New York

Someone’s Got To Build It

by Don Friedman on February 15, 2018


I was fairly surprised to see this article saying that the number of construction workers in the city decreased in 2016. Construction in the city has been at high levels for years, which means construction workers have steady gigs, which traditionally has meant an increase in the number of people in the field.

The article correctly points out that construction is an immigrant-heavy occupation in the city, but obviously current political fights involving immigrants are not responsible for a decrease that took place over a year ago. Those fights may, of course, affect the demographics of construction this year and going forwards.

I wonder if the extended construction boom may have been too good. Most construction workers have good times and bad, created by working on a project and then its end. Continued good times may have encouraged and funded older workers to retire from a business that is physically demanding and full of architects and engineers who are never satisfied.

The long term problem is not that there will not be construction workers, because there will be. The problem is bottlenecking of hard-gained wisdom. Older workers are always more valuable because of the store of knowledge they have picked up over decades and dozens (sometimes hundreds) of projects; part of daily life on a construction site is that wisdom being taught to the younger workers. Unless the shrinkage in the workforce was among the least skilled and youngest workers, which I think is unlikely, we may all have to deal with relearning old lessons.

Not a Skyscraper

February 11, 2018

The 277-foot-high Brooklyn tower of the Brooklyn Bridge in 1877, with the temporary walkway slung over its top.

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What It Looks Like

February 5, 2018

Like a lot of other technologies, recycling looks less impressive than it actually is. Given the reduction in non-recycled garbage in the course of my life, the fact that New York is recycling all of its plastic, glass, and metal through a new purpose-built facility is a big deal. It just doesn’t really look like […]

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Rowhouses and The Problem of Categorization

January 29, 2018

A fascinating article by Neil Freeman at the Urban Omnibus on rowhouses: How Many Rowhouses Are There in New York City? The short answer is 217,000 if you agree with the author’s selection criteria. As Mr. Freeman points out, that’s more than a quarter of the residential buildings in the city but only about 12 percent […]

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Building Within The Context

January 25, 2018

Curbed was nice enough to map the tallest buildings in New York: existing, in construction, and planned. Given that the tallest spire is 1776 feet and the highest roof is 1550 feet, and the Burj Khalifa is 2722 feet high, we’re talking about the tallest in NYC and competitive within the USA, not internationally. It […]

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Wiping The Slate Clean

January 24, 2018

There’s a great article up on Curbed about a plan from the mid-1960s to replace most of the buildings and streets in Harlem with a series of 100-story circular-plan tower linked by diagonal boulevards: A ‘futuristic vision for Harlem’. This was a blue-sky plan that never got very far. It lacked backing from the government agencies […]

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More Vestiges

January 22, 2018

This is an interesting article by Sarah Bean Apmann for the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation: The Lasting Imprint of Stuyvesant Street. Ms. Apmann is focussed on one of Greenwich Village’s many peculiarities in street layout, but there’s more to discuss in a larger context. First, oddly, Stuyvesant Street does not quite run true east-west. That’s […]

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Even in a Storm…

January 13, 2018

…the ferries have to keep running.

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Review: LEGO New York

January 11, 2018

  That’s one of my birthday presents from late 2017: the LEGO Architecture New York set, mostly assembled. The hole on the far right of the base will get the new One World Trade Center shortly. Good points: I like the way they did the vertical stripes on the Empire State Building. From a distance […]

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It’s a Date

December 31, 2017

The current 726 Broadway was built in 1917. The Colonnade either moved or disappeared some time earlier, as in 1910 the site was a vacant lot surrounded by a fence covered with ads:

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