Rings of Fire

The Gansevoort Architectural Travesty Known as Pier 55 is Finally Stopped. Amen.

  1. When I wrote about this city-planning architectural mess in 2015, I thought it was too late. I watched as none of our architecture critics raised a cry. It was hopeless. Our city was gone.
  2. But as all critics, writers, and artists know, a person with nothing to lose *can* be a weapon-of-mass-destruction. Free.
  3. In 2015 I wrote a 3700-word screed on the high-end entertainment gimmick-ridden academic-highbrow gadget-architectural schemes dreamed up by speculators and investors to make money while laying waste to more and more of New York’s *public space*. (Pier 55 and the enormous space-and-soul-killing multi-building playground for white people and real-estate Klondike known as Hudson Yard – this folly curtsey of Diller, Scofidio + Renfro)
  4. I know all the architecture critics; I admire their work; like all of them, a lot. Love them, really. All of them could argue me under the table.
  5. I am sorry to write that on their collective watch – and to varying degrees – the city has been decimated with high-end schemes with not-enough critical protest.
  6. By the same token, I can be held accountable allowing “bad art” to pass in the same period. (Although I really did *kill* on Zombie Formalism, no? xo) (Genius art-critic Peter Plagens just sort of blamed me for Jeff Koons! So I guess we’re even.)
  7. So I wrote a long jerimand in New York Magazine.
  8. A zillion people responded in agreement with me. But the die was cast and both projects in place.
  9. Then … a local group of environmentalists raised their voices!
  10. BOOM!
  11. Ding-dong Pier 55 is not going to be built. (The Whitney Museum – which has succeeded so spectacularly at the foot of this now-dead pier – should be allowed to develop this site for usage.)
  12. So allow me to fluff my feathers a bit, peacock, grandstand, cackle and crow in being a small part of something small that saved a small part of New York from a small disaster. I lit a burning ring of fire! (Don’t even get me started on Long Island City! Xo)
  13. As for the rest of the story: I lost track of them after they lost their land.
  14. Hoot, caw, cluck-cluck, and cock-a-doodle-doo.

Below: Short excerpt from my 2015 New York Magazine tirade:

“… I’m talking, of course, of Pier 55, at the southern end of the High Line, and the Culture Shed, at the northern one. Both are nightmares of synthetic space. Let’s take the first one first. This private venture, paid for by, among others, Barry Diller and Diane von Furstenberg, has been designed by hip British architect Thomas Heatherwick. Like many of his ilk, he self-identifies as a “designer of sculpture.” Basically, Heatherwick’s Pier 55 is an updated Studio 54. It will be a floating fantasy island in the shape of a shelf-mushroom resting atop pilings capped with giant flower pots. In addition to Frenchified and Italianate touches, water features, a 700-seat amphitheater, and other ornamentation of no structural interest, the New York Times reports it will include “a densely planted, intricately picturesque landscape … a 62-foot hillock tops a grassy bowl … and pre-ruined staircases.” Think Nickelodeon game-set – or, as Jason Farago put it in the New Yorker, “A privately funded fantasia in a city whose public infrastructure is crumbling.” At a tiny fraction of the cost and maintenance, the city might have restored the pier in its flat rectangular reach into the majestic Hudson and entrusted the Whitney to oversee any public projects.

Yet Pier 55 is small potatoes compared to the bugged-out behemoth under construction at the High Line’s other end – perhaps the most soulless large project in New York’s history…”

Link to full article: New York Has Solved the Problem of Public Art. But at What Cost?


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