National Geographic : 2015 Dec
New New York 93 Brooklyn neighborhood and had a fortune left over. In my heart of hearts, though, I would love to live there, hoping each evening for the pres- ence of ghosts. It’s possible, of course, that in the distant fu- ture, these new supertall buildings will attain a similar emotional aura with the passage of time. Possible, but I doubt it. Their faces are mostly blank, their facades full of resistance to human folly, gossip, imperfection, or need. The real estate business has always been riddled with issues of class. But this new architecture seems imprisoned by big money. Reports indicate that the inhabitants are usually in transit. It’s doubt- ful that they belong to parent-teacher groups or block associations, or know the owners of their corner deli. I could be wrong. They might be wonderfully human, full of laughter and good heart. Yes, some of them must even fall in love with the wrong people. But they seem unlikely to produce a Henry James, Edith Wharton, or Louis Auchincloss, who knew how to turn the privileged life into a kind of prose poetry. They live in vertical fortresses, cut off from the rest of us. They surely must get lonely. And this suggests another objection to the monumental changes under way: The failure to recognize the role of neighborhood. In certain ways every New York neighbor- hood is a hamlet. All have class identities, and some have ethnic realities. All have a unique character, a unique street life of their own. Washington Heights, once largely Irish, is now heavily Dominican. East Harlem was Puerto Rican when I was young. Today it’s largely Mex- ican. Brooklyn’s Sunset Park also was Irish and is now heavily Mexican and Chinese. The Low- er East Side was mainly working-class Jewish.