Unbuilt New York #2 – Air

“Boreas”, John William Waterhouse

Sandy’s gone now. These last days have been strange; a lot of the things that I equate with a trip to New York have been unavailable so I’ve had to do with other activities. I’ve been jogging up and down the East River sidewalk. Buying books at Barnes & Noble on 5th Avenue, the closest one that was left with power after the hurricane. The upper neighborhoods of the city are filled with hipster refugees from Soho and Tribeca, charging their IPhones and laptops in every available plug in coffee shops and salad bars.

Even though they’re on higher ground, the main museums are closed which sent me hunting for more exotic cultural prey like the American Folk Art Museum or the Museum of Arts and Design just to find that these are closed to.

Downtown is Ghostown.

In the continuum of lawns and pretty wooden houses that is the New Jersey I spent the first years of my life in, the TV shows something that looks more like New Orleans where I’ve never been. Sandy, with her suburbian name, tropicalized us.

Past visions of the future are obsessively focused on the space above our heads. They seem to assume that there is further freedom, more comfort in ignoring this outdated level called “ground”, in favor of a life lived in the air.

While Sandy was in town, the ground wasn’t the best place to be in, but neither was a flimsy aircraft. There is a positive conflict between the elements that is the basis for the art of building. Like in the tale of the Three Little Pigs, when someone or something comes huffing and puffing, it’s the brick house you want to be in.

Even though NY is one of the “airiest” cities existing, things are still not upside down. A tall building is still a building characterized by a certain distance from the ground, with its lifeline connected down to the floor like a balloon tied around a child’s wrist. A building is a tree, not a cloud (?). Concrete jungle after all.

Mayor Bloomberg announced today that he endorses President Obama’s bid because he has the best record on climate change. Apparently he’s better at keeping the air cooler.

Air.

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