The Projects and Caledonia

The Con

The Caledonia is a marvel of modern apartment house architecture. The interior is beige and gray, with slight Japanese overtones: shallow wading pools  with floating orchids, surrounded by bamboo floors. Uniformed Doormen, complete with hats and white gloves, open doors and direct you to the elevators. There are video screens to alert renters to deliveries held at the front desk. The residents are granted a membership to the onsite Equinox Gym. All the Upper East Side amenities imaginable are found in this luxury building. You should expect no less than lush, elegant, top line service if you’re paying $4,100 a month for a small studio apartment. And it’s located on 10th Avenue between 16th and 17th Streets.

Interestingly, the Caledonia is built to look like the buildings directly to the east, the monolithic Chelsea projects. The four block ‘Chelsea Ghetto’ was one of the most violent places in the United States from 1985-1995. During these years the most dangerous block in Manhattan was 19th Street between 9th and 10th Avenues. Now, the ‘Chelsea Ghetto’ is just like the rest of New York: safe for everyone.

In his new book Wrestling with Moses, Anthony Flint details community activist Jane Jacobs fight with the powerful Robert Moses to keep various neighborhoods, Greenwich Village, SoHo, Little Italy et al, intact. According to Wall Street Journal critic Vincent J. Cannato, Jacobs contends that “cities and city ­neighborhoods had an ­organic structure of their own that couldn’t be ­produced at the drafting table.”

I look at the Caledonia ten times a week as I walk to work. I wonder if this is what Jacobs or Moses, the man who built the Modern New York, had in mind.

For pictures of the Caledonia and the projects, click here

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