Sunday, January 3, 2010
Chronicling 8 years of Bloomblight
From Nathan Kensinger:
This construction boom created an equal boom in demolitions. According to The Real Deal, "during the recent building boom, the number of demolition permits rose from 3,386 in 2002 to a high of 6,480 in 2006. The number fell in 2007 to 5,582..." Among the thousands of structures lost over the last decade were many familiar landmarks in the New York skyline, particularly along the edges of New York City. All along the waterfront, from the South Bronx to the Far Rockaways, neighborhoods were affected by the development gold-rush.
As documented by this website, many historic structures were demolished along the industrial waterfront to make way for developers. Neighborhood icons vanished, like the smokestacks of the Long Island City Powerhouse, erased from the skyline in 2005 by luxury condominiums. In Brooklyn, the rapid pace of development claimed so many historic structures that by 2007, the National Trust for Historic Preservation placed Brooklyn's entire industrial waterfront at the top of their list of "America's 11 Most Endangered Places," stating "historic dockyards and factories are being demolished by developers anxious to cash in on the area's newly hip status." Some of the industrial structures lost included the Greenpoint Terminal Market - a potential landmark which was burned to the ground in 2006; the Todd Shipyard - a working shipyard demolished in 2006 by Ikea; the Revere Sugar Refinery - a neighborhood icon which guided ships into the Eerie Basin until being demolished in 2007, and the Kent Avenue Powerhouse - a grand structure completely demolished by 2009. Many of the industrial buildings destroyed throughout the decade were functional, stable, useful structures that could have been redeveloped and given a second life.
Today on the streets of New York, the losses inflicted by the development boom and bust are readily apparent. Like a modern day gold-rush ghost town, empty holes dominate the landscape. Nicknamed "Bloomblight," these holes consist of hundreds of stalled construction projects throughout the five boroughs. On the commercial streetscape, block after block of "prime real estate" sits empty throughout the city. Vacant storefronts dominate once vital commercial strips, especially with the 2009 failure of chain stores like Circuit City and Virgin Megastore. In July 2009, the NY Times reported that "the storefront vacancy rate in Manhattan is now at its highest point since the early 1990s — an estimated 6.5 percent — and is expected to exceed 10 percent by the middle of next year."
In January 2010, Michael Bloomberg will be sworn into power for his third term as the Mayor of New York. As the new decade begins, the future of New York's urban landscape remains unclear.