I’m just about to wind up my little trip to Downtown NYC, but before I do a few notes—
The first night I was here, a colorized episode of I Love Lucy was inexplicably playing on primetime TV, but I was strangely captivated by it; Lucille Ball in a diaphanous pink dress dancing with Van Johnson on CBS. A throwback to another time, but why not? I had a great day, a great dinner, and was getting ready to go to sleep.
But then I realized something. Where I was at that exact moment—it all used to be carnage. Unbelievable destruction and carnage. And now it’s all gone; cleaned up, removed. The only traces left being a few mementoes consciously chosen.
I visited the 9/11 Memorial for the first time yesterday and had the same feeling. These two beautiful giant…”pits” with water continually running down it. It’s actually very elegantly rendered, but they’re literally two holes with deeper holes inside of them. I visited them in the rain, so the effect with the water running down its sides and into the holes was even more profound.
Then this morning I visited something called “Oculus,” which is this brand new transportation center there that also houses a mall. My first impression of the structure was that it kind of looked like “eyelashes,” but I guess you could also say it looks like a bird or something. It’s quite impressive—extremely pretty, wide, all white marble, the shops tucked in demurely under the structure.
I first stepped inside Oculus just when a tour guide said to his group, “you know there are human remains here.” Or maybe he said, “you know, there used to be human remains here.” No matter how you slice it, however—there were a lot of human remains at one time on that very spot, where this mall was built. I think he even called it a “sacred burial ground.”
And then I stepped down a level to look at the mall. And it was filled with only extremely high-end shops.
You could say the same thing about Brookfield Place, which used to be called the World Financial Center. These are not shops anybody without an awful lot of money could ever think of shopping at. These are not places for the “common folk,” if you will. I mean: the structures are beautiful. Everybody can enjoy walking down the promenade and sitting in the 9/11 Memorial Park. Everybody can step inside Oculus and take snapshots. But structures such as Oculus and Brookfield Place—either extremely renovated or built from the ground up after the WTC went down—don’t feel like they are really meant “for the people.”
Even One World Trade Center…I mean, just the name alone would make you think that it is about some sort of inclusivity, the idea that we’re all living in “one world” so let’s try to make it work out. But it’s clear who exactly that whole area—the site of such carnage 15 years ago—is being built for now.
And you only have to walk a couple blocks to see the “non-renovated” Downtown area. There’s where the commoners can buy clothes and pick up a snack. The contrast is stark.
The whole city is following this pattern, by the way. A couple of years ago I took tons of photos of the intense construction going on on the West Side, further uptown. The old buildings get gutted, and these slick modern structures are put up in their place. I have nothing against these slick modern structures—some of the architecture is quite interesting—but again, it’s clear who all this is being built for.
What happens to the people who used to live in these old structures?
Where are they all going?
Who is this future for?