Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Two Sides to New York City or one: Real Estate


Razor Wire and Graffitti, West Side Highway, 135th Street 


Park Avenue , Office Tower, 50s

Although the office tower clearly denotes wealth, oddly enough, the graffitti and razor wire do too. Columbia University is building a satellite campus on the west side of Manhattan, in an area beneath the viaduct and between Broadway and The Hudson River. In addition to  two shining residential towers,  an arts center and perhaps a science center will be located on this tract as well. This was a commercial area, a meat market for many years, just as the area of the Trade Towers and the HiLine were. Now butchering is done elsewhere; it has been moved out of Manhattan where every inch of land has become a major investment opportunity. Columbia University began to purchase all the buildings around its campus on 116th Street and Broadway in the last century, expanding farther and farther in all directions. Housing for poor and lower middle class people became increasingly expensive marginalizing them in the Social Darwinian movement instigated by Reagan and carried out by his successors. Many lost housing and services. Broadway has witnessed a resurgence of the homeless, the despised poor. But what does that have to do with razor wire and graffitti? Are these unwelcome or welcome? They appeal to some who consider these manifestations of distress as cutting edge -no pun intended, as chic, as gritty, and thus desirable for the fantasists. More graffitti has appeared on the walls of Riverside Drive Park then in preceding years. It is bolder, colorful, hip. Undesirable or desirable? Does its efflorescence signal a new assertiveness, a resistance to marginalization or is it encouraged by  Columbia University to give the new campus a certain art flavor? It reminds me of the Hi Line where the stroller cannot step onto the grassy areas and get close to a flower -pretty as a picture, but don't pick my daisy, yet beneath this boardwalk are vestiges of its recent past. And these remain in place. Is intentionality present here by the haves or the have nots. Can it be argued that it  enhances the value of the area and communicate an allure of transgression. I  wonder.


No comments: