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Comments: Week of April 18, 2011


1. Students of the history of this metropolis—and what New Yorker isn’t one?—felt immediately at home upon opening April 11’s special issue about “The Apartment.” “This one’s a keeper!” declared Blog NYCOpenHouse. “The photos and writing are top-notch, which proves that when this magazine gets it right it really gets it right! That’s Diane Von Furstenberg (circa 1976) on the ­cover. Total bliss!” Readers and ­ commenters gave the issue a similarly high assessment. “I have been a New York subscriber for many years now and although I enjoy the magazine quite a bit, it has yet to wow me in any meaningful way until the ‘Apartment’ issue,” wrote in one. “What an ingenious approach, to take a physical space such as an apartment and weave a wonderful conceptual and literary issue around it.” Justin ­Davidson’s essay Sardine Life was praised by the blog the Browser, among others, as “fascinating” for its insights into “the social and economic history of apartment buildings.” Curbed singled out the photo-essay “Attention Seekers,” which profiled “extreme living spaces”: “the grandest, the gaudiest and so on are all given their due.”

2. Voyeurism of the extreme aside, talking about the places where we live can quickly turn into a discussion of our relative places in society. “My Homeless ­Houseguest,” an essay by Anne Roiphe in the issue, recalled when her teenage children brought home a friend they’d met in Central Park to stay in their apartment off Riverside Drive while the author was out of town, and how surprised she was that she was so unhappy they’d done so. It proved controversial among commenters. “You live in a giant ‘mansion’ with probably multiple spare bedrooms and you can’t be bothered to let in one of your daughters’ friends when there is a thunder­storm outside! Simply disgusting. It’s people like you that ruin New York. Grow a heart,” scolded one. But that was countered by another who “read between the lines” to understand Roiphe’s more subtle point. “This article is about conflicting choices and regret … She was guilt-ridden in a way she could not adequately express at the time, but that she totally expressed in this essay.”

3. S. Jhoanna Robledo’s survey of twenty precocious neighborhoods (“Today’s Gowanus Is Tomorrow’s Tribeca”) was especially popular among property owners in the anointed areas. The blog for the condominium Griffin Court trumpeted how “Griffin Court is dead center in an area they’re cheekily calling ‘Hell’s Rooftop.’ We couldn’t agree more that this neighborhood is one to keep on the radar.” The blog Harlem Condo Life plugged the findings that fell within its zone of property-value self-interest as well: “A big congrats to Marcus Garvey Park. This area located in Central Harlem was ranked fourth out of twenty. Hamilton Heights, located in West Harlem, finishes out the list, placing twentieth. Another notable mention is Manhattan Valley, which is right below Harlem on the West Side. They were ranked second out of twenty.” Several Manhattan Valley–based commenters wrote in to further talk it up. “Manhattan Valley is the best-kept secret in Manhattan,” wrote one. “It’s just far enough from midtown where I work to feel ‘residentially away.’ It’s close to all my faves culturally: Lincoln Plaza Cinema with its art and foreign films, Lincoln Center, and Symphony Space. But the best is the architecture, magnificent nineteenth-century townhomes, and the wide tree-lined boulevards, reminiscent of Parisian thoroughfares.” Another described it as a “wonderfully economically and socially diverse place with a variety of housing options, great transportation, and great parks. I could do without some of the newer retail, but it’s not all bad.” Any media sanctification of a “next neighborhood” is fraught with demographic consequences, however, and there were commenters willing to make that point—strenuously. “This article is a ­classist and racist glorification of ­gentrification,” wrote one. “Did it ever occur to you that the people who have lived in these neighborhoods for decades are being driven from their homes by developers who only see apartments as commodities and not homes?” Another wanted to remind us that “a lot of these neighborhoods were thriving cultural centers before the ­infiltration of imperialist monocultural values that determine the definition of a ­‘thriving neighborhood.’ A lot of people lived in these, as you call them, ‘non-­neighborhoods’ before some hipsters stepped in and decided that they wanted to pay $100 less in rent.” On the other hand, many people spend their days longing for the imperialist monoculture and are upset at being left out. “Why isn’t anyone talking about Rockaway Park, Queens?” wrote one dreamy gentrifier. “It’s closer than the Hamptons to the city. It has great beachfront property and a commercial strip on 116th Street prime for development! It’s screaming for hipness! Somebody please open a great café, bar, and pizza joint, and they will come.”

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