Saturday, January 5, 2008

Work completed

Spoke too soon. The so-called permanent scaffolding disappeared yesterday. Taking the hint, I did too.

Monday, December 31, 2007

Work in progress

On first impression, it's easy to dismiss dumpsters, dripping scaffolds, and permanent construction sites as blots on the urban landscape. If you want to make that argument, a year on Crosby Street will give you plenty of ammunition.

The scaffolding on my walk from the subway has been there since before I arrived, and it will remain after I leave. It's not a very distinguished edifice - spouting water at irregular intervals, while one corner smells like old urine, regardless of season or weather.

Down the block, a fenced-off lot warns of explosions. In a year, trucks move in and out every day, offering glimpses inside. Bulldozers move earth, but nothing digs, nothing rises, and nothing explodes. No signs promise new development, and the blast warnings are covered over with graffiti.

Above, workmen scale a mountain of debris to pile more on top. The basement needed cleaning, or the street needed repaving. It's enough work to make the dumpster an institution, right next to the Vespas.

As the offenses pile up, they start to offend less. They offer a rebuke to the corporate metropolis. Efficiency surrounds us, with a fifty-story building delivered just as surely as the mail. By simply languishing, permanent scaffolds brush aside the bottom line. Maybe it's just corrupt contracting, but it isn't Citibank. All the king's men will not make these men blast.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

What goes here?

A little snow here, a little smoke over there. At Crosby and Prince, it finally feels like winter. It matches those nice silver lights on the Savoy restaurant. Nice building, too - an unassuming stalwart, as ordinary as any 19th century remnant in the city. And just three stories tall.

I'm still surprised to see such big chunks of sky over a major shopping and dining intersection. Our friend here survived years of civic indifference, but will she survive the condo and bank branch boom?

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Bound up

I snapped this photo on Monday evening at the intersection of Crosby and Grand Street. Even on a rainy night, when you pull yourself into your umbrella, these blocks feel wide. Long buildings anchor ample sidewalks which slope unevenly to the street, faking spaciousness.

In Greenwich Village, streets of the same size inspire intimacy, with trees and narrow townhouses, and trash cans crowding the sidewalks. Even in the midtown canyons, it can be easy to forget about the giants that tower overhead. Restaurants, delis, and glass lobbies reach out to the pedestrian.

On Crosby Street, nothing reaches out to you. If you want to find the lone bar on this block, you have to look hard. Back entrances shrug, as do the smoke-break employees. There are no skyscrapers, but the standoffish architecture wasn't built for pedestrians. The mottled pavement and absence of landscaping boil the city down to it's basic elements - humans surrounded on all sides by human creations.

Today, a film crew huddled on the same sidewalk seen above. On camera, a shabbily-dressed woman picked around some garbage cans. In the background, a truck idled in the middle of the sidewalk. In the Village, the same scene might come across as ironic; all of these lovely townhouses, and this woman stands out in the cold. Here, though, the street imparts no irony. It's the perfect place for an abandoned person.

Maybe that's what draws so many film crews to Crosby Street - and to SoHo in general. You might go elsewhere in search of human scale, but here it's just an intractable chunk of city.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

On the cobblestone trail

Now that we know where the manhole covers come from, I'd better find out about those cobblestones.

Just around the corner!

Things just around the corner:

- prosperity
- tacos
- furniture store
- the front of this building
- subway trains
- fedex
- future
- comfort

Thursday, November 15, 2007

November night

Tonight, zombies invaded from Prince Street (Crosby Street does not breed aggressors). They were invisible and caused minimal despair.