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The things I didn’t photograph, cont…part 3

April 28, 2010

Even after I quit smoking, I would sit there in the late afternoon, watching the rows of cranes lined up in the horizon. They were tired from the long day of performing crane duties in the “refurbishment” of downtown. Watching the entire landscape of the city change, literally from the front porch of that house, affected me. In a few short years, most of the old brick buildings and warehouses that existed in the south-east section of downtown were demolished and replaced by a baseball park and countless ugly stucco high-rise condo buildings and of course, lots of shops. Calling buildings in San Diego,”high-rise” seems silly after living in New York for over 3 years. When I go home to visit and pass by downtown I am struck by how miniature both the city and it’s buildings are in contrast not only to New York City and downtown Brooklyn, but even to the project buildings that line up everywhere in the city, including where I live currently in South Williamsburg. New York City’s accretion of towers has created an accumulative density that is not only apparent in the visible world but leaves an imprint on the consciousness of those who have lived there.

Watching similar urban change in New York is sometimes upsetting to me, but lacks the same magnitude. Not just because I didn’t grow up here, but also because New York is too dense for most of the architectural history of an entire section of town to be wiped out in just 4 years. But perhaps even this is even arguable. More than once while walking down the street in Soho I have heard murmurs of disgust from long term denizens. I can completely sympathize with their sentiments. Many of the artists lofts and warehouses I had gone to parties in, and the desolate and urban streets I would wander have been replaced by structures and blocks that might retain one old building or a brick wall in honor of it’s history, but which has, for the most part, resulted in a very bland emotional palate. I believe that buildings, blocks and cities are just like people; where the culmination of one’s experience is reflected in the combination of both appearance and vibe. When a place is just wiped out, it’s a weird fusion of what actually happened at that place, and what is physically visible. Of course it is certain that over time, places and people change. But when it happens as forcefully and abruptly as required by urban development, a psychic tear occurs, leaving an energetic distortion that can be felt even beyond the physical displacement experienced by people who have lost some aspect of their daily lives.

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