Published On: Mon, Apr 15th, 2019

Touted as a Vision of the Future, Hudson Yards Emerges as an Odd Spectacle for Many

Known as the biggest private real estate development in U.S. history — to the tune of $25 billion — most New Yorkers either like the idea of Hudson Yards or they don’t. And they have billionaire Stephen Ross, Related Companies CEO to thank — or boo — for it.

The project, which began construction in 2015 and was already home to a couple of towers, opened its vertical shopping center in mid-March. Construction is far from over, with a skyscraper featuring an observation deck and an Equinox hotel still to come.

photo/ pexels user Burst

Although the city pitched the development as self-financing, taxpayers are saddled with over $2 billion in costs related to the project —and the city’s investment goes deep. It committed $3.5 billion to infrastructure costs, which included the 28 acres occupied by the development, as well as the surrounding blocks.

But just who does this investment benefit? The people who will gain new jobs from the businesses and offices that are planning to open in the new development? Probably not. Real estate firm JLL estimates that 90 percent of the tenants who will fill the lavish new spaces in the glass tower office buildings of Hudson Yards are shuttering their locations in Midtown to do so.

And only the wealthy will be able to claim a piece of the residential real estate Hudson Yards offers. Condo rents soar thousands above the average rental prices in Manhattan and those who want to buy will have to be able to afford seven figures.

To some, this project almost seems an abomination on the 28-acres of Manhattan real estate that could have been dedicated to a much more worthy project, such as a green living space.

Instead, Manhattan has now gained a city within a city in Hudson Yards — a homage to wealth and privilege, composed of a collection of architectural structures that reach toward the sky or squat closer to the ground — all gleaming with futuristic textures. Architectural structures that will beckon people to enter, plucking them from the pristine sidewalks — erasing the opportunity for the outdoor hustle and bustle, as well as the color and character that is so New York City.

The bow to the wealthy continues with the destination dining experiences headed by acclaimed chefs Thomas Keller, David Chang, Estiatorio Milos and like, offering lavish meals in sumptuously sleek and modern settings. And don’t forget the high-end retail shopping, including Cartier, Neiman Marcus and Louis Vuitton.

It’s true that there are small cafes and eateries available here and there, where one can grab a bite for a reasonable price. There are also shop spaces claimed by fast fashion retailers, such as H&M or athleisure upstarts like Lululemon. But the overall atmosphere of Hudson Yards is one that will largely serve those who have money to burn or attract gaping tourists who simply want to marvel at the sheer ostentatiousness that is Hudson Yards.

And speaking of spectacles, the entire project is centered around a $200 million “work of art” dubbed “The Vessel,” — which, from afar, appears to be a breastplate for a 15-story high Transformer. In reality, it’s a landmark designed for viewing the city from various angles and heights. With its 2,500 stairs and 80 landings, one could spend hours here.

Yet, “The Vessel” isn’t so out of place. The architecture in play at Hudson Yards is all a bit different. There are shimmering skyscrapers with glass scales, such as the one at 55 Hudson that breaks up the mirrorlike effect seen on other onsite buildings by featuring windows framed in iron. Or how about The Shed, the performing arts center that’s ensconced in a weatherproof skin that appears more like a quilted pillow with a retractable top than an actual venue.

In this Instagram-age, it’s no wonder Hudson Yards attracts a never-ending flow of tourists that come not for the restaurants or couture but for the experience of seeing this spectacle up close.

It’s architectural anomalies like this that make one long for a familiar event space in Midtown Manhattan, like the Penn Plaza Pavilion — or other places that host exhibitions or conferences in New York City. And those places are still there, along with other decades-old and centuries-old architecture that characterize New York — just not in this 28-acre span in Manhattan.

For those who love Hudson Yards, enjoy the ride. The project won’t be fully completed for a few years to come. For those who don’t, you may want to put your blinders on because the spectacle is here to stay.

Author: Ravi Kumarr Gupta

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