March 10, 2014

"Will de Blasio's promise to let developers build larger and taller in exchange for creating affordable housing overwhelm neighborhoods with hulking buildings that hurt the quality of life?"

That's what "some advocates and preservationists" are asking.

I think if you click through and look at the design, you'll scream yes.

If the developers want people to accept huge buildings, why do they make them so ugly?

Here's Madison's little big-building controversy, as presented by our former mayor Dave Cieslewicz. Don't miss the comments section, with much participation by Stu Levitan, who leads the Landmark Commission that rejected the proposal. ("This column is a disgrace, and shows a shocking disregard for both facts and the laws....")

Here's some background on Levitan, an article that ends, "'Yes, I still have Nixon’s balls,' Stu Levitan said. 'Thanks for asking.'"

I've mentioned Levitan before on this blog, for example in the post "'So Meade, in your marriage, which one of you is the whore?' A question asked in the webpages of Isthmus by Madison politico Stu Levitan." That was back before Meade got blocked from participating in the Isthmus forum for speaking inappropriately. (Isthmus is the Madison alt newspaper, i.e., the main newspaper in Madison. And here's an old post of mine that records ex-Mayor Dave's interaction with Meade at the Isthmus.)

ADDED: Clicking around writing this post, I got to this old piece of Dave's that has Meade in the comments, and I see that Stu Levitan is also in the comments there. Dave's topic is college football, and Meade, commenting with his full name, Laurence Meade, writes:
It's a free market, Dave. Plenty of schools don't have sports. Go to one of those schools.

As far as brain injuries, what else are you going to ban - riding in cars? bicycling? taking showers? drinking alcohol?
Stu Levitan reacts (and misspells Laurence):
Lawrence, are you really asserting that the number of brain injuries from showering equals the number of brain injuries from football? My, you are a silly little fellow!
Meade responds (deliberately misspelling Stu):
Stw, what I am asserting is that football is only one of many activities which can lead to traumatic brain injury. Your question reflects poor reading comprehension. Is it possible that you bumped your head while playing Chutes and Ladders when you were a child?

Or maybe you didn't play that game. Maybe you, Cowboy Stu, and your family played Go To The Head Of The Class. You probably should've worn a helmet.

Like Dave!
I thought that was pretty funny and read it out loud just now to Meade. He said: "Too bad they banned me. I brought some color."

I said: "They don't want color."

57 comments:

Shouting Thomas said...

He wants to build a copy of Big Pants in Brooklyn?

LarsPorsena said...

Socialist Realism is making a comeback as a style.

EDH said...

Appropriately, DiBlasio will name the mixed income development, "Donors & Voters".

chrisnavin.com said...

In lieu of Soviet-style housing blocks, this seems
like a good private/public compromise.

Im imagining police sub-stations, language instruction centers and community gardens etc. All the art majors, social workers and born educators can live and work on-site. One big happy family.

Up the street will be a gentrified bunch of green towers with ridiculous rents for all the tech and finance folks.

Out on Staten Island we can put all the 'worker bees' making more honey for the hive.

Well have live cameras to watch everything too.

Dennis said...

"If the developers want people to accept huge buildings, why do they make them so ugly?"

I think that it's a result of the persistence of "Starchitects" and a late postmodern induced lassitude. The notion pervades all of the arts that we have come to the end of history (ref: Fukiyama's essay in 1991) and art history has similarly come to an end with the only possibilities of advancement being footnotes and bibliography.

We can only be thankful that architecture hasn't followed the visual arts with the fashions of the "anti-aesthetic" and "de-skilling".

David said...

Because high rise housing has worked so well in the past?

I'm imagining the volume of dog shit in that park when they all take the dogs out for the relief stroll.

Shouting Thomas said...

"Affordable housing," in NYC, is a euphemism for "awardable housing."

In other words, corrupt handouts to cronies.

Those affordable apartments will be doled out to party hacks.

B said...

The proposed buildings are hideous under any circumstances. They'd ruin any neighborhood.

PB Reader said...

It will certainly change the quality of life. Trading an abandoned sugar plant for a neighborhood with people would seem to be a step up. Likely people are complaining about the gentrification and increased rents that will occur.

In developments like this, they usually create 2 resident entrances. One for the high-paying folks and another for the low-paying folks.

Michael said...

But, of course, the "quality of life" is viewed from the street level and not from standing atop the building model or from an airplane. Is the "quality of life" impaired in Manhattan by the hulking Citibank building or the lurid Lipstick Building? I think not. What matters to residents is light and air and view, all of which are negatively impacted by all tall buildings ( both ugly and lovely) between the viewer and his view. Thus the idiotic light and air cut-out on the ugliest of the buildings. The "quality of life" would be ruined mostly for people with east facing offices in Manhattan.

virgil xenophon said...

Why oh why have we let them get away with the term "affordable?" This is SUBSIDIZED housing--and built to current codes at sq ft current rates--all with the taxpayers picking up the tab. It's certainly NOT "affordable" to the people living in them. In New Orleans when they "rehabed" the St. Thomas Projects near Tchoupitoulas St in the Lower Garden Dist., the cost was $350, 000/unit. The Fischer Projects across the river on the "West Bank" went for an avg of $175,000/unit. Why should some blue collar guy in Robinson Illinois, Portales, NM or Dinuba Calif working his ass off and living in a home valued at $75,000 see the food taken out of his children's mouths, the clothes off their backs, etc., in the form of taxes just so life's failures can live in luxury in some of the most expensive and desirable locations on the planet? Where is the "morality" in THAT?

Freeman Hunt said...

"Tetris on the East River." Ha ha!

virgil xenophon said...

PS: I'VE got the solution to the "affordable" housing problem: QUONSET HUTS. When stationed in the UK as an AF Officer I lived in a WW II Quonset Hut. If it it's good enough for a college-educated AF Officer with millions of tax-payer dollar pilot training and experience, it should be good enough for the uneducated, untrained and unemployed/underemployed, eh?

Moose said...

While not endorsing the idea of rampant building, you have to admit that zoning restrictions exist for one reason only - keeping people out.

chrisnavin.com said...

Ok, so I'm trying to imagine myself as Bill De Blasio:

-I've got a pretty cozy group of contractors and developers in ruthless competition, who need the power of City Hall.

-I've got the contractors and developers who gave me money and I have to pay back. Unions too. I really need the unions.

-I've got a coalition of fellow travelers and activists I've got to pay back.

-I've got 'The People,' or a huddled mass of disadvantaged folks. I can fool most of them most of the time.

-Out on the periphery, I've got rich liberals, Wall Street, the media the Ny Times I've got to keep happy.

-I've got political enemies, a shit-list, a few Republicans, etc.

Because f**k them, am I right?
------------------

This monstrosity is a great compromise.

I'm making my mark.

mccullough said...

The article says Bloomberg admin negotiated the deal and de Blasio squeezed 40 more units of affordable housing to bring it to 700 units. Developers and financial gurus are the money men in New York. They will roll the Socialist.

MadisonMan said...

Isthmus very much lacks humor. Like so many in Madison, they take themselves oh so seriously. Like the Landmarks Commission.

The thing that struck me the most in Doug Moe's column (not in Isthmus, and therefore allowed to include humor) is that Levitan doesn't like his job, but he's sticking around for a couple more years. What a way to destroy your soul. One wonders if he'll blame Scott Walker.

Hammond X Gritzkofe said...

"...de Blasio's promise to let developers build larger and taller in exchange for creating affordable housing..."

Allow me to rephrase that.

"We've taxed you as much as we can, but we still want more. If you build some houses we can trade for votes, then we'll give you a pass on the building codes."

Amichel said...

The development is indeed ugly, but not so ugly as the abandoned factory it replaces. Could be worse I suppose.

khesanh0802 said...

The fear and trembling among the Upper West Siders. They might be next! They are certainly deserving!
It's hard to imagine how DeBlasio got elected, but he did and NYC is going to pay.

Ralph Hyatt said...

The artists renderings of the giant buildings reminds me of the Judge Dredd remake.

Hopefully, there will be flying motorcycle type vehicles and guns that respond to voice commands as well.

Matthew Sablan said...

D.C. needs to do this. $1500 for a small one-bedroom is ridiculous.

Matthew Sablan said...

The other option, of course, would be to build NEW cities in Fly Over Country to disperse the population. But, alas, most of the population density either could not afford the move or would not like the move away from "cultural centers."

Hammond X Gritzkofe said...

"D.C. needs to do this. $1500 for a small one-bedroom is ridiculous."

Ya say ya cant find a place in D.C. at a reasonable price, son?

Got a solution for ya. Abolish the IRS, EPA, DEA, Dept. of Education, Dept. of Commerce, ....

Matthew Sablan said...

I actually don't think rents are too out of alignment, so much as I think that the areas that are cheap, people avoid because they think of them as crime ridden cesspools of rapists and robbers.

And, while some parts of D.C. have a crime problem, it is nowhere near as bad as people imagine.

tim maguire said...

Buildings are so ugly because they have to be built very cheaply in order to free up money to pay the bribes to the various zoning boards (24, last I checked) with the power to stop the project.

There are some scary documentaries on skyscraper construction out there, with modern building technology focused on reducing the amount of material needed so they can spend less on construction. That's why they're ugly--whimsy costs money.

MadisonMan said...

Dept. of Commerce,

The Dept. of Commerce is home to one of the most cost-effective govt agencies around. It routinely helps people and businesses save billions.

TCR James said...

>>>If the developers want people to accept huge buildings, why do they make them so ugly?

Duh. Frankfurt School, and Architectural Academia. More or less the same reason all Soviet Era architecture is awful. It's about providing authentic worker housing for the Vanguard of the Proletariat, and this is the sort of architecture that leftist political theorists believe is correct. If the workers don't want to live there, well, we will just have to get some better, more authentically revolutionary workers.

Seriously, if you can ask this question in 2014 then you really need to go immediately and read Tom Wolfe's From Bauhaus to Our House. It isn't a mystery.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Matthew Sablan said...

I actually don't think rents are too out of alignment, so much as I think that the areas that are cheap, people avoid because they think of them as crime ridden cesspools of rapists and robbers.

I didn't know that Congress had apartments for rent.

Ralph Hyatt said...

"Seriously, if you can ask this question in 2014 then you really need to go immediately and read Tom Wolfe's From Bauhaus to Our House. It isn't a mystery."

I must admit, I have not read this. Perhaps I will use Althouse's Amazon portal to buy it.

However, I was under the impression that the point of post-modern architecture is to cut people off from their cultural legacy so that the new, modern, post-national man (perhaps I should say human) can be brought into being.

Thus the ugly modern buildings.

furious_a said...

The other option, of course, would be to build NEW cities in Fly Over Country...

...and burden *us* with the sort of people who would vote for a poltroon like DiBlasio? No, thank you.

Carol said...

Ugh, looks like those awful council flats in London. Each with its own lanai, where the poors store their junk.

Freeman Hunt said...

You have to wait for one of those long red pieces to fall if you want a good skyscraper.

Freeman Hunt said...

Don't freak out and think you've built up too high with too many holes. You'll only lose your cool and make it worse.

furious_a said...

Nothing says "Progress" like stacking poor people like Pringles in high-rises. All that weight pressing down on them, like the welfare state squeezing out any sense of ambition, resourcefulness and hope.

Oh, well...to paraphrase one of DiBlasio's predecessors: New Yorkers chose DiBlasio, now they must be punished.

TCR James said...

@Ralph Hyatt: However, I was under the impression that the point of post-modern architecture is to cut people off from their cultural legacy so that the new, modern, post-national man (perhaps I should say human) can be brought into being.

That's just another facet expressing the Frankfurt School ethos about the New man. So I think you're exactly right just in a different way. Brutalism wasn't always associated with the Frankfurt School, BTW, but that buildling philosophy did become pretty heavily intermingled.

glenn said...

Moving the takers in with the makers is another of the liberal fantasies that wind up with the makers departing for greener (no pun intended) pastures. New York City won't be an exception. Kinda like dumbing down the schools so the "disadvantaged" can keep up. Parents of the kids who aren't disadvantaged just leave. As they should.

Sofa King said...

The obvious solution is to build down, not up. Nobody's going to complain about a 75-story hole in the ground blocking their view.

CWJ said...

The "projects" were a great post-war progressive idea until even they had to admit that they didn't work, and most (at least in Chicago) have been razed.

Apparently, now that they are gone, its time to think up this idea all over again, and give it another whirl.

Central planners. They'll try anything as long as it's essentially the same as before.

MadisonMan said...

Nobody's going to complain about a 75-story hole in the ground

Until there's a storm surge :)

SteveBrooklineMA said...

Shouting Thomas is right, I think. I remember in the Boston area seeing the same sort of thing. Advocacy groups would demand affordable housing, and somehow people associated with that group ended up with some of those units.

The whole affordable housing units biz is strange... essentially some relatively poor person wins the lottery. Is that the best way to help people afford housing? Giving a few lucky people luxury apartments for cheap?

Matthew Sablan said...

I thought that tall things just can't be all that pretty.

Ambrose said...

Actually, the real danger is overwhelming neighborhoods with affordable housing that will hurt th quality of life.

RecChief said...

intersting the people who talk about others reading comprehension problems.

RecChief said...

"I thought that tall things just can't be all that pretty."

Ever seen the Chrysler building up close? Everyone recognizes the top, but it's beautiful from ground level all the way to the top

Pogo is Dead said...

"New York [State] lost a net 1.6 million residents to other states between 2000 and 2010, according to 2010 Census data."

In NY state in 2012, " more people recently exited than entered – 405,864 to 270,053, respectively"

"...8 percent of New York’s population left the state between 2000 and 2010 — the highest percentage of residents of any state in the country. Of those 1.6 million people, more than 70 percent, or about 1.1 million, left from New York City."

"The New York metropolitan region is losing people. ...And the trend has continued into the new decade, with the New York metro area hemorrhaging another 254,000 net domestic migrants since 2010, even as the economic downturn has slowed migration generally within the United States."

Just wait awhile and they won't need those apartments.

Hello, New Detroit City!

n.n said...

Move out of the city, subdue the countryside, and make it habitable.

furious_a said...

"Socialist Realism", "Soviet-style housing blocks", etc.

Nothing says "Neo-Stalinesque" like wire-mesh nets strung about to catch the falling masonry.

Matthew Sablan said...

"Nothing says "Neo-Stalinesque" like wire-mesh nets strung about to catch the falling masonry."

-- It could be there to catch the falling masons.

Pogo is Dead said...

"According to Albany think tank The Empire Center for Public Policy, recent U.S. Census data shows New York as highest in domestic migration loss since 2010. Illinois, California and New Jersey follow with significant losses in residents compared to the rest of the country. On the contrary, states like Texas and Florida gained the most in domestic migration during that time.

New York’s imminent fall from third to fourth most populous state can be attributed mainly to its heavy loss of residents to the rest of the country—a trend persisting in this decade, according to the latest Census data. During the 12 months ending last July 1, the Census Bureau estimates, New York lost a net 104,470 residents to other states. In other words, 104,470 more people moved out of New York than moved into it. This was the largest net domestic migration loss sustained by any state — well ahead of the next biggest losers, Illinois (-67,313 residents) and California (-49,259)

Most losses
• New York
• Illinois
• California
• New Jersey
• Michigan

Most gains
• Texas
• Florida
• North Carolina
• Colorado
• South Carolina

New York’s loss of residents to other states was offset largely by foreign immigration, reducing the Empire State’s overall migration loss to 2,672 for the [2013], and 10,406 people since 2010. The total population of New York has increased slightly due to the “natural increase” of births minus deaths.
"

William said...

The trade off was forty units of affordable housing. The developers get to erect a structure of immense and enduring ugliness, and the city gets forty units of housing. I don't think DeBlasio drove a very good bargain.

Peter said...

"Because high rise housing has worked so well in the past?"

Actually, high-rise housing works just fine when the people in the housing behave; it fails when they don't- some of the most expensive apartments in Manhattan are in very tall buildings.

And for whatever reason, people who are given stuff tend to behave worse than those who pay full price.

Of course, it's just a correlation and there are exceptions on both sides. Nonetheless, non-subsidized tenants generally have an interest in limiting the number of subsidized tenants in their buildings

And if these subsidized tenants cause trouble and unpleasantness well out of proportion to their numbers, well, it probably just adds to the resentment when the non-subsidized tenants realize that they're the ones paying the subsidy.

uffda said...

Where is the outrage over political extortion of developers to further a socialist's agenda? What's next? Will auto dealers have to add an "affordable transportation fee" to every car sold to subsidize the poor in order to open a new dealership? Hows about "affordable" gas , food, clothes, smart phones, utilities, et al?

What a slimy way to transfer cost from the taxpayer to the consumer. And only a blindered naif would expect government redistribution spending to fall as a result.

Matthew Sablan said...

One of the most frustrating experiences as a renter, is seeing really nice apartments for a reasonable price, then realizing I make too much money to pay that reasonable price.

Sigivald said...

"We want affordable housing" - but for God's sake we want it to appear magically without affecting our precious neighborhoods!

This reminds me of hearing my Canadian (i.e. socialist) friends in Vancouver simultaneously complaining about how unaffordable life is in the Lower Mainland and also railing against both condo developments and replacing single-family houses with apartments.

Where the hell do they think housing prices come from? (Answer: Sadly, their theory is "it's all the rich people buying property!")

(And an even more hilarious idea I saw demanding that they raise the minimum wage so that a single minimum-wage-earner wouldn't have to have roommates.

Evidently "living all by yourself on your earnings no matter their value" is now a basic right.)

Maybe the Big City just automatically destroys.

RecChief said...

"Where is the outrage over political extortion of developers to further a socialist's agenda?"

or cronyism for support? you should read up on the controversy surrounding the end of horse drawn carriages and what is planned for the old stables

hombre said...

Speculators love affordable housing.