From New York Magazine:
The Bloomberg administration has encouraged development with an enthusiasm that has frequently had even the mayor’s admirers fuming. But just as often, it has protected the status quo. The Department of City Planning has marched through all five boroughs, rezoning 100 neighborhoods since 2001 and regularly drawing fire for opening up areas like 125th Street, the Greenpoint-Williamsburg waterfront, and Hudson Yards to high-rises. But the great majority of changes to the zoning code have involved keeping streets quiet and leafy, buildings low, and development at bay. Currently, the department is studying ways to preserve Astoria’s … Astorianess. Controlling development is also the business of the Landmarks Preservation Commission, which has designated 170 historic districts and 25 individual buildings since 2002. These actions don’t stop time, but they do prevent the wholesale erasure of our brick-and-brownstone history. Preservation recognizes that people live in New York because they like it here and that keeping it that way is a good investment.
Much of the recent metamorphosis has actually rolled back transformations of previous decades. The renovated Grand Concourse today resembles the airy boulevard of the forties more than it does the devastated artery of the seventies. For all the glass towers and gentrification, this is still largely a city of houses, stoops, and tenements. Rooflines are still crowned with cylindrical water towers. The bodega still thrives—or at least struggles along as it always did.
New York is an aging city in a culture transfixed by youth. Ten years of manic construction were balanced by an outpouring of conservative energy that expressed itself in restoration, retrofitting, protest, and hunkering down. So the next time you pass a block that looks pretty much the way it did a generation ago, remember: The status quo doesn’t happen by itself. Preserving even a part of it is a major urban accomplishment.