12 Apr 2002

 

Andoveristas:

By now most of you know that I have reveled in the construction that has gone on here in my home town of New York City since my arrival in 1961. In particular, I am most ecstatic about what is happening right now - the construction of THREE (count 'em!) seventy-story towers, all within two hundred yards of the fifty story high rise in which I live. The daily rat-a-tat of drills and hammers gives me a rush as I watch these skeletons rush skyward.

The piece de resistance is, of course, Columbus Circle's new twin towers (aka the AOL Time Warner Center), which the crew recently "topped-out" with the attachment of the appropriate small evergreen to the top riser as it was put in place. [This ceremony goes back a long way. My Dad, a general contractor in a small town not too far from the Jersey shore, always conducted same with every building he erected, usually costing him a small, but agreeable, sum in drinks for all hands at the local pub.] The addition of an American flag is a more recent addendum to the ceremony.

The topping-out was a bit odd, however, because the towers are less than half their ultimate height. What they topped-out was the steel superstructure for Time Warner's offices, CNN's studios, the THREE (count 'em!, again) Jazz at Lincoln Center performance spaces (billed as the jazz equivalent to Carnegie Hall), the multilevel restaurant and shopping arcade and an atrium. Atop the topped-out STEEL structure will be TWO CONCRETE towers containing a couple hundred condominia and a 250-room hotel rising to the seventy-story level. If any damned fool decides to joy ride his Boeing 757 into these towers, he will now have to melt concrete, instead of steel. Presumably, we will get a second topping-out ceremony next year.

One eye catcher will be a 149 feet high by 86 feet wide (that's 15 stories by 8+ stories!) "cable-net" glass wall forming a portal at the end of 59th Street, tall enough to accommodate TWO Washington Arches stacked one atop the other. It is billed as the largest such glass wall in the world. Stainless steel cables, spaced 7.5 feet vertically and 4.5 feet horizontally, will form the structural and protective "net" within which three-quarter inch thick laminated glass panels will be inserted. The designer says, "Its goal is to be as delicate, transparent and diaphanous as possible, both to afford views in and simultaneously views out.

This portal will bisect the Palladium, a two block long retail shopping arcade with sixty shops and six restaurants. Space is selling like proverbial hot cakes. As of the end of February, agents had already rented out 30% of this space - half of it post-September 11th. Included in the roster of tenants are the Equinox fitness Club (32,000 square feet!), a Thomas Kelly restaurant, a Cole Haan shoe store, a Georges Vongerichten steak house and apparel stores by Hugo Boss, J. Crew, Joseph Aboud, A/X Armani and Eileen Fisher. Projections are that they will have signed up 75% of the space by June.

Condominia are selling well, too. As of the end of February, 70% of the sales had occurred after September 11th. Ahhh, we sturdy New Yorkers....

The Allen Room, one of the new jazz performance spaces, will be eighty feet (eight stories) above street level. Its nonstructural glass wall will peer through the big structural cable-net portal. Overlooking Central Park, it will accommodate 300-600 people. When used as a dance floor, couples will be able to see the East Side's twinkling towers across the park. There will also be the Ertegun Jazz Hall of Fame and a Jazz Cafe. The centerpiece will be the 1,200 seat Fred Rose Hall with a 60-foot fly loft (that's six stories!). [By the way, the late Fred Rose was my landlord.] "All this jazz" will be under the purview of Wynton Marsalis, current artistic director of Jazz at Lincoln Center.

 

Attached are a few photos I took with a disposable camera a couple of weeks ago.

 


Close-up, looking west from the statue of Mr. Columbus in the center of Columbus circle. You can see the cable-net portal just above the big "1" on the sign and below the white truss at the top of the picture. You can see the vertical cables. The horizontal cables are not yet installed.

 

Further back, looking northwest from the southern edge of Columbus Circle. You can see that the cable-net portal extends much farther downward than in the previous picture. Now you can see two towers.

 

Further back, looking northwest from one block south of Columbus Circle. Note the vertical construction elevator at the left of the picture, on 58th Street.

 

 

Same position, but looking more upward. You can more easily see the vertical construction elevator at the left of the picture, on 58th Street.

 

 

Looking northwest from the southern edge of Columbus Circle, but upward, this time. Ain't she gorgeous?

 

 

Looking west from the south side of 59th Street (aka Central park West). There he is, Mr. Columbus, fighting off the pigeons, saying to himself, "What the fuck?" Here he is framing the right side of the yet to be cable-net glass wall.

 

 

Looking west from the middle of 59th Street (aka Central park West), much further away. At the upper right is the old Gulf and western building. Donald Trump bought it, tore off its entire skin and replaced it with his signature glitz. At the lower right is the "golden" statuary which announces the entrance to the southwest corner of Central Park.

 

 

Looking east from the south side of 58th Street. The construction elevator is the most prominent feature in the photo.

 

 

Looking north from the south side of 57th Street, the "street where I live," from where my building stands. We all watched the new building sneak up on us. On a cloudy day, I once saw the silhouette of a lone construction worker pounding in a rivet with a sledge atop the highest beam. The sledge came down, struck and rose rhythmically. I had wished that my 14- year old niece were there for a lesson in physics. The delay in the sound of the "bang!" coincided precisely with the visual sight of the PEAK of the sledge's rise. It was as if his striking the sky's ceiling were the cause of the crashing sound.

 

 

Again, looking north from the south side of 57th Street, a few yards farther east. Now that's one sneaky fellow.

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