Essex Crossing

Market Down

Essex Demo

(View of the Old Essex Market Demolition, New York, NY. 2015. Image by Greg Gordon)

The time has finally come for the transformation of the Empty Void of the Lower East Side. Demolition Porn at its best. Buildings in their half state.

In this image, we see the remains of the Old (abandoned) Essex Market building coming down to make way for the first “Gateway” structure of the Essex Crossing Development. You can read more on our opinion on this replacement complex HERE, but we won’t digress.

Back to the shot. Every once in a while, a building comes down and reveals a bit of character in the process. Sometimes it may be a room revealed with contents still in place, say when a facade is shorn from a building. In this case, a parting dose of color pops out behind what was once a rather unassuming brick wall. The structure revealed, soon to be dismantled by the Local Ironworkers.


The F#ck You Building on the Fringes of Delancey

Cantilevered Condo

(Rendering of the F#ck You Building. New York. By ODA Architecture)

The Urban Critic: Delancey Street, in New York’s Lower East Side, has been known for its rough around the edges aesthetic, and below the radar neighborhood status for the majority of New Yorker’s. Its Far East Side location, at the foot of the Williamsburg Bridge, has been kind of a no-man’s land for many decades after the demolition of multiple city blocks in the name of Urban Renewal. Of Note: These demolished city blocks are now under development as the future Essex Crossing, which we critiqued in our prior post A Bait and Switch in The Lower East Side.

Where the Essex Crossing development lacks in clarity across Delancey, this fortress of glass rising across the street (at 100 Norfolk Street) harnesses the current trend of Air Rights Transfers in New York and takes this real estate trick to a new level. By exposing all aspects of building structure and packaging it into a powerful building Form, this cantilevered condo tower takes an aggressive position of iconography in a rapidly changing Lower East Side. In a lot of respects, this position is welcome.

Oftentimes, the softer side of architectural expression takes over with the contribution of community organizations and neighborhood input. Watered down versions of friendly building forms with developer-grade facades becomes the expectation. Since this is the prevailing trend in Our Changing City, the definition of powerful architecture gets lost.


(The softer side of Architecture, across the street at Essex Crossing)

The Cantilevered building on Delancey falls into the category of a F#ck You building. It positions itself as an “edge” structure, in a fringe neighborhood; Not quite sure of itself, but taking a position by pushing boundaries. Its fragmented form, a building type we’ve highlighted before in Jenga Box Rising, bucks the notion of traditional residential architecture and elevates it into the realm of Fragmented Realism.

And while this notion of fragmentation is oftentimes disturbing to the viewer, provoking feelings of unease and imbalance; It is precisely what society needs in order to keep moving in a progressive direction. The F#ck You building is a provocation, an Urban Experiment. It questions the everyday challenges of living in a complex and mutable city, and solidifies these challenges into a three dimensional Urban Form, soon to rise on the fringes of Delancey.

Our Lower, Lower East Side

East River Housing

(East River Co-op’s, New York, New York. Image from East River Housing Corporation. The Fire Boat Haus of Manhattan Bend, is seen in the foreground)

Hulking in their mass and industrial in their Mid-Century aesthetic, the towers of the East River Co-op’s and their sister buildings, The Seward Park Housing Cooperative, are a powerful presence in the daily lives of those living in the Lower, Lower East Side. Built by Garment Unions in the 1950’s and 60’s, the buildings replaced the dilapidated tenement blocks which had fallen into decay. The architect, Herman Jessor, designed the complex so that residents could experience the light and air of The City, which was denied to the former occupants of the area.

The structures, when built, became beacons of hope for burgeoning families looking for a fresh start. Because of their location in the “Lower” Lower East Side, the Center of American Immigration in the 19th Century, they became enclaves for the Jewish population, among many others, and have remained so since their inception. In the process of their maturity, they have become NORC’s (Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities) for those families, passing down through generations; Crucibles of Immigrant History, behind the brusque utilitarian facades.

LES People

(Inhabitants of Co-op Village, in Manhattan’s “Lower” Lower East Side. Photo by Alan Chin of The New York Times)

A snapshot of Co-op Village was recently chronicled by Amy Chozick in The New York Times. Entitled “My Lower East Side” the article portrays a unique area of The City rich with overlapping ages and cultures. As a resident of one of these buildings, I can concur that the observations ring true. There is a piece of an older New York which resides here. It is, at times, an invisible energy which permeates the hallways of these massive structures. You can sense it in the faces of The Elder Generation. It is a quiet comfort which washes over. It is the unhurried New York, the slower New York, one which contains a vast amount of wisdom and quietude if you are open to harness it.

You can feel this energy in the celebration of the Sukkot, every October, when the annual raising of the Sukkah (hut) takes place on the children’s playground. The families of the area co-mingle in the annual week-long feast; The din of the Sukkah rolls long into the night, as does the laughter echoing off the red brick courtyard chambers.

Overview of Coop Village

(Aerial View of Co-op Village and Williamsburg Bridge, New York, New York)

This piece of New York, nondescript in its appearance, somehow holds its place within the fabric of The Lower East Side. Change is happening around, from the massive Domino Factory development across the River’s way, to the neighboring Essex Crossing development to the West. These forces, in other places of New York, have seemingly wiped the slate clean of a prior culture and its inhabitants. Here though, in The “Lower” Lower East Side, a place which many New Yorkers cannot place on their mental maps, I sense the culture will remain, in the mix of people calling this place home. It will pass down through the contact of generations, and the quiet nods of our Elders, exchanging glimpses on the elevator.

Two Tenements, Standing


(400 & 402 Grand Street, Lower East Side, New York, New York. April 2014)

Old New York. I pass by these buildings every day and imagine what life was like when these sturdy structures contained The Immigrants; Germans, Jews and Irish families crammed within quarters, searching for a better life in The New World, working alongside pushcarts and carriages. These buildings used to have neighbors just like them alongside, although they were wiped away by neglect when this area of Grand fell on hard times. Two Tenements, Standing; embody the American Dream of yesteryear, soon to be relinquished to the wrecking ball of renewal. Ghosts of their prior life, swept away.

The City of Today circulates at a faster rate, a heightened pulse keeping pace with the technologies and societal changes of Time. The City of Today, some say, is losing a core set of values which used to be deeper, more intimate and connected. These changes were once pondered before in the Earlier Century. A Century defined by a shifting society and a need for new Structure; A Futuristic Fantasy envisioned as The City of Tomorrow.

City of Tomorrow

(Le Corbusiers 1929 City of Tomorrow)

The City of Tomorrow houses a churn of human activity, alive and unafraid. It is a place embodied with the principles of its people, a vision of what it can and wants to be, a form of Human Projection. When Two Tenements, Standing disappear; they will make way for the next iteration of The City of Tomorrow. The plots on which they rest will become part of the next New, New York. Boxes in the sky, marching steadfastly down Grand.

Links of Relatable note can be found here:

Link to Essex Crossing development, the replacement of Two Tenements, Standing.

400 & 402 Grand Street in a commemorative map of the Seward Park Renewal Area (Number 2 on the map).

A walk down Grand Street and nearby points of interest.

Link to Le Corbusier’s Wikipedia page.