On our way to catch and write about “Urbanized,” the new Gary Hustwit documentary about urban design* we discovered, heading up from the A Train, that the subway corridor directly under the IFC Center theater hosting the film is lined with AIANY (“American Institute of Architects New York”) posters featuring different architectural projects. Some of those images are of Hall of Shame subsidy grabbers, and for sure at least the pictures of the of the net-public-loss Atlantic Yards Prokhorov/Ratner (“Barclays”) basketball arena are destined to be disgruntling.
(* Noticing New York’s review of Urbanized” is here: Saturday, November 5, 2011, Now Appearing In Gary Hustwit’s New Documentary “Urbanized”: Amanda Burden, New York’s High Line and Community Protest)
Prokhorov/Ratner (“Barclays”) Basketball Arena
CitiField Baseball Stadium
A second heavily subsidized expensive new sports venue, the Mets new CitiField baseball stadium was also amongst the images. Now seems like a good opportunity to recall something Noticing New York paid attention to in the summer of 2009: Prompted by the federal bailout (with Citibank among those getting substantial rescue funds) and the public’s hostility to the way that stadium had been financed with excessive public subsidies, suggestions were being made all over the place that CitiField should be renamed. (See: December 4, 2008, Citi Field by Any Other Name, by George Vecsey, December 5, 2008, Citi Field by Any Other Name, Part II, by Andrew Das, December 5, 2008, Answers From Brian Lehrer of WNYC, Part 3, by The New York Times, The Brian Lehrer Show, December 05, 2008, Bailout Stadium, Friday, December 05, 2008, and Mon Nov 24, 2008, So what should we, the American taxpayers, rename Citi Field? By 'Duk.)
The huge preponderance of suggestions (138 from Brian Lehrer listeners alone) for the renaming of the stadium reflect the public’s anger: “Debits Field,” “Field of Nightmares,” “Field of Schemes,” “Bailout Ballpark.” “The Field That Ruthless Built (reserved for the Yankees new stadium)” “Shea-m (Shame) Stadium,” our own “Shady Stadium” suggestion, or taking a cue from Bill Maher “SITTY Field with the H.”
Bank of America Tower
Also present amongst the images was the Bank of America Tower at One Bryant Park. Though that building, currently the second tallest in New York City, may have things to recommend it, Bank of America is in the headlines right now due to consumer outrage over its decision (now retracted) to charge its customers ludicrous fees to use their debit cards, and the size of the tower bearing the bank’s name (bringing increasing density to Bryant Park) was facilitated by assistance the government gave the developer in wielding the threat of abusive eminent domain.
(Above, from the promotional site for "Urbanized")
How did the AIANY gallery wind up being displayed in that underground Greenwich Village subway corridor? Does AIANY regularly display such posters at that location? Did AIANY envision that “Urbanized” would be showing above in the IFC Center and that they could catch the exact audience they’d like to reach? That seems a bit far fetched (even if we can find Hustwit on AIANY's calendar and actually, in NYC, October is “Archtober” in which AIANY has an annual New Work exhibition). More likely, the posters were there at the same location for the same reason that the film was. Greenwich Village is a place where you can find people interested in the arts, including architecture; maybe not business or corporate types but individuals susceptible to the seduction of well-crafted images. Maybe people you want to reach because they are an on-the-edge demographic you don't think you already have assuredly on board with your message. And if you want to reach out effectively to those people it's good to offer your wares around hub subway stations where flows of such people converge.
The subway images promoting the Prokhorov/Ratner arena and these other government assisted, government subsidized projects is also part of something else that has been a Noticing New York preoccupation recently: The pummeling we are getting everywhere we go reflecting a severe imbalance in the public dialogue delivered via paid speech. Big picture, the skewing of wealth in this country is working in conjunction with the increasing privatization of the traditional avenues and elements of public speech (including but not limited to public spaces and streets in which to speak). That means that we are forever being subjected to ubiquitous, insistent cues and reinforcements of (for example) the way Forest City Ratner wants things perceived. (See: Saturday, October 22, 2011, Occupy Wall Street and the Banks- Messages From Bonnie & Clyde, “They’ve Got Too Much Money”: Ownership of the Public Forum by the Wealthy?)
(More on the calculations with respect to the above is available here.)
And because the images on these subway corridor walls are of government-assisted, publicly- subsidized projects this is essentially a self-pummeling since the images are ultimately paid for by the public itself (and those who have been the victims of eminent domain), notwithstanding that it was skewed wealth that initially tilted those subsidies into the developers' pockets. Cyclically, if the message does get through, then no one amongst us is supposed to object the next time one of these developers persuades politicians to tilt more subsidies into their pockets.
Given that correction is desperately needed to the not-so-subliminal subterranean subjugation I thought I would do in this article what have been doing in others, provide examples of the images we should instead be seen on subway posters and on billboards blasting their message to the public around the city.
To see more in this vein go to:
• Monday, May 2, 2011, “Welcome To Brooklyn” Where the Game Is Frivolous Spending On Boondoggle Basketball Arenas- Getting the Image Right
• Wednesday, October 26, 2011, Longing For Correcting Images to Jay-Z’s Hip-Hop Hype and Ratner’s Atlantic Yards “Strategy of Distraction”
• Sunday, October 30, 2011, Unhappy Halloween: Recalling Last Year’s Tricky “Treats”: The Ghastly Ghosts Lurking In PR Messages From Atlantic Yards To Zucotti Park