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Talking Points

Edited by Jessica Lustig

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A Frank Answer
Will New York ever get one of those pleasantly morphy Frank Gehry buildings? Since the star architect bailed on the New York Times headquarters job, two possibilities remain: the pier-top Guggenheim near Wall Street -- a spot that may become home to a cruise-ship hotel instead -- and Harry Macklowe's proposed apartment tower at Second Avenue and 53rd Street. In town recently to receive a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Cooper-Hewitt, Gehry confirmed that he'd told the scrappy developer, who isn't known for his aesthetic cred, how much it would cost -- and that he hasn't heard back since. "Go ask Harry what happened," Gehry grumbled.

Poorhampton
East Hampton, where even tract homes sell to Manhattan strivers for $500,000, recently decided to condemn some land to build affordable housing for the "year-round population." That is, the unwashed middle class. The only problem: When the town tried to do that between 1986 and 1990, with a project called Whalebone Woods, so many of the buyers added swimming pools, extra rooms, and landscaping that the affordable housing ceased to be affordable. "We sold them for $90,000 each, and the minute the people walk in, it's worth $180,000," says the town's assistant housing director, Tom Ruhle. No doubt Ira Rennert is glad he bought before the boom.

Green vs. Green?
Is it time for a carpetbagger again already? Early reports on next year's mayoral campaign show an astonishing lack of support for . . . anyone. A Quinnipiac poll last week put front-runner Mark Green at only 25 percent, exactly the same as the undecided vote. Michael Bloomberg, the top Republican, is barely on the radar. Could an outsider jump in, declare the other candidates indistinguishable, wreak a little havoc? "Well, I don't think Mr. Nader lives in New York," offers his assistant campaign manager, Monica Wilson, delicately. Yeah, but neither did Hillary. "Ummm. Well. Hmmm," she says. "I, uh, don't think that's what he has in mind."

Culture Vultures
Those 24 nearly blank billboards scattered about the city, each showing a bleak photo of a flying bird, are merely the latest attempt by the public-art association Creative Time to foist some culture on us. The enigmatic ads are by the late Cuban-born artist Felix González-Torres, who specified that the photos be displayed only on billboards in multiples of six. According to Creative Time's Wendy Dembo, "The ability to experience an image in an outdoor location, without any explanation, accessible to all, creates a territory rich with content. . . . Is my interpretation of a black-and-white photograph of a bird in the sky with no text surrounded by a brightly colored world full of media -- a fleeting moment stopped in time -- the same as someone else's?" Sounds just like the rationale behind that Anna Nicole Smith ad in Times Square.

Every Which Way But Fabulous
Never mind Charlie's Angels: The seventies sitcom that's inspiring next year's ready-to-wear is B.J. and the Bear. Both the November Marie Claire and the December Elle feature fashion spreads with simian models alongside their leggy evolutionary successors.


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