Saturday, July 3, 2010

What a Difference a YEAR Made

Last year, just after the opening of the newly gentrified High Line, my very first exploration there gave me this tantalizing peek onto the "rooftop terrace" of a nearby building. The fascinating collection of junk was only partially visible, even while I was standing in the forbidden planted area (wow, those rangers are quick!). Multiple mannequins, obsolete TVs, plastic furniture, the top half of a Statue of Liberty replica, old signs, and plenty of rusty metal seemed not just collected, but almost arranged. The place was a mess, for sure, but as one half of two who never met a homeless piece of junk they couldn't put in storage, to me it seemed oddly welcoming. And I just loved the ever-so-helpful "cracked" graffiti.

My mind wandered and wondered: Who lived here? Starving artist? Crazy old man? Starving crazy old artist? Did anyone still live there? Did they have junk parties where friends came over with Miller Lite pony 8-packs and smoked Larks while the "upper terrace" neighbor grilled stagnant-pond-caught bullheads and punkinseeds on his rust-covered tar-beach barbecue hibachi from W. T. Grants?

After being shooed away from the edge by the Heil-Line Gestapo, I was soon distracted by some new shiny thing and thoughtlessly left behind my dirty-rigid-foam-insulation and broken-scaffold-collecting friends to finish their feast without me.
I took this "before" photo of Trashville Terrace (below) on Saturday, June 13th, 2009.

I took the "after" photo of the razed building (below) on Sunday, May 9th, 2010.
It was really no surprise on a High Line jaunt this May, when I was presented with this visual un-clutter. My High Line Hooverville was not just cleaned up, it was gone. The only remaining trace was the helpful graffiti, its distinctively curved ligature arrow "c", originally pointing out the obvious, now lingered ghost-like, an upside down Cheshire Cat grin refusing to fade away as quickly as the stories of the terrace tenant. I suppose that at the pace of most Manhattan destruction, it's surprising that the building survived almost a full year after the High Line opened. Notice that the grill is gone from the neighbors roof to the west. Perhaps they have moved on as well, or now must discretely display and use the grill only after the High Line closes.
Most likely, for this new hole in the block, a semi-starchitect will design a flagship building for an international boutique brand, or a themed restaurant where a surly chef will abuse wealthy diners with tiny portions while happily taking gobs of their money. Non-ironically, the gap temporarily created by the destroyed "Trashville's Terrace" building allows a perfect view down the Hudson directly to the temple of all things greedy - the phallic symbol in the distance is the Goldman Sachs corporate Headquarters.
After capturing the photo, as the High Line Rangerettes roped, lamb-tied, and pulled me away from the edge-where-no-foot-can-go, then dragged me all the way up to the 19th street exit stair with their zero-emission high-traction low-friction MeanGreenRangerMachine, I found myself singing a slightly modified version of the Dinah Washington classic [title of post].

I love the High Line. I don't lament the missing building, nor resent the real estate developers. As stated in my very first post, the dizzying and disorienting pace of development is what makes New York be New York. But I do wish I knew the real story of the occupants of Trashville Terrace. It's just one of the 8 million stories in this city that should not be forgotten.

Now, for something truly unforgettable (and sadly, a much shorter lifespan than any Meatpacking District building), here's the matchless Dinah Washington, live at the Apollo Theater and backed by the Louis Jordan Band, with a medley of "What a difference a Day Made" and "Making Whoopee" (and introduced by "Ronnie" Reagan!)

What a difference, indeed.


  1. omg thats an awesome pic ! i know some artists whose apartments look like that on the inside too

  2. Thank you, nightFire. You or any of your artist friends know any details about this place?