placed on the Landmarks of New York, our public green space, and surrounding communities? And how is this “value” regulated? These perspectives are manifest both internally (from the inside looking out) and externally (from the outside looking in).

Internally, because the Manhattan Bridge Monolith is being shunned on all fronts by the neighboring community. As much of a boon it will be to its surroundings (a new grocery store and affordable housing complex are included), it has almost been universally rejected by the neighboring residents of Chinatown and surrounding housing projects (for good reason) because it is new, and it is huge. So while this thing is forging ahead with the mighty backing of The Developer, it makes one wonder if regulations could have been put into place to mitigate such a disaster from happening. Because now, it is apparent that any existing regulations are being blatantly manipulated. This is an internal cry from the community that something must be done.

Developer

(The Developer strikes again)

Externally, the same goes for the Pierhouse development across the way, where the neighborhood is crying wolf after the fact. With very legitimate concerns about the right to public space, light and air, and the Urban Benefits of our park systems for all, it makes one wonder, again, what could have been different? Where was the breakdown in process and dialogue and why is this discussion being projected onto a building when it is already there?

So, while the political and economic contexts surrounding these two projects differ (one is in the rich area and one is in the poor), the rallying cry behind their wreckage must be assessed through a redefined lens; One that does not view The City in hindsight. Because in this particular Tale of Two Bridges, everything has transpired “too little, too late”.

Links of Relatable Note Can be Found Here:

Brooklyn Bridge Deserves a Scenic District of It’s Own, from Curbed.

Protestors Voice Outrage over Extell’s “Building From Hell” from Bedford and Bowery

Brooklyn Bridge Blocking Pierhouse is Allowed to Keep Rising, from Curbed.

 

Storefront Memories of Old Chelsea Yore

Chelsea 1990's

(The Image of what Old Chelsea Used to Be, always a smile. Late 1900’s)

A popular post which is currently making the rounds; The Death of Chelsea’s 8th Avenue by Kenneth in the 212 chronicles the sudden vacancies of multiple retail storefronts on Chelsea’s 8th Avenue. As a resident working around this area, this event has happened fairly suddenly, as we have seen many Chelsea standby’s close shop or depart because of asshole landlords raising rents other reasons.

These retail shops, clothing stores and coffee shops used to be the gathering spots for Chelsea’s counterculture in the 90’s and Aughts. A formidable playground for the Gay Community. A protected enclave in the bubble of New York.

These storefronts, now vacant, signify the rapid cultural shifts on the Urban Groundplane. Sheer economics, combined with the ease of internet culture has brought many businesses to their knees (One exception: Our friends at Nasty Pig would probably take this as a compliment). So, Kudos to the Old Chelsea establishments whom were able to weather this current storm.

M&S Realty

(The vacated storefront of M&S Realty, 8th Avenue, Chelsea, NY. 2015)

On a personal note, we take keen interest in the death of the M&S Real Estate storefront. Only a few years old, this buildout was completed by the popular Architecture Firm DXA Studio in 2011. For it’s brief tenure along 8th avenue, Its Hi-Tech computer screens lit up The Street like a candlestick, with local pickings’ for Rent and for Sale. The presence of this facade was welcome along a particularly lonely stretch, where it took the place of an empty Blockbuster video store. For this storefront, in summary, there have been 3 vacancies over 5 years. Something clearly is not right with this picture.

The City, as we all know by now, is pricing itself out of reasonable existence. So as not to get too deep, we’ll mention only this: These forces of societal change are making New York into a cultured enclave, mainly for the rich…and inaccessible to the rest. Storefronts like these are a testament to the twisted market forces gripping our Beloved City. Landlords would rather keep these spaces empty, then rent them to the Mom-and-Pop establishments which make an interesting Urbanscape REAL.

So, we’ll end this one on a lighter note. Kudo’s again to The Nasty Pig’s and remaining holdouts of Old Chelsea Yore; the one that remains in many of our memories. Because these memories of The City, the Old New York, are the best ones to keep when you need to pull up a smile.

Links of Relatable Note Can be Found HERE:

Kenneth in the 212

New York Before and After, from Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York

New York’s Disappearing Mom and Pop Storefronts, from Smithsonian Magazine