Inevitable Year-end Roundup.

This is when everyone is supposed to do year end round ups and/or make predictions. Certainly on the one on everyone’s lips today will be competing reports from major brokerages finally admitting that real estate in the city is cooling (nooo!), but the landing is soft (big surprise) and next year will be better (yay!). Nothing shocking there.

Looking at some of the efforts of others, I find myself glad that I don’t attempt to make a better study of the outer boroughs: it looks like Kondylis on meth out there.

Closer to home, the news isn’t much better. Not bothering with the pedantic research require to nail down a date or two, here are some general observations about the progress of our urban fabric over the past year.

Starchitects: Over. After a passel of big names and big disappointments, the parade of easy developer dollars for swanky residential seems to have been turned off for the institutionalized big names of our architectural youth. Not all the buildings are bad, and hell hole that is the ‘revitalized’ High Line may yet produce more embarrassment for anyone who self-identifies as an architect, but it looks like the ride is over. We can thank or blame Tschumi for this.

Charity? We don’t need no stinking charity. Aside from our mayor buying a townhouse for a bajillion dollars, no significant culture projects were announced, funded, initiated, or planned for most of the year. The Whitney/High Line announcement doesn’t count because a: it is no more impressive conceptually than the Guggenheim/Casino fiasco in Las Vegas, and b: the Whitney has made announcing expansion plans a conceptual art form that has yet to be acknowledged.

The city that never sleeps: pretty tired. A quick list of unresolved public and private development or design disputes that seem to have gone nowhere, except back, over the past year: PS 64 (CHARAS/El Bohio), The WTC site/memorial/demolition/remains recovery, Hudson Yards, Governors Island, Pier 40, congestion pricing, East River-fish market-seaport redevelopment, Moynihan Station, or property tax reform (though no one is really looking at that). The city gets no credit for the 421a exclusion expansion (if I’m saying that right), squoze in just under the wire, after noticing that people are selling million dollar apartments across the street from auto repair shops and a plantain wholesaler.

Brooklyn: not so lucky. Perhaps planning gridlock has its perverse benefits. While we were all staring at the Switch Condo, trying to figure out what could be taking so long, the city rezoned all of Brooklyn. Scarano gets the northern half, though apparently the cornice line tops off at just below his Star Trek office, and Ghery gets the southern half. Since he doesn’t have an office here, there are no limits to how garish he can be, a challenge he seems to unfortunately relish (Oy Vey! indeed, Marty). In response, Park Slope parents everywhere force their children to form middle-school punk bands that write 3-chord paeans to Jane Jacobs.

Pataki: the most dangerous man in America. Apparently Pataki is still on bin Laden’s speed dial (or buddy list, to update a tired cliche). It was announced that he will get around that clock protection (at a price of $20K a week) since he is apparently still in grave danger from… terrorists. That’s right, the man who has done more than anyone (save Dubya) to demonstrate the efficacy of singular acts of terrorism is considered a target. No, he’s their hero. I might speculate that the order was intended to protect him from Arad, but he’s apparently been rendered to the PANYNJ version of Gitmo. You can take this whole paragraph as a synecdoche for WTC rebuilding: unmitigated disaster, no observable change in status.

This listicle making is tiring, and uninspired — just like most of the past year in development and design in Manhattan. I could have been more diligent in the research, but it shouldn’t take hours of pondering, or wandering, to come up with a single example of an inspired change to our physical landscape. It seems like lots of streets got paved, but all that does for us is increase the amount of danger we face from speeding vehicles. Hell, it was the first full year in a century that the air wasn’t befouled by Philip Johnson, and even that didn’t prevent the erection of yet another of his signature ham-fisted rehashes of design styles two decades out of date that had been his hallmark since the thirties. Flush with billions of dollars in Wall Street bonuses, you might hold out hope for morsels of that finding its way back to the city that made such an industry possible. But don’t hold your breath, unless you offer bottle service.

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