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Behold: the latest Borg to descend from on-high to the UFO landing strip that lower Manhattan has become in the decades since 9/11. The half-a-billion-dollar cube is called the Perelman Performing Arts Center. It houses three theaters that can be reconfigured every which way all together or separately via an elaborate set of elevators. Snazzy. It employs a huge staff of production directors, managers, and producers and scores of support personnel in tech, marketing, and the business side. It is one of those fantastic monuments a society builds for itself just prior to collapse. It will be broke and out of business in five years.

The animating idea behind the Perelman Center is that New York City’s near-term future will only be bigger, richer, more elaborate, and complex than ever before, and that this destiny requires spectacular gestures of tax-deductible tribute from the plutocrats who derived their fortunes from the financialization of the economy, which, incidentally, is exactly what has driven the nation, and its premiere city, into collapse. In other words, they have built a monument for the wrong future.

Notice that the district it is in — still called the World Trade Center — has been refilled with skyscrapers since the 2001 tragedy of the Twin Towers (and Building Seven). The rebuild at that scale was a poor decision, an act of societal hubris, especially now that so many office towers in Manhattan are operating at less than fifty percent occupancy, which is a dead-loss to their business model. But remember, the first law of history is that things happen because they seem like a good idea at the time… and then times change.

New York City is on the express track for contraction. It is in the process of getting poorer, smaller, more disorderly, and  less important than it used to be. History is a harsh mistress — spectacular civic gestures aside.

Below: entrance to the Perelman Center borg: a death fantasy:

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About James Howard Kunstler

View all posts by James Howard Kunstler
James Howard Kunstler is the author of many books including (non-fiction) The Geography of Nowhere, The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition, Home from Nowhere, The Long Emergency and the four-book series of World Made By Hand novels, set in a post economic crash American future. His most recent book is Living in the Long Emergency; Global Crisis, the Failure of the Futurists, and the Early Adapters Who Are Showing Us the Way Forward. Jim lives on a homestead in Washington County, New. York, where he tends his garden and communes with his chickens.

14 Responses to “October 2023”

  1. MX Vet 57 October 3, 2023 at 9:56 am #

    Yikes! That looks like the south end of a north bound mule.

    • BackRowHeckler October 4, 2023 at 6:38 pm #

      This looks like it would make a good place to house the tens of thousands of illegals currently arriving in this sanctuary city: spacious, new, and with central heat … better than tents in Central Park they are putting them in now.

      Where’s the heart, NYC?

  2. par4 October 3, 2023 at 10:11 am #

    The entrance made me think of the original movie “The Day the Earth Stood Still”.

    • RCAnderson October 10, 2023 at 8:58 pm #

      Ha ha, you’re right! Now, Gort comes down and everyone runs away. Meringa; Klaatu Barada Nicto!

  3. Zoltar October 3, 2023 at 10:16 am #

    A flat-topped, square box. Who would think of that?

  4. tom clark October 3, 2023 at 4:27 pm #

    History is a harsh mistress, indeed. If only the human race understood this.

    BTW, happy 75th this month, Jimbo. I wonder where this monstrosity will be in 75 years?

    • MrMangoOnMyShoulder October 20, 2023 at 10:24 pm #

      In the East River.

  5. KappaJoe October 3, 2023 at 5:13 pm #

    This is way less hideous than most things posted in this section. Aesthetically, I kind of like it in a performing arts sort of way, but the electricity bill looks to be quite needlessly substantial. The globo-warmo folks might have glue themselves to the pavement near the entrance as a protest performance – but is it art?

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  6. cedricward October 3, 2023 at 6:06 pm #

    Soon rats will be the main
    occupants of the city.

    They will consume the remains
    of the present occupants
    as they die in the streets
    or sitting in front of their TVs

  7. Vill17006606 October 4, 2023 at 9:34 pm #

    As a handicapped person looks like I’m not welcomed into the main entrance.
    They wouldn’t want to ruin the cold flashy reflective rendering.
    Not even an escalator!

  8. holdfastspike October 5, 2023 at 6:55 pm #

    “Last day, Capricorn Fifteens,year of the city 2274,…Carousel Begins”. Logan’s Run.

  9. Peter VE October 8, 2023 at 12:32 am #

    Brown University has just completed a very similar Performing Arts Center here in Providence, also featuring a performance space that can be configured in many ways. My personal prediction is that the first lawsuits regarding the failure of the machinery to reconfigure the space will come by 2028. If I could just find a sucker to take the other side of that bet….

  10. tucsonspur October 9, 2023 at 4:12 am #

    I guess its hip to be square, bold to be boxy, righteous to be rectangular or just plain comfortable to create a cube.

    At night, lit up, the building has a beckoning allure, but by day seems rather demure at best, like the Borg Cube at the worst.

    The severe, slicing angularity of the entryway, if it wasn’t for the stairs, could be the entrance to some fantastic, unnerving UFO.

    Will it eventually be used to house the illegal hordes now invading this once great metropolis? If only more and more of the arts and the performing arts could expel these primitive philistines from this scintillating but declining city, banish them for good to their primitive, uncreative jungles and intellectual wastelands.

    In response to Klaatu, professor Barnhardt says, ‘Well, that’s where we are. You say we’re on the brink of destruction, and you’re right. But it’s only on the brink that people find the will to change. Only at the precipice do we evolve. This is our moment. Don’t take it from us, we are close to an answer.’

    But we are not close to an answer. We won’t evolve, we will devolve. It has been our destiny to build and create and I say continue this positive imperative until the bitter end. The Die-Centennial is unavoidable. We are past the point of no return. 

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  11. Yirgach October 16, 2023 at 12:30 pm #

    Wow! I was under the impression that Timothy McVeigh had revitalized American architecture with his 1995 performance work on the Oklahoma Federal building.

    Now here we are almost 30 years later and the overhang plus ramped entrance invite a truck bomber to aim right up the keister.

    Guaranteed can’t miss.