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Thread: Endangered NYC - Lost & Threatened Treasures

  1. #16

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    Cataloging the loss of great buildings -- and their inferior replacements -- is something that needs to be done.

    Ideally, we will eventually use Google Maps or some other tool to have a systematic visual representation of what buildings, where, have been lost and to what. And hopefully we'll be able to build a database that's flexible-enough to be arranged by year of destruction/construction of new building, developer of new building, architect of old building, year of old building, etc.

    Not all development is bad, obviously, but since WWII enough of it has been that people need to finally start thinking -- and acting -- about what we've been doing. Maybe if people -- though I don't hold out any hope for developers, at least not for the next 30 years -- see enough poor results of recent development, they'll either 1) push for greater scrutiny before buildings can be razed or 2) push for better architecture. Costas only exists because developers know apartment buyers have so little taste or care about their surroundings that they (developers) can cheap out and build some International Style garbage with crap materials and still sell their apartments.

    Funny that a century ago even the poorest tenements at least had some thought put into design and materials. How much we've changed.

    Criticism of the status quo is always necessary. Progress only comes when there's a push to make things better.

  2. #17
    Build the Tower Verre antinimby's Avatar
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    This pristine beauty, 867-873 Sixth Ave. (@ 31 St.) with thriving businesses on the ground floor:






    ...was just torn down last year...




    The site is currently an open pit and will probably stay that way for who knows how long:


  3. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stroika View Post
    Funny that a century ago even the poorest tenements at least had some thought put into design and materials. How much we've changed.
    They definitely don't make 'em like they used to. And this is what disturbs me the most. I'd like to clearly understand how and why this paradigm shift in our values or abilities took place.

    From what I can see, beginning in the late 1940s and speeding up in the 1960s, tenements like the LaGuardia, Mitchell, Warbasses Houses showed a new building philosophy that completely shunned any form of quality in design, construction and craftsmanship:


    The new maxim was maximum return. Even under this philosophy, the old construction materials and technologies (bricks actually had to be hand-laid rather than today's affixing of a prefabricated-in-China, faux-brick, pre-painted, concrete slab) meant that the result would be better than what we see in many of today's "luxury rentals."

    Clearly, construction technology developments (I can't call them improvements) in materials and engineering also made it vastly cheaper, more efficient and profitable for private corps. to build a steel frame and hang a glass curtain wall from it.

    The explosion of these corporate boxes (International Style II) beginning in the 1950s and their complete domination over the vastly more elegant and detailed art-deco, neogothic and historicist beauties by the 1970s also seems to reflect the historical metamorphosis of the U.S. from its beginnings as a federal free-market republic to its current form as an uneasy mixed-economy corporate state.

    It has been stated here that Goldman Sachs is building an indistinguishable HQ (from the outside) so as not to attract undue attention to the gobs of money they make. Maybe this was an m.o. for all the companies that built mundane glass and steel post-modern or international towers in the last 50 years...
    Last edited by RandySavage; December 12th, 2008 at 12:47 AM.

  4. #19

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    are those red square sections on those projects grafitti cover-up?, if so how the F*** did they get up there?

    Anyways, back on subject... What's keeping the city from knocking down those POS projects, and instead are tearing down these fine old buildings?

  5. #20
    Jersey Patriot JCMAN320's Avatar
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    I always wondered that too. Here in JC and other cities they are tearing down projects and replacing them with townhomes that fit in with the surrounding street grid and area. They are not stirctly low-income but mixed income. Also they have a two strike policy in regarding criminal records. If you commit a crime while your in there you get kicked out. I don't get why NYC can't do any of this if other cities can?

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    Quote Originally Posted by JSsocal View Post
    Anyways, back on subject... What's keeping the city from knocking down those POS projects, and instead are tearing down these fine old buildings?
    The people in the projects enjoy subsidized, low-income housing. They live in what are now some of the most valuable patches of real estate (location-wise) on the planet for pennies on the dollar.

    The City could probably stand to make a ton of money (ease taxes, improve mass transit, parks, services, garbage pick-up, etc.) if they evicted everyone and sold the Manhattan projects to private developers who would put up market-rate residences.

    However, to do such a thing would be a major headache for any politician daring enough to try. First, it would meet with massive resistance by the tenement dwellers and their representatives (if you had that kind of deal would you want to leave)? It would also enforce the perception (and partial-reality) that Manhattan is an island only for the rich.

    Maybe a public referendum...
    Last edited by RandySavage; December 12th, 2008 at 01:07 AM.

  7. #22
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    Plus, our public housing has held up much better than other cities. The people that are in them already understood highrise/elevator living when they moved in.

  8. #23

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    I couldn't agree with you more, Randy, that razing the projects (or even a small fraction of them! Where I live, in Harlem, half the land is occupied by projects) and selling the land to developers -- not as mega projects but as many, smaller plots for mixed uses and mixed-income housing -- is the best thing the city could do.

    It would

    -net the city tons of money to balance budgets, improve spending on the MTA, roads, etc.
    -ease development pressure from the parts of the city worth keeping, and allow us to better preserve older structures that improve our quality of life while allowing new office/residential space to be created
    -if replaced by mixed-income highrises, it would get rid of ghettoes that are economically and morally destructive
    -bring low-income residents into the 21st century
    -get rid of the no-man's lands that projects are for the rest of us by replacing what are essentially gated communities lacking retail with normal buildings connected to the street grid
    -free up lots of land for development, since the projects are 2/3 grass and parking lots and 1/3 developed
    -given the above, relieve housing pressures by creating more space than currently exists
    -rid the city of unfair, market-distorting subsidized housing (look at East Harlem -- it should be one of the most desirable, thriving places in the country, given its location; but the domination of projects turns it into a post-apocalyptic nightmare) that depresses values in areas with projects and makes them artificially, ridiculously high in the ares that don't have them (given the loss of so much land that could otherwise be middle-class, market-based housing)
    -bring better economic balance/fewer racial, economic, etc. divisions to the city's neighborhoods
    -and just make the city look nicer

    It's true that the postwar period saw the large-scale mass production that came to dominate the economy during the war brought into construction. Mix that with academic acceptance/zeal for the International Style of numb, thoughtless architecture that turned humans into machines and right after the war you lost Art Deco with individually wrought materials and gained ... Stuy Town.

    Another change is that corporations and apartment owners stopped building their own offices and homes and began to rely on developers who owned (or just built) buildings. The emphasis moved from impressing people who saw your name on your building with your wealth, vision and taste to half-hidden companies making the biggest profit possible by cutting out any construction costs in design or quality materials and selling to whatever sucker is too dumb to realize what's going on (99% of Americans).

    The economics and intellectual backdrop for construction and architecture have hardly changed since 1945. And it still looks like crap. It's too expensive for the profiteering developers to build a decent building, unless they're going after the ultra-high end, and cheap wages in China and elsewhere mean US businesses don't want to burden their balance sheets with buildings they own. The result is made-in-China pre-fab materials, and a loss of US jobs. It's cheaper for developers, who are the big winners, but it kills decent jobs here and forces the would-be masons or construction engineers who instead work at Duane Reade to live in those very cheap, pre-fab postwar buildings.

    Returning to the projects, why doesn't the city do the obvious thing? Political fear of the hundreds of thousands of people permanently living in the housing projects meant to be TEMPORARY (1-2 year) solutions for poor people while they look for work. If attention and reform were brought into the city's department of housing, people quasi-legally living in projects for years might not be able to game the corrupt system (or our tax dollars) any longer. Today they probably can't afford to move out, since there's no place to go. Ironically, if you allowed developers to build on the projects, they might be able to afford market-rate housing. But the city is too weak-willed for that.

    Net loss.
    Last edited by Stroika; December 12th, 2008 at 09:11 AM.

  9. #24
    Jersey Patriot JCMAN320's Avatar
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    Arrow Hope VI

    Hope VI Project, being done here in JC and other cities around the country and makes use of new urbanism: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HOPE_VI

  10. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stroika View Post
    Another change is that corporations and apartment owners stopped building their own offices and homes and began to rely on developers who owned (or just built) buildings. The emphasis moved from impressing people who saw your name on your building with your wealth, vision and taste to half-hidden companies making the biggest profit possible by cutting out any construction costs in design or quality materials and selling to whatever sucker is too dumb to realize what's going on (99% of Americans).

    It's too expensive for the profiteering developers to build a decent building, unless they're going after the ultra-high end, and cheap wages in China and elsewhere mean US businesses don't want to burden their balance sheets with buildings they own. The result is made-in-China pre-fab materials, and a loss of US jobs. It's cheaper for developers, who are the big winners, but it kills decent jobs here and forces the would-be masons or construction engineers who instead work at Duane Reade to live in those very cheap, pre-fab postwar buildings.
    This point is very well taken. The lion's share of blame for the baseline shift in architectural quality and craftsmanship can be laid on the greedy NYC developers. Many of whom, as we've seen in the photos in this thread, continue to enrich themselves by tearing down beautiful, quality old structures and replacing them with inferior ones.

  11. #26
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    Savoy-Plaza Hotel(767 Fifth Ave.); 1927-1964; replaced with GM building.

    Past:

    Photo credit: http://www.nyc-architecture.com/

    Present:

    Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/thetaipanofhongkong/

  12. #27

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    To clear up some misconceptions about NYC public housing.

    1. They are not going anywhere because there is too much demand for affordable housing in NY for every unit of affordable housing there is a wait list 20 people long, forget about the wait list for affordable housing in Manhattan.

    2. The difference is color on some projects is replacement bricks for that section of the wall that had damaged bricks, why they never seem to come close to matching the original color is beyond me.

    3. Unlike Jersey-City NYC actually has a one-strike rule.

  13. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by Stern View Post
    To clear up some misconceptions about NYC public housing.

    1. They are not going anywhere because there is too much demand for affordable housing in NY for every unit of affordable housing there is a wait list 20 people long, forget about the wait list for affordable housing in Manhattan.

    2. The difference is color on some projects is replacement bricks for that section of the wall that had damaged bricks, why they never seem to come close to matching the original color is beyond me.

    3. Unlike Jersey-City NYC actually has a one-strike rule.
    I think it JC has the one strike rule, I was misinformed because I thought it was two strike, but I never see NYC actually use it!!! JC has used it and I have seen it in action.

  14. #29
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    This thread is giving me gas.

  15. #30
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    Five pre-war beauties on Madison at 53rd (510 Madison Ave.); ___ - 2007; Macklowe; Nearing completion

    Past(in process of being demolished):


    Present:


    I canít find any photos of these buildings pre-demolition, but you can see through the scaffolding that they were beautiful and pre-war.

    This exercise makes me feel like the field biologist who watches in helpless anger as country-sized expanses of tropical forest are converted to agriculture and countless unknown species (mostly invertebrates) go extinct before they are ever studied, cataloged or even seen by human eyes.

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