Tag Archives: lower manhattan

Post Towers

Post Towers, built in 1926 as the New York Evening Post Building, is a residential conversion in New York’s Financial District. The 21-story Art Deco building was the Post’s second headquarters, after the landmark building on Vesey Street.

Post Towers’ architectural distinction is the colorful geometric terra cotta design in the crown. This was recently cleaned and restored, and is best seen from across West Street.

When built, this (and all buildings on the east side of West Street) was on the waterfront. Battery Park City is built on landfill from the excavation for the original World Trade Towers.

Post Towers Vital Statistics
Post Towers Recommended Reading

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New York by Gehry

This Frank Gehry-designed building fascinates me from every angle. Originally named Beekman Tower (it’s on the block bounded by Spruce, Gold, Nassau and Beekman Streets), it was rechristened New York By Gehry to capitalize on the starchitect‘s name.

At this writing, New York By Gehry is the tallest residential building in the Western Hemisphere – though One57, a new building on 57th Street, will soon overtake it in height. But New York is full of tall buildings: It’s the unique shape and stainless steel skin that make 8 Spruce Street (the official address) stand out. The rippled facade changes its appearance according to the angle of the sun (and by night, the moon).

New York By Gehry multitasks: Beneath the 900 luxury rental apartments there’s a five-story brick-faced public school, retail space, plus parking and offices for Beekman Downtown Hospital. The hospital, next door, owned the land under New York By Gehry.

Note that the apartments are rentals – not cooperative or condominium units. Also unusual, the building is part-owned by the city: the Department of Education owns the school.

New York By Gehry got very good reviews, generally. But you can’t please everyone. Time Out New York calls it one of the city’s ten ugliest buildings:

“Frank Gehry’s rippling, residential behemoth reminds us of one of those hulking movie spacecraft that lands by planting itself into the earth and deploying robot arachnoid pods that harvest humans for nefarious extraterrestrial purposes. It sort of makes you think about the Wall Streeter who can afford to live here harvesting taxpayer-bailout money to cover for their screwups. Sorry, that was a terrible analogy. It doesn’t change the fact that both Wall Street and this building are hard to like.”

Frank Gehry’s other major contribution to New York City architecture is the IAC Building (2007) in Chelsea – West 18th Street at 11th Avenue.

New York By Gehry Vital Statistics
  • Location: 8 Spruce Street (blockthrough to Beekman Street), between Nassau and Gold Streets
  • Year completed: 2011
  • Architect: Frank Gehry
  • Floors: 76
  • Style: Postmodern
New York By Gehry Suggested Reading

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Battery Park City

Battery Park City was built on landfill – the ground removed for the original World Trade Center excavations.

The architecture, naturally, is all new – post-1980. But the interesting part of Battery Park City is how its apartment and commercial buildings have been combined with green space: there really is a park in the middle of Battery Park City.

The Esplanade is the park’s backbone, running from Battery Place up to Chambers Street along the Hudson River. It is a link in the growing “Greenway” bike/pedestrian path along most of New York’s waterfront.

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The Battery / Battery Park

When you step out of the subway or off the ferry at the Battery, you step right into history – four centuries’ worth. This is where Nieuw Amsterdam was founded in 1625.

Much of the current Battery Park didn’t exist then – when built (1811), Castle Clinton was an islet several hundred feet off the tip of Manhattan; over the years, landfill extended the shoreline west, south and east.

Castle Clinton never fired a shot in anger: New York harbor fortifications were so formidable that the British in 1812 chose easier targets – like Washington, D.C. Architecturally, the fort is interesting because (like Castle Williams on Governors Island) it is round, not star-shaped (like Fort Jay, also on Governors Island, or Fort Wood – the base of the Statue of Liberty). Currently Castle Clinton has a small visitor center/book store and ticket sales for Statue of Liberty tours.

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Water Street Corridor

The Water Street Corridor – a roughly two-block wide swath from The Battery to Fulton Street – is relatively new construction. Most of the buildings were put up in the late ’60s or after.

That 40-some-odd-year span includes quite a variety of architecture, so you won’t be bored in this district. On the other hand, there are so many landmark buildings in plain sight, you’ll be constantly tempted to wander outside the district.

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South Street Seaport

While there are many preserved and rehabilitated buildings from the 1800s, the South Street Seaport neighborhood has been turned into a tourist mall, where shopping and fast food have drowned out the museum aspects of the district. Time will tell whether the museum’s new ownership – the Museum of the City of New York – will make a difference. But if you get away from waterfront mall, you will find interesting architecture from the days when sailing ships regularly docked along the East River in lower Manhattan.

NOTE: These photos were taken before Superstorm Sandy. Much of the waterfront was damaged, and the Pier 17 complex is now history.

The seafood restaurants could once boast the freshest fish in New York City – they were next door to the Fulton Fish Market. But with the fish market relocated to the Bronx, that distinction has been lost.

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Washington Square and Vicinity

Washington Square, the heart of Greenwich Village, is also the heart of New York University (NYU) – a sprawling campus that contributes more than its share of interesting architecture.

Besides being the southeast anchor of the Greenwich Village Historic District, the park is just two blocks west of the NoHo Historic District. Keep your camera handy!

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Manhattan Civic Center

Lower Manhattan is a complex area, architecturally: some blocks fall within four overlapping districts, and individual buildings on a block might be classed Tribeca or Civic Center based on their use, as well as their location or architectural style.

This is an area packed with landmarks: The first skyscraper (Woolworth Building), only pre-Revolutionary War building (St. Paul’s Chapel), African Burial Ground, City Hall, Tweed Courthouse…

These photos were taken with the HDR technique; more photos (and captions) to come.

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Financial District

The Financial District is where New York City’s architectural diversity started, and where it still flourishes thanks to preservation. From West Street east to Water Street, Cedar Street south to Battery Park, it seems that every other building is a past or future landmark. Nothing that I write here even comes close to doing the district justice.

Recycling seems to be a big part of the area’s preservation: Office buildings that might otherwise have been razed have been converted to condos, hotels and even schools. Notable examples include 21 West Street, Whitehall Building, Delmonico’s, Cipriani Club Residences, Bank of New York Building, Downtown by Philippe Starck, and Empire Apartments. I suppose that if you’re a top exec in the Financial District, it’s nice to be able to walk to work. But where do you shop for fresh food? I didn’t notice any supermarkets….

Photographers will find lots to snap – and lots of challenges. The “canyons” metaphor is so appropriate for the Wall Street area – tall buildings and very narrow streets: Some building facades are in almost perpetual shadow; some of the most interesting architectural details can only be seen from blocks away. Post-9/11 and Occupy Wall Street barricades limit your viewpoints. Last but not least, this is a huge tourist attraction, so resign yourself: A photo of the George Washington statue or the Bull at Bowling Green will include goofy strangers in sometimes weird poses.

NOTE: This gallery has 200 images.

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