Saturday, November 17, 2007

Fort Tryon Tower

The on-again, off-again residential tower project for that cliffside corner of West 184th Street and Overlook Terrace, by the lower entrance to the 181st Street A station, appears to be on again. I walked by with coffee in hand today, and I probably should've taken a picture, but there's construction fencing up, heavy machinery on site, and permits and such posted all around. Fort Tryon Tower LLC is apparently rattling the neighborhood -- literally and figuratively -- from the sound of the gripes on local message boards. And along with it comes the obligatory Hudson Heights vs. Washington Heights debate. There's a rough timetable posted at the site that says it'll be done by mid 2009, which seems like a long time, but it isn't exactly your typical bit of land. (It's also been an interesting opportunity to read people's comments. Like this one, circa 3/18/06: 'Who's this "Jeremy" that wrote this bogus article? Next he'll tell us there actually are WMD, just hidden from everyone, delusional as W. Maybe he should write for The Onion?' Not exactly sure what was wrong about that item, but hey, that's the joy of free commenting.) The project's purported website looks like it's stalled in the early stages. Here's hoping that doesn't happen to the actual site.

UPDATE: Click through to Portfolio and Multifamily on Gertler & Wente Architects' website to see another pic of the tower, but little else.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

A Coney Island of the Mind

There's something truly otherworldly about this film, especially if you watch it without the canned sound; I love it. (I first saw it in the PBS American Experience film about Coney.)

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Transit nerd alert

I'm fascinated by the different ways we have of visually depicting the same underground system of subways. It's a great, concrete example of how subjective that modeling of the physical world can be at times. Being a writer, ostensibly of nonfiction, I see parallels with my work. What do you highlight? What do you downplay? All that said, check out the NYC subway redesign that Time Out New York features this week. It's called KICK, and while it may not include uptown Manhattan or much of the outerboroughs, it's a great taste of something new.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Time to Make `Phantom' Go Poof

We saw the LONGEST RUNNING MUSICAL IN BROADWAY HISTORY! last night. Yes, on Halloween. It was pretty underwhelming. If anything was scary, it was how threadbare the whole enterprise looks these days. I feel an ounce or two of pity for any tourists who come to New York for the first time and see this show as their first musical and base their memories of Broadway off of it. This production is tired and should probably just disappear (Spoiler Alert!) like the Phantom does at the end. The special effects are eyepopping only in the sense that they blind you too often. And as for the famous falling chandelier? An NYTimes reviewer put it well when he wrote, "Musicals have opened and closed in the time it takes that chandelier to lumber to the floor." The theater itself doesn't look like it's been repaired or repainted much since the '80s when the show first opened. I couldn't shake the feeling of going into one of those seedy tourist traps in Niagara Falls or places with a similarly pitiful kitsch factor, the kind of attractions that subsist mostly on reputation and the promise of visitors being able to say they went there and did that.

Now I should probably note here that J.C. Superstar and Joseph have always left me cold and I walked out after the first act of Cats when I saw it live. That isn't to say I don't like Andrew Lloyd Webber's music. The guy's a great popular composer who's written tunes that will probably live on for many, many years. And almost all of the tunes in Phantom of the Opera were familiar to me without ever having seen it. (I used to play them from a book of sheet music for the clarinet when I was younger.) It was nice to see them sung on stage, but they weren't all that moving and the sound was poor. ALW's music, in recording and alternate performances, has attained a life that extends far beyond the professional theaters where his musicals are actually in production at any one time. So with grand orchestrations playing in the back of my head, I was kind of disappointed at the thin arrangements that surround the onstage singing. Maybe the actors were having an off night. Maybe the show is in the midst of a lackluster cast. Who knows? A part of me wondered what it would've been like to see it back in '88 when it opened with Sarah Brightman and Michael Crawford. It must've had more of a spark back then. Now it's barely a glowing ember.