The long weekend is nearly here; It’s time to catch up on all of the good reading that’s slipped through the cracks in 2018, or return to a few of your favorites. In that spirit, we’ve gathered a few of our best-loved features of the year.
These stories run the gamut, from an examination of the emerging “leisure waterfront,” to a look at the push for universal rent control across the state, to an attempt to tell the story of New York through five city blocks. Ready to dive deep? Read on.
A survey of Canal Street’s changing landscape by Nathan Kensinger
In the past few years, hundreds of million of dollars have been invested along this central section of Canal Street, buying up old buildings and emptying them out, as a handful of landlords wait for retailers willing to pay their exorbitant rents. The results have brought this once-bustling corridor to its knees, with dozens of small businesses driven out and dozens of shuttered storefronts, leaving behind an atrophied landscape for the millions of pedestrians who pass by every day. As Canal Street waits for its future to be decided, it sits in limbo, in an uncertain moment of transition.
What if you could walk to the airport? by Karrie Jacobs
I’m not arguing that airports should be like heliports, or immediately adjacent to densely populated neighborhoods, but rather, that they should behave more like neighborhoods. What if the psychological and physical barriers separating us from air travel were less daunting—or maybe eliminated altogether?
Hudson Yards wants to become NYC’s next great neighborhood by Emily Nonko
It’s strange looking upon the planning of an entire neighborhood from afar, the grand task of envisioning a piece of the city out of nothing. As the first phase gets closer to completion, Related Companies and Oxford Properties Group, the megaproject’s developers, are making the case to New York they’re building an important—they would also argue authentic—extension of Manhattan. But the question remains: Will New York buy it?
Hoop dreams by Britta Lotking
Basketball players in New York will tell you the Cage is where the party’s at, and on a temperate summer evening, no doubt they’re right. But there are over 500 outdoor courts in the five boroughs—two Wall Street Journal reporters visited and ranked each one in Manhattan five years ago—and the city is considered a mecca of street basketball. The courts—maintained by the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation—are a fabric of the landscape here, as familiar as yellow cabs and corner bodegas.
Co-op City at 50 by James Nevius
To its proponents, Co-op City (technically Cooperative City, but no one has ever called it that) was supposed to serve as an example of how New York—and cities around the country—could solve the twin problems of urban decay and lack of affordable housing for the so-called “forgotten middle.” It was the culmination of over 50 years of progressive housing advocacy in New York, and the shining star of the Mitchell-Lama housing program.
New York City, block by block by Rebecca Bengal and Chris Mottalini
In New York City, entire and distinct worlds are compressed into each city block. The sense of the block as community has been passed down among those who grew up on its stoops and balconies and ingrained in those who came from elsewhere, raised on pop-culture portrayals of the city’s neighborhoods as early as Sesame Street, as trenchant as Do the Right Thing.
Finding space in New York City’s cemeteries by Allison C. Meier
Just as the rural cemeteries of the 19th century radically reevaluated American approaches to death, it’s time to rethink what we want New York’s cemeteries to be in the 21st century. … Cemeteries can be active parts of the city, even while they honor the dead. They remind us to value our own time as well. And the best way for them to survive as places of memorialization and nature is to make them meaningful to the people who are alive now.
A walk around Anable Basin, Amazon’s future home in Queens by Nathan Kensinger
Over the past decade, many of Long Island City’s historic industrial buildings have been bulldozed to make way for a dystopian collection of anonymous glass towers. Chemical factories, soda bottling plants, gas stations, and garages have all vanished, replaced by an ongoing development boom that has created thousands of sleek apartments for new residents. No other neighborhood in the entire country has had as many apartments built in the last eight years, and no other neighborhood in New York City has seen its landscape changed as much by rezoning and redevelopment. Against this backdrop, the Amazon proposal feels like just another nail in the coffin for the community’s surviving mom-and-pop manufacturing businesses.
The rise of New York’s new leisure waterfront by Karrie Jacobs
Much of New York is still dominated by buildings and design ideas from centuries past, but the transformation of the waterfront is largely a 21st-century enterprise, one that’s taken on a life of its own since 2007, when former Mayor Michael Bloomberg released PlaNYC 2030, a vision for a greener city that cast waterfront development as a moral imperative. While Mayor Bill de Blasio has embraced the vision to the extent that it offers opportunities for his affordable housing agenda, the waterfront that’s emerging—the pleasurable city where conspicuous affluence underwrites the common good is—for better or worse, Bloombergian.
Is America’s densest city ready to make room? by Alexandra Lange
The debate over 80 Flatbush is not just about one complex, of course—it embodies the battle occurring in expensive cities across the land. It is about how a city as dense as New York should build its way out of a housing crisis and insufficient community facilities. 80 Flatbush represents the private sector strategy: more market-rate units funding the affordable ones, plus schools, open public space, and cultural hubs.
The elevated era by James Nevius
Today, New Yorkers who remember them are nostalgic for the elevated railways. But as New York struggles with an antiquated and seemingly unfixable subway system, snarled street traffic, and few viable alternatives, the story of the elevated railway seems a cautionary tale about how politics and greed are too often the motivating forces behind decisions that affect millions of New Yorkers.
The fight for universal rent control in New York by Emma Whitford
The timing of the campaign for universal rent control is strategic, ramping up during a gubernatorial race and ahead of 2019, when the state’s rent-stabilization laws are up for renewal. Demands for strong tenant protections are also welling up nationally, from Chicago to California. The New Republic’s Sarah Jones laid out the dire circumstances earlier this summer: As wages remain stagnant, mortgages are increasing, and more and more Americans are renting. “It’s our moment of leverage,” says NYCC’s [Cea] Weaver.
What’s “glamping” like on Governors Island? by Diana Budds
Our tent looked picture-perfect. Pitched on a raised wood platform, the white canvas Journey tent (there are 27 Journey tents on the site and pricing starts from $150 a night) looked just like a tipi. Inside, it was furnished with two twin beds (you can also request a queen), crisp white sheets, plush towels, rattan chairs, lamps with linen shades, dried flowers, candles, and a Persian rug. If it wasn’t for the Yeti cooler and two lanterns in the corner, you could mistake this for a hotel room.