New York Daily Photo Analytics

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Affront To Dignity

If there was a God of New York City, wasting space would be a mortal sin.

In this city, we are obsessed with space. To find a convenient parking spot is considered a major achievement, worthy of announcement with an expectation of hearty congratulations. Floor space, whether commercial, industrial, retail, or residential, is one of the key features of a place. For the city dweller, a visit to a museum is often as much about indulgence in space as it is about the art collection.

In our homes, most of us optimize for efficient use of limited space. This is not a world known for foyers, entrance hallways, garages, basements, attics, and extra guest bedrooms. We even sell Air Rights in New York City; every cubic inch of 3D space is accounted for.

I recall having a conversation once with a relative who owned an industrial space in the suburbs and needed to expand. The solution was simple: tear down a wall and just build out. That seemed miraculous and inconceivable to me at the time, like a suprahuman act of creation.

A terrace or garden is the ultimate spacial luxury in this city as we add nature and the outdoors to sweeten the pot. Many high-rise apartments in New York City have tiny concrete slabs which, for the purposes of real estate sales and promotion, are called "terraces." This is laughable - you can see thousands of these affronts to human dignity dot the skyline of New York City. I've never seen anyone on them. Often, they are used for storage and become aerial eyesores. It would be hard to argue that lack of use of these terraces is a wasted resource.

However, in today's photo, I submit to you evidence of a real space wasted. This wood-decked terrace is as large as many apartments, overlooks a quiet alley, has good light, trees, plantings, and views of the Empire State Building. The terrace is attached to a two-floor apartment in an 1837 landmark brownstone. I know the tenants of this apartment and was told many years ago by the husband of the couple that lived there that he had not set foot in the space for 14 years.
This outdoor space is still infrequently used. Most New Yorkers just drool at the prospect of an outdoor garden like this and fantasize about all the wonderful uses they would make of it. Some may argue that all outdoor terraces or gardens subject the users to a fishbowl effect - that there is virtually no privacy from the prying eyes of other apartment dwellers within eyeshot. I think that in this case, many a New Yorker would welcome this invasion of privacy and find it no affront to dignity :)

Related Posts: Seven Deadly Sins, Air Rights


ChickenUnderwear said...

I am drooling, yes.

Vivien said...

Such a beautiful terrace!

It is a very good photo and an interesting story as always.

ChickenUnderwear said...

Is that building on 8th St between 5th and University?

Thérèse said...

I am hoping adequate taxes make up for the lack of usage.

Phrank said...

i know people in the suburbs that would drool over a yard/space like that!

Brian said...

Vivien - thanks.

Chicken Underwear - the view in the photo is over that block.

Therese - Very funny.

Phrank - 'tis true.

mirae said...

hi Brian
There is always so much breathtaking energy in your photographs and that energy is diffused throughout the text.

Well I have had balconys in various highrise apartments, and I have always loved it. I call it my concrete nest in the sky but then I am a sky sign.

I have been kind of lazy about putting furniture on my current high rise balcony though because there has been a concern as of late to lock down the furniture in case of a wind storm.

mirae said...

I have just discovered this gorgeous video in youtube.Just in case you haven't heard it, or if any of your readers may be interested-

Luciano Pavarotti and Liza Minelli sing New York New York

it is soooooooooooooooooocool.

Peter said...

What a fantastic view.
In the eighties a friend of mine used to live on Bank Street (Hi Tom...)and had access to the TINY back yard.
There was a tree (more of a shrub...) and it was walled in and overlooked, but late evening meals out there by candlelight with friends were magic.
Thanks for summarising that yearning for a little outside space in the anthills that are our modern conurbations.

lisa said...


Really nice photo. I like the furniture putting on the terrace and also like greeneray in the terrace.

Its cool.........

Apartments in Barcelona

Sally said...

I love this. Living in NZ where green is everywhere and most of us live in detached houses this looks very cool and romantic to me. What a gift to have an oasis in the city. You could even build a snowman in the winter.

Mary P. said...

SOMEONE's taking care of it.