New York, the irresistible – L’Express

And if we started exploring the city by visiting an underestimated place, the Museum of the City of New York, rather than one of the obligatory passages – MoMa, Guggenheim, Times Square or Central Park? At the end of 5th Avenue, at the corner of 104th Street, this little museum is an ideal introduction. In the basement, screened every forty minutes, an excellent educational film summarizes, in English or in French, the vertiginous history of New York: four hundred years … in twenty-eight minutes!

Listen to Axel Gyldén’s podcast, which tells the story of New York of the year, always so hectic, changing and exciting, but much more … feminine (sur SoundCloud).

Travelers in a hurry will appreciate the time savings: you come out with the impression of knowing everything, or at least the essentials. Among other things, the film evokes the time when – something difficult to imagine today – New York, before the creation of New Amsterdam by the Dutch, was a wild land.

The virgin forest has since given way to a forest of skyscrapers. Which does not stop growing: in 2018 alone, 15 new buildings exceeding 150 meters in height have sprouted like mushrooms. They are added to the twenty comparable constructions inaugurated the two previous years, not to mention the “modest” towers of 50, 100 or 140 meters “only”, whose “small” size has no impact on the profile of the building. skyline. They number in the hundreds. And the race to heaven is not over. We are building everywhere. So much so that New York (8.6 million souls), which is cracking up everywhere, must develop towards its outskirts. It is because the city loves capital from all over the world as well as international architects and – as we will see in the following pages – all talents in all fields.

“Real estate is a bit Hollywood …”

Above all, New York is defined by its constructions. “Real estate for New York is a bit like Hollywood for Los Angeles: a subject that fascinates locals and that the press follows closely”, explains to L’Express the powerful businesswoman Dottie Herman, seated at Limani, a select restaurant at the foot of Rockefeller Center. In fact, the inauguration of skyscrapers is similar to the launching of films, with numerous advertisements, (architectural) reviews by specialized journalists and economic articles on the commercial performance of a particular building. “A bit like the box office results for the cinema”, notes this cheerful New Yorker, one of the recent successes of which is the 432 Park Avenue. Tallest residential tower for billionaires in Manhattan (426 meters), designed by Uruguayan architect Rafael Viñoly, it is easily recognized by its white facades and square bay windows, a few streets from Central Park.

One hell of a personality, this Dottie Herman, who hosts a radio show devoted to real estate. Self-taught, born in Brooklyn, she “decided to do something with her life the day her mother died in a car accident.” She was 10 years old. Considered one of the richest self-made women in the United States – “I am not in the 500 ranking of Forbes, she minimizes – and ranked as one of New York’s “100 Most Influential Women,” she runs one of the four largest US companies in the industry, Douglas Elliman Real Estate, which employs 7,000 agents.

In Hudson Yards, a staircase that goes nowhere

“Real estate reflects the mindset of the people of New York,” she continues. “An example? After September 11, no one wanted to live downtown near the former twin towers. Now, it is one of the places in full boom. “Symbol of the revival of the district: the famous Oculus, of the Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, which hosts a station (connected to Jersey City) and a shopping center. .

On the western flank of Midtown, along the High Line’s elevated pedestrian promenade – the former overhead rail line – Hudson Yards is the other changing area. For the past few weeks, we have been admiring a unique and fascinating architectural gesture here: a staircase that goes nowhere, the “Vessel”, being completed. An avant-garde work by the English architect Thomas Heatherwick, this metal structure of 150 million dollars (130 million euros) has no other raison d’être than the Eiffel Tower had in the past: to demonstrate the audacity of a city.

In the Hudson Yards neighborhood, the futuristic

In the Hudson Yards neighborhood, the futuristic “staircase that leads nowhere” is nearing completion.

Natan Dvir / Polaris Images

In other sectors too, New York attracts the best, whether in architecture, music, of medicine, like the veterinarians of the Animal Medical Center, or gastronomy. Politics is not to be outdone. Following a strong tradition, activism is returning to service. Galvanized by their hostility to New Yorker Donald Trump, feminists are shaking things up as the mid-year elections approach.mandate, November 6.

Irresistible magnet, New York also attracts start-up creators, because, no, in this area, California’s Silicon Valley does not have a monopoly. An example: launched last April, the app is set to revolutionize the profession of real estate agent. Thanks to its super powerful algorithm, it is now possible to obtain from 20 to 30 precise information on a given address. How? ‘Or’ What ? Simply by entering an exact address on your smartphone.

In permanent reinvention

The artificial intelligence then provides various information, such as: the local schools are poor, bedbugs are a recurring problem in the neighborhood, four new buildings will be built by 2020 (one of which may block your view), intersections near schools are dangerous, planes cause noise pollution, snowdrifts are generally poorly cleared in winter, or the neighborhood is gay friendly, or welcoming for cyclists, or for dogs. All accompanied, each time, by short articles, written (without mistakes) by machines. Astonishing. “In fact, our algorithm knows more than real estate agents,” says president Steven Kalifowitz, which currently employs 100 people and arguably many more tomorrow.

Not far from there, in the same district, downtown, fashionista Christene Barberich, also presides over the destinies of a success story, that of the media Refinery29. When asked what binds her to New York, she reflects: “Sometimes I wanted to leave ‘the City’ because it is disproportionate, expensive, noisy, not always very pretty, and it has many faults. But in the end I stayed. The reason: New York is fascinating, ever changing, cutting edge, constantly reinventing. “A pause, then:” I don’t mean New York is the center of the universe … “But almost And who can say the opposite?

ZOOM: Four centuries of history

“The advantage of American intellectuals is that their demonstrations include nine concrete examples and a general idea while, among the French, it is the opposite”, wrote one day the late editor of L’Express Jean -François Revel. This is the whole point of The City of Dreams, a 730-page historian’s tale (plus 130 notes and indexes), devoted to the city-world which has been loving immigrants for four centuries. Just published.

The City of Dreams. New York, a 400-year history,par Tyler Anbinder. Perrin. 860 p., 30 €.

Axel Gyldén



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