- See more at: http://www.bloggerhow.com/2012/07/implement-twitter-cards-blogger-blogspot.html/#sthash.DO2JBejM.dpuf

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Below the Roadway

In recent months, I have frequented very different places tucked underneath some of New York City's elevated roadways. It is a startling juxtaposition between the invisibly marginalized and the thoroughly gentrified.

Sometimes it amazes me that in one of the world's largest cities and the densest in North America, there are still places so isolated and hidden they seem like private places for the most dispossessed in society. Recently, I returned to one of these places for the first time in nearly a decade. It remained virtually unchanged.

It is an inherently interesting architectural space. The urge to say it should be used "better" comes easily, perhaps far too easily. It is a privileged gaze that prioritizes visual attributes over the wellbeing of the settlers who have made their encampment in this place.

There is nothing illegal about walking around in publicly-owned places and taking photographs of anything and everything there. The law affords no expectation of privacy. Nevertheless, intruding on the place where somebody is living feels like an invasion of privacy. By losing their homes, the homeless have lost the protections of their dignity that come with the control of private space. Laws are not always written to protect the vulnerable.

Had I found any people present, I would have approached them before taking photos. When I find nobody in an encampment that appears active, I take care to avoid prying into anything that might seem personal. I also hope to avoid drawing visitors who would come to gawk at the residents taking shelter there. Hopefully shedding some light on shadowy places can help to improve our understanding of how our residual spaces work.

In this first case, the infrastructure has created residual space below that has become inhabited by those who have been forced out of sight:

The other place is located below an elevated highway downtown. Adjacent to some of America's hottest real estate, the space has increasingly become a place of monied leisure. Parked buses have given way to a dog run and a trendy restaurant. Debate swirls about the future of the former fish market site; to be sure, nothing so smelly, or so blue-collar, is under consideration.

As the residual space in an area increasingly pressed by development, it has ultimately filled in with public amenities. The low-rent, support uses that previously sought shelter there have been displaced, again forced to new places where they will remain out of sight.

No comments:

Post a Comment