Drooling on the Pillow

Monday, August 01, 2005

Jersey City: Mysterious, Alluring 

The New York Sun's architecture columnist, James Gardner, writes today (The Mysterious Metropolis Across The Hudson - most of the article is behind a subscriber wall) that while, for the first time, one may speak of a Jersey City skyline, the developed areas along the river struck him as a vertical Potemkin village, lacking the complexity, intensity and density of a true urban landscape.
One thing that is missing from this equation, however,
is humans. On a recent visit around lunch hour, I saw
none of the frantic hordes of hungry office workers
clamoring for a hot dog or a slice of pizza. There were
some people about, but not many, and they did not seem
in any particular hurry.
This is all true, as far as it goes, and his calm and well-mannered criticism is mild compared to most of the commentary I've read, heard and made on this side of the Hudson.

The contrast between the vibrant, diverse, raucus, but mostly harmonious life on the streets of Chill Town and the sterility of the commercially and residentially successful developments along Washington Boulevard is pretty dramatic. But then, this area may be on this side of the river, but it's really a part of the World Financial Center, isn't it?

The question is, will the two Jersey Cities ever integrate? Will the real Jersey City ever acquire a more than marginal retail presence and will the Golden Mile or Platinum Kilometer or whatever they call it ever start to hum on the street level?

Interestingly, he thinks the Jersey City skyline, as well as it's city life, suffers in comparison to New York because it is the result of more or less centralized planning rather than the more disorganized over-reaching of competing developers.

My guess is the answer depends on the nature and success of the massive residential development taking place south of Grand Street and what happens to the areas west and north of Washington Boulevard, particularly north of the tunnel. Getting from the downtown area north of Newark Avenue to the river isn't easy as Newport Mall blocks most of it off. Unless some very clever thinking is being done to improve east/west access in the future, they might as well hack it off, float it across the river and save everyone the ferry toll.
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