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.

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