|The Futurama exhibit, showing a street intersection in the City of Tomorrow. I leave it to|
residents and visitors to decide if Bel Geddes' vision has been realized in New York.
|Poster for the Chicago World's Fair.|
I never saw the New York World’s Fair, but at a very tender age was taken to A Century of Progress, the 1933 world’s fair celebrating the centennial of the city of Chicago, whose ill-timed theme contrasted sharply with the woes of the Depression. But not even a depression could squelch the cult of Progress.
The prime New York developer of the twentieth century was Robert Moses (1888-1981), who pursued public works – and pursued them ruthlessly – under six New York State governors and five New York City mayors. (See post #78, The Hercules of Parks.) In the city he transformed Pelham Bay Park and Riverside Park, completed the Triborough Bridge, built the West Side Highway, and created Lincoln Center, the United Nations Headquarters, Co-op City, Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village, and the New York Coliseum. And that is only a partial list of his accomplishments. New York City has always dreamed big, and Moses dreamed bigger than anyone. But he wasn’t just a dreamer, he built. And to build his grandiose projects he flattered, schemed, lied, and pressured, and so became, in the words of his biographer, the biggest builder the world had seen since the pharaohs of ancient Egypt. But to realize his dreams, he thought nothing of invading old neighborhoods, tearing them apart, destroying them, and displacing thousands of residents for the sake of the New.
|The Washington Square Arch today. No streets flanking the arch and no vehicles.|
|Jane Jacobs, chair of the Committee to Save the West Village, brandishing supporting documents|
at a press conference in 1962. It takes a lot of organized action to get anything done in this city,
and she knew it.
|What we lost: the main waiting room.|
|What we lost: the concourse.|
|What we got: the Penn Station concourse today. Glitzy, flat-ceilinged, uninspired and uninspiring.|
|The Lever House at 390 Park Avenue (1950-52). One that I and the|
Landmarks Conservancy could do without.
Beyond My Ken
The New School University Center at Fifth Avenue and 14th Street: another that I could do without.