toward a more beautiful New York

sign race

This was the scene on 23rd Street a few nights ago. Boston Market was installing a long canopy stretching to the curb, presumably to compete for attention with its fast food and fast life neighbors. This miniature Las Vegas is immediately adjacent to our own building, whose storefronts are currently being restored to their restrained, mid-1930's art deco appearance (including curved glass and awnings that roll out of pockets above display windows). A cab ride home in the rain the other night revealed that this electrified visual pollution is taking over much of the city.

Footnote: When I moved into Chelsea Gardens the buildings which stood where most of these signs are now composed a small row of once-dignified brownstones, the last on our side of the block. By the 1980's it was clear that they were the victims of malign neglect by absentee owners. Their tenants were eventually removed by one means or another (except for the pigeons), and the buildings slowly disintegrated, their rotting carcasses meanwhile presenting a continuous assault to the aesthetics, health and safety of the neighborhood. Years passed before they were torn down altogether, and by that time only the birds seemed to care that they were gone. The two-story replacements seen in the picture are built of Styrofoam, bent aluminum strips and wallboard. Their property titles are very likely in the hands of the same people who once owned the brownstones.