From New Jersey’s Liberty State Park, the view of downtown Manhattan is unimpeded. The view extends all the way up to Midtown and landmarks like the Empire State and Chrysler Buildings. With nothing but the water’s reflections between me and the skyline, there’s an odd calmness to a multimillion-person city.
New York’s is a collision of infrastructure from past, present, and future. That’s a cliché by now, but I still enjoy experiencing it firsthand. Here are all three eras connected in one image:
- The Past: Standing on the High Line, a park built on the remains of a freight rail line.
- The Present: The subway rail yard.
- The Future: The Hudson Yards construction site.
Nearly every surface in this image is brick. From the alleyway to the retaining walls to the towers: brick, brick, brick (or pavers). I understand sheathing a structural steel building in glass or densglass or (heaven forbid) “exterior insulation finishing system,” a.k.a. Dryvit, but the kind of person-hours necessary to assemble all of that orderly brick is mind-boggling.
Can a building hide? Or surprise? Or sneak?
The Empire State Building, hiding at the other end of 34th St. in Manhattan, seems to support the possibility. The canonical modern New York street scene, one of luxury cars stuck in traffic and smoke from cooking street meat and old industrial buildings being converted into high-end condos, can still surprise. One step away is another scene built of different buildings and people in view.