New York Daily Photo Analytics

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


On October 16, 2007, I wrote of a solution to one of my personal dislikes - the array of newsboxes that clutter the city streets. However, at the time, I did not have a photo which well represented the ugly side.
Broadway can at times can become a virtual wind tunnel - recently, on a particularly windy day at Broadway and Houston Streets, huge gusts of wind created trash tornadoes, perfectly complementing the hideous newsboxes. Why hideous? Because the garish melange of these boxes looks like everything possible has been done to offend the eye - they are different shapes, heights, colors, designs, are covered with stickers and ads, and are poorly maintained and dirty. I have seen empty ones even used as trash receptacles. Many are chained to lampposts and various other structures.

Regular readers know that I am all for street life, but the issue here for me is aesthetic. In my story, Very Practical, I wrote of how the practical tends to triumph in this city. I would reword that to say that practical and business interests tends to trump the aesthetic. I highly doubt you would see a motley crew of newsboxes in this condition in most European cities.

In researching this story, I saw articles going back 15 years in the New York Times concerning the problems and solutions with the boxes, which were even referred to as eyesores. But in any bureaucracy, inefficiency is the rule of thumb, and a snail's pace is the rate of progress, so the boxes remain while improvements slowly inch their way towards adoption.
But many defend the edginess and grit of New York City as important, defining characteristics. I remember reading an article years ago speaking to this. The article was defending the edginess and made a suggestion for those who did not see the grit's charm: "There's a place for you. It's called Toronto."


Jacob said...

Interesting but not unusual photo in that I've seen similar in many cities.

Ugly as hell, even if the colors are vibrant.

Fredrik said...

Everything in USA usually comes to us a decade later. So I guess we can expect something like this in a near future. Today we have only The Metro box.
Great picture though!

naomid said...

I've noticed that the Village Voice added staples to their spines this year, and I wonder if it isn't connected to the litter problem. Prevents all the "adult encounter" pages from plastering the street. Its about the only thing left in the village voice to look at!

Kate said...

I'd tend to agree with those who argue that New York's edginess is a huge part of its charm. While no one wants the city to be too unsanitary, take Times Square for example. It's been all cleaned up and "Disney-fied" to appeal to tourists and has completely lost all of its edge and grit. How many New Yorkers appreciate Times Square? Not I. I'd prefer it to be a bit more of a walk on the wild side, personally...more like its days of old. So I guess my point is to be careful what you wish for.

Anonymous said...

Great post! They have actually started making these a wee bit nicer uptown on the East side. I believe they are on Madison avenue up in the high 70's that you can see them. Might be worth an educational trip?

B Squared said...

Looks like the "New" New York is looking a lot like the "old" New York. Tragic and preventable.

Thérèse said...

It's a living town and shows that Life is well alive!
Better than an empty street... and worse than a single tree.

gogouci said...

This street is only one giant wind gust from being sparkling clean.

Paul - leeds daily photo said...

I live in Yorkshire, England and there are very few of these boxes here, the nearest one to me as I write this is a free collection box for The Metro which is given away at no charge in many cities here in the UK.
The picture shown says it all really though.