I had fun in NYC.
One thinks of cities as eternal though, of course, they’re not. Since 1900, for example, the sea level around Manhattan has risen by a foot; by 2080, it’s likely the sea level will rise another six feet. That’s not within my lifetime, but it could be within my youngest child’s lifetime (if he stops smoking and starts exercising.)
Jungles throughout Central America and deserts throughout North Africa are filled with the ruins of dead cities.
As are the woods around Poughkeepsie:
Spring after the snowy desolation has melted and before the jungle forests have leafed is the absolute best time to view the remains of Poughkeepsie’s manufacturing past from the window of a moving train.
The land values hereabout are so low that it’s cheaper to let the buildings rot than it is to tear them down.
This kind of stuff fascinates me. Economic geography!
I got out at 125th Street and tromped the mile or so to my rendezvous with the world’s Kutest Kouple. Harlem is changing rapidly, too, though the land values are high, so many of the old residential low-rises with their collapsing ceilings and lead-paint-coated walls are being demolished so that developers can replace them with luxury condos. I’m not exactly sure how this building survived:
I suppose they’ll just dynamite the projects behind it. I don’t know what they’ll do with the people who live in them.
NYC got into the public housing business in the early 1950s. In their early days, the residents were mostly white: Applicants were screened for signs of moral turpitude such as alcoholism, lack of furniture, single motherhood, irregular employment histories, and (we can assume) skin color. Neighbor Ed grew up in Stuyvesant Town – Peter Cooper Village, which is a complex on the Lower East Side, and (when he was growing up) mostly inhabited by third-generation descendants of the folk who lived in the tenements the project replaced.
In the late 60s, a wave of social activism and pressure from federal authorities forced the New York City Housing Authority to change its policies. Skin color and sources of income could no longer be used as qualifying criteria.
Then came the 1970s when the city started one of its periodic bust cycles so there was little money to spare for maintenance. Windows got smashed, elevators were vandalized. Mail boxes were bashed into because in those days, people got their job and welfare checks by mail, and anyone could cash one, no questions asked.
With the 80s crack epidemic, the whole system became untenable. The municipal government wanted out of the landlord business (to the extent that was possible.) And so there was a shift in the Section 8 model: The government began paying private landlords to house the poor. See Matthew Desmond’s very brilliant Evicted
for more details.
Of course, the projects that had been built continued to function. My Uncle Rik, always a revolutionary in his pragmatic way, decided to apply for public housing in 1964 while he was getting his PhD at Columbia and ultimately moved into Grant Houses on 125th Street and Broadway. This was at a time when my mother was at her most unstable: I’d come home from school and find her lying in her bed, gibbering to herself, wetting
herself so that I’d have to change the sheets—though I was fairly sure she got up to use the bathroom when I wasn’t around.
After about a week of this, I called Rik who swooped down and carried me off to Grant Houses where I lived with him, Annie and the baby for a few months. It was a great novelty being one of only four white people among the 10,000 or so residents, and I don’t remember feeling unsafe in any way. The famous Harlem Riots of 1964 took place way over on the other side of town—actually, the very part of town I was walking through to meet up with my friends!
What a difference half a century makes.
The Kute Kouple and I met up at the Museum of the City of New York.
Lots o’ Kool exhibits plus this very elaborate dollhouse whose creator somehow managed to get Marcel Duchamp and other Famous Artists to make stuff for.
I have a major dollhouse fetish, so this was definitely the high point for moi.
Simply the most beautiful early spring day in the long, long annals of beautiful spring days in the history of the planet!
And what could be cooler than strolling through Central Park with good friends on our way to eat meat
Here we are, a trio of contented carnivores, on the subway ride back to Brooklyn:
But I see I have exhausted all my Dear Diary
Coming tomorrow: Frida Kahlo and a stroll down Memory Lane—which happens to be located very close to Grand Army Plaza.
If I can remember back that far in 24 hours.
This entry was originally posted at http://mallorys-camera.dreamwidth.org
. You may leave comments on either Dreamwidth or LiveJournal if you like.