A Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On: Is the City’s Development Leading to Its Destruction?

June 4, 2014

I sat under a canopy of blue sky on the elevated platform of the Sutter Avenue stop in Brownsville, Brooklyn. I like elevated subway stations because they’re, you know, elevated as opposed to that subterranean scene that transpires underground. What I wasn’t liking so much that particular day, high above the busy avenue, was the way the platform slightly vibrated with each passing vehicle below. It was somewhat unsettling. And then the ground really started to shake, so much so that I looked to the distance to see if Godzilla bore down on Brooklyn, smashing cars and pounding through buildings, breathing fire and squawking that awful squawk. But it was only the 3 Train rattling in from East New York. The platform continued to shake more and more until the train, thankfully, came to a stop. I got on board, but I wasn’t all that happy about it.

And then I started to think about my dog.

Gowanus canal The Gowanus Canal. Photo by stevehuang7 cc

There’s a bridge near my home that crosses over the Gowanus Canal. There’s a dog run over that bridge where I often take my dog. She high-steps most of the way, excited about our destination, but she grounds her paws to a halt when we get to the bridge because she simply refuses to step on the thing. So, I carry her over, and as I carry her over, I understand her trepidation. With each passing car or truck, the bridge dramatically buckles and drops. It’s a little terrifying, especially considering that if the bridge actual did collapse, we’d be plunged into a toxic body of water home to more discarded weapons than living fish. The puppy might be on to something.

The whole city is starting to feel unsteady. When I ride my bike around, my forearms get achy from all the potholes and bumpy former-potholes (can’t they smooth the filler out before moving on?). In my car, the pothole predicament is even worse, especially on the dreaded BQE. What the hell were the folks at Brooklyn Industries thinking when they introduced that “BQE” t-shirt anyway? It’s not Highway 61 for god’s sake. It’s possibly the biggest piece of crap roadway in America, absolute murder on the suspension systems of every vehicle forced to travel it’s ugly trajectory. You don’t put it on a t-shirt; you put it and its horrific Koscuiszko Bridge on a major infrastructure support plan.

35xv FXFOWLE's new condo development at 35 West 15th Street in Chelsea
35xv, FXFOWLE’s new condo development at 35 West 15th Street in Chelsea.

But there’s the problem. New York is being developed at a mighty clip. The skyline is changing right in front of our eyes. New construction is the new normal. Empty lots are things of the past. And all this building requires cement mixers and giant trucks loaded with beams and bricks and other heavy materials. The city’s infrastructure is taking a beating as a result. The ground – under our feet or under our wheels — shakes at an alarming rate. It’s ironic that the city’s development is leading to its destruction, but there’s whole lot of building but not a lot of fixing going on.

I’m all for the benevolent policies of Mayor de Blasio. We do need to invest in our human capitol through education and enrichment, but we also need to nurture our precious city before it really does look like Godzilla came to town and my dog’s trepidation seemed prescient.

nyc dog

Above photo of Manhattan before/after via On the Set of NY. Lead photo of Manhattan credit: Justin in SD cc

Andrew Cotto, Andrew Cotto writerAndrew Cotto is the author of The Domino Effect and Outerborough Blues: A Brooklyn Mystery. He has written for numerous publications, including The New York Times, The Huffington Post, Men’s Journal, Salon.com, the Good Men Project, and Teachers & Writers magazine. He has an MFA in Creative Writing from The New School. He lives in Brooklyn, New York. Follow him on Twitter @andrewcotto


Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *