# POLITICS /// Post-Hurricane New York: Two worlds collide at 34th Street

As many of you know, the Hurricane Sandy did quite some damage in the Caribbean islands and the US east coast. The worlds is looking at New York, but most of the damages occurred in New Jersey as far as the United States are concerned. However, since I live in New York myself, I thought that I would write something about the current stunning situation that is happening in South Manhattan before trying to articulate something a little bit more ambitious very soon.

There is currently a line traced by 34th street (in reality, the line is slightly more blurry than that) that separates the North and South of Manhattan and thus present a striking metaphor of the world we live in. In fact, the entire part of Manhattan south of this street does not have access to electricity, gas and water while the north part continues to live in opulence as symbolized by the blinding lights of Time Square (above 42nd street). In the South, lines of people wait to be able to buy some food to the rare food trucks and the NYU hospital had to be evacuated. In the North, the jewelry stores of Madison avenue, even closed shine of all lights. In the South, people have to walk or ride their bike to the North to be able to speak to their relatives on the phone or buy bottles of water that they will need to carry back to their homes. Of course, a large amount of them used to be the same opulent New Yorkers few days ago, but now they have to cope with a lack of any form of infrastructure.

This situation can probably be observed in almost every city that just suffered from a climatic catastrophe; however, in the case of Manhattan, the visual contrast offered by this clear limit of North and South (reinforced by the island’s narrowness) expresses in a very visual manner, the collisions of two extremes. Walking in the South at night provides a unique experience that photographs fails to capture (see below). Cars, trucks and bikes, deprived from traffic lights have to negotiate between each other in an interesting social experiment. At the very south of the island, only the skyscraper of Goldman Sachs, veritable micro-self-sustaining-nation shines arrogantly in this absolute darkness…

Of course, things are not as simple as Time Square shutting down and the whole South of Manhattan recovering its electricity and water…but just like this situation is a metaphor of the current world, it seems impossible to think that some substantial efforts of the North in that way would not grandly improve the condition of the South.

 All following photographs by Léopold Lambert (October 30th 2012):23rd Street


6th Avenue

7th Avenue


3 Comments on “# POLITICS /// Post-Hurricane New York: Two worlds collide at 34th Street

  1. Leopold,

    (This is a long ass response to your proposition here)

    I have now officially gravitated to your site for intellectual stimilus for architectural thinking and will take this post as my oppurtunity to hit you with my big question (again)

    Before I begin I want to clarify I am writing this on my blackberry replacement phone that arrived to my monmouth county, nj home 4 days after expected delivery from a FedEx delivery man ‘suffering’ the same 45 degree nights in the out of power homes in NJ. Frankly suffering cold nights is a joke in comparison to what happened elsewhere, for instance everything on nj highway route 35 especially the manaloking bridge, or amboy bay rail just washing away.

    In this time off from the grid I managed to read a bit (apparently a lost art for passing time as evidenced by my observations below). I did not read a lot since I have a family including 2 daughters under 4, but I did read a chapter of Giorgio Agamben where he used the word funambulist in the chapter ‘Genius’ and then. I dug into Guy Debord’s ‘the society of the spectacle’ at the early hours of daylight as the family was still sleeping (I figured why not given the conditions).

    As I drove around NJ trying to figure out how to heat my home, original part built in 1830 or so I started realizing how crazy people really are. 3 mile gas lines and 100s of people with little gas cans…fist fights at home depot over generators…lines of people for ice out of van at the local liqour store….school buses used to block intersections with no lights because some people think if the lights don’t work just floor it (rationally if you come to a 4 way intersection without lights and you are not on the highway you stop)…apparently as per my wife’s facebook reporting people killed over gas…I went to the liqour store to get wine and some ashamed lady was hesitant to ask about ice, like she was committing a sin asking a liqour store if they had ice. A few days later at a no light intersection I swear the same lady gunned it and cut me off and all I could think was ‘ where the fuck could you possibly be going in such a hurry, don’t you know the world just shut down you crazy conservative normally law abiding bitch?!?!” You get the idea… Seriously I am just chillin in my car moving up with the obvious lane merger ahead and she guns it…time really doesn’t exist now but she found that manuever important. Nutts!!

    Why doesn’t the north of 34th help the south – humans are animals – ultimatley. Giorgio Agamban’s chapter on Genius explains the division of what we intepret as natures of genius versus being human…in short Genius is impersonal, so being perfectly rational is most likely a genius inherant quality and therefore at best is only partially accepted as a way of being. My opinion, its much easier to live like an animal than live impersonally through simple categoraized imperitaves – Kant- with intent on being the best human being you can be..In short most people care little about society outside society’s ability to serve them.

    As I read Guy Debord’s book, only into chapter 2 now…the intro in the early 90’s proclaiming to be more relevant than ever, and frankly now even more relevant, I.e. Facebook…I started wondering…

    Is Guy or Leopold Lambert telling me to be an animal? The way I read it – capitalism is this Giorgio Agamben Genius, so damn perfect and impersonal surely we can’t live this way and be human? Capitism/spectacle takes everything and chops it up efficently for production into consumption etc… Guy is so on the money its psychic – he explains an economy where new types of jobs have to be created to keep the working class working – American President Campaign item #1….

    Obviosuly I haven’t made it to the end of the book yet, but Leopold-

    What method of existence do you propose is the correct method for an architect today?

    Like the crazy animal I am I spent my money buying beer and charging my phone in the car to post this. I used to deliver feed to the Amish, those guys probably are right as my employer at the time used to say….Guy Debords books published by Zone desribes me, a generation abiding by the spectacles law, my very nature is industrialist spectaclist…what other humanly important method of existence is there?

    Btw. Heating house with massive amount of hot water- radiant heat.

    In opposition to everything you often describe and in attempts at address the current world as you describe it, what method of being is correc?

  2. Pingback: # POLITICS /// Powerless Poor Neighborhoods in Post-Sandy New York City | The Funambulist