A block from my apartment, on a still largely mom-and-pop, relatively low-slung stretch of Broadway, two spanking new apartment towers rose just as the good times were ending for New York. As I pass the tower on the west side of Broadway each morning, one of its massive ground-floor windows displays the same eternal message in white letters against a bright red background: "Locate yourself at the center of the fastest expanding portion of the affluent Upper West Side."
Successive windows assure any potential renter that this retail space (10,586 square feet - 980 square meters - available! 100 feet of frontage! 30ft ceilings! Multiple configurations possible!) is conveniently located only "steps from the 96th Street subway station, servicing 11 million riders annually."
Here's the catch, though: That building was completed as 2007 ended and yet, were you to peer through a window into the gloom beyond, you would make out only a cavernous space of concrete, pillars, and pipes. All those "square feet" and not the slightest evidence that any business is moving in any time soon. Across Broadway, the same thing is true of the other tower.
That once hopeful paean to an "expanding" and "affluent" neighborhood now seems like a notice from a lost era. Those signs, already oddly forlorn only months after our world began its full-scale economic meltdown, now seem like messages in a bottle floating in from BC: Before the Collapse.
And it's not just new buildings having problems either, judging by the increasing number of metal grills and shutters over storefronts in mid-day, all that brown butcher paper covering the insides of windows, or those omnipresent "for rent" and "for lease" signs hawking "retail space" with the names, phone numbers, and websites of real estate agents
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