Everywhere In Manhattan I’ve Ever Lived

I WAS BORN on Staten Island, I grew up in Connecticut, and I moved back to New York for a summer job with Bob Stern during graduate school—but I didn’t go back to school for 4 years.

While I had that summer job I lived on Duane Street, when artists in SoHo were still new-ish and TriBeCa was full of egg and dairy buildings. I shared a loft that was 150 feet deep, with the only windows at each end. Mine looked out on the World Trade Center, and I came to see why some artists were fascinated with the bland building. It was so bland that it constantly changed in different light.

The second half of the summer I lived in the Moses-ian Penn South, built by the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union on boring super-blocks. Chelsea then (the time when “the Bronx [was] burning”) had few restaurants, supermarkets, or even bright street lights. When I left for work in the morning, there would frequently be half-dressed night-clubbers straggling up Ninth Avenue after a night at the private S&M club The Mineshaft, in a very different Meatpacking District.

After that, I lived in three apartments on the Upper East Side, always between Madison and Lexington Avenues. I found living in New York was like drinking coffee all day, and I wanted to live near Central Park, a great release. Also near two of the apartments were the Metropolitan Museum, the Frick, the Guggenheim, the Museum of the City of New York, Cooper-Hewitt, and a private but inexpensive library with the misleading name of “the New-York Society Library.”

In a few months, we’re moving to 99th Street and Riverside Drive, a much longer walk from Central Park. Riverside Park certainly has its virtues, but no park in New York equals Central Park. Riverside Drive, however, is one of New York’s best streets. We should have put it in Street Design, but the day Victor and I went to photograph it was a grey, unflattering day, and it never quite made it in.

That’s too bad. It is one of the streets that gives much-needed variety to the Manhattan grid, and it has long beautiful sections, with some beautiful buildings. I will have to write it up for this blog and the Street Design blog.

riversidedrivepostcardRiverside and the Upper West Side may not have the Metropolitan Museum and the 92nd Street Y, but our new street does have handsome Classical apartment buildings and great Classical monuments, like Grant’s Tomb, the Soldier’s and Sailor’s Monument and the Firemen’s Memorial. More on these and the street to come. And maybe I’ll come to see that Riverside Park is great too.



PS: I’ve also worked at 72nd and Broadway, 57th Street between 5th and 6th Avenues, 38th and Fifth, 16th Street between 5th Avenue and Union Square, Fulton and Nassau, and Bleecker at Broadway (not to mention Bedford, New York, Florence, Munich, and Paris).

About John Massengale

Architect, Urbanist, Author, Educator
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