Because a room with a view has always been preferable to one without, the price of air in New York City is becoming more expensive. Yes, the air is for sale, but not on sale.
Robin Finn, The New York Times, “The Great Air Race”
This story is about real estate developers that build glass, steel and soulless monstrosities. They’re purchasing air rights. These rights, from surrounding low-rise properties, can cost the developers millions of dollars. The sellers can make some serious change on these very lucrative deals. The downside for the sellers, as well as surrounding tenants, is living in the gaping shadow of a mile high blight. Owning the area’s air rights basically guarantees that rich swells that buy into these flashy towers will have rooms with views and sun. So, yes, there is now an expensive price tag on the Big Apple’s air.
Even if I could somehow afford to live in a Blade Runner-style high rise, where I’d have to slather my chalky white pelt with SPF 110 rated sunscreen just to take a gander out the window at New Jersey, I’d take a pass. I like small. I like low. I’m not into blinding sunlight, either. This is not to imply that I’d welcome living in a dark and dreary ground floor cell that faces a brick wall. I do appreciate many of life’s modern amenities — running water, a working stove, a bed the size of Texas.
Overall, I prefer a dwelling with character. I’m a fan of original moldings, high ceilings, exposed brick, carved staircase railings, pocket doors, bay windows, and if there’s a gargoyle or some museum-worthy sculpture jutting out of the stone façade, better yet. Buildings built in the 19th and early 20th centuries are much more easier on my eye than any modern air-owning behemoth influenced by Jenga.
Classic architecture strikes me as being built to last. For example, if the ceiling caved in on me while I was visiting the Apthorp, Ansonia or Dakota, three coveted Upper West Side addresses, I imagine that I’d get killed instantly.
This is not exactly a comforting thought, but at least my suffering would end rapidly.
In contrast, there is the ultra modern (circa 1975) Calhoun School, an architectural eyesore a few blocks north of where I live. On the plus side, it is a low rise. On the negative, this building was intentionally designed to resemble a TV set.
If the Calhoun School’s ceiling were to fall on me, it does not strike me as a building made from the dense bedrock used in the more stately homes of my neighborhood. Therefore, it is possible that if I was smacked with a chunk of the Calhoun School, I might survive that mishap, albeit paralyzed from the tongue down and left to suffer for decades. Another Calhoun School factoid: in 2004, four additional floors were added. It now looks to me like an obsolete Seventies era TV with a pile of crap on top.
Even though a room with some view is nice, pictured below is the current view outside the window of my sanctum sanctorum.
I cannot claim when I invite a guest to my lair, I’m inclined to suggest in a seductive tone:
Me: Hey babe, check out the pigeon sleeping on the air conditioner outside my window.
I’m more inclined to entertain my guests in infinitely more creative ways rather than relying on purchasing a view in the stratosphere that would easily cost my life savings, if a collection of commemorative quarters could serve as a down payment. Who needs a view when my guest and I can take turns reciting poetry, painting (my bathroom for starters), or I could serenade her with a rendition of Ho Hey on spoons slapped against my naked thigh?
I cannot deny that nighttime views of the bright lights in this big city can be romantic. But, if the owner/occupier of that view is a shallow bore, it would be comparable to watching a TV test pattern or the Calhoun School’s cafeteria wallpaper. Therefore, if I were in the company of someone enticing, I’d feel privileged to snuggle in a brownstone’s fifth floor attic apartment facing a bustling avenue. In that case, I would hardly mind if every molecule of the air outside were owned by the Fat Cats of Gotham City.