Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Sign of the times

Just a short rant this time.  If you live near the Brooklyn waterfront like I do you know what a treasure the New York skyline is.  Most cities are known by a single building or monument – think Eiffel Tower, Big Ben, even the Hollywood sign in L.A.  New York, too big for any one thing to ever represent, is symbolized by the city itself, the cheek by jowl mishmosh of its architecture as much as its citizenry, its denizenry, its ever changing expanding center.  Now that most of us have made the leap to Brooklyn we can gaze upon that emblem of our metropolis just as we dive into it everyday for work play love and life.


Picture then the subtle heartbreak, the pebble in the shoe one experiences standing on the Brooklyn Heights Promenade.  If you’ve never been there just think back to Woody Allen’s Manhattan. No other filmmaker has laid out his love affair for the city as knowingly as Woody.  No surprise he chose the location - the view from the Promenade, one of Brooklyn’s closest points to Manhattan, adjacent to the elegant and historic Brooklyn Bridge, is one of the best for skyline gazing anywhere on earth.  It reminds us why New York is the center of the world. (Every Teutonic tourist with a Michelin guide and a half dozen megapixels apparently agrees). What then is up with the Verizon sign?


At magic hour, or the “gloaming” as it is sometimes called, the perfect moment before the sun sets, when light seems not to lay on things but to radiate out from them softly, the cluster of building in lower Manhattan swell with an other-worldly blue glow.  The magnificent bridge that soars out from Brooklyn to touch Manhattan seems to float on air, the East River merging with sky before both are obliterated and all the lights come on, E.B. White’s “diamonds on black velvet.” How’s that for some Hollywood magic?  At this hour even New Jersey doesn’t look half bad.  Then look a bit to your right and see the fifty foot high illuminated Verizon logo on the blank facade of the windowless Verizon building.  To cop the Los Angeles parlance, “Grody to the max!”


For the record there is no other logo anywhere else on the skyline like this.  It seems like Verizon has gotten exclusive branding rights to New York….Huh? 


There was a day almost seven years ago when a stroll on the Promenade provided the best vantage point for one of the darkest events in this country’s history, an orchestra seat for a giant tragedy.   Today one is still not without that peculiar quiet sense of loss when rstanding in Brooklyn egarding the wounded skyline, trying in that absence to feel whole again.   Nevertheless, it is with stoic pride that many of us go there, with tender optimism too and no small dose of a sense of sacredness. I am sure for many foreign visitors here the motivation is the same.  What then, I ask again, is up with the Verizon sign?


The streets of New York city are rife with advertising.  The industry itself is headquartered here.  How many different pitches are we subjected to in a single day? 

We can live with one less.  We can value the simple pleasure of looking at this country’s greatest city (the globe’s even?) – the messy, imperfect, loudmouthed jumble that represents us to the world more than our nation’s capital.  Some things are sacred, or at the very least special.  We can look upon bits of our world that way, in fact we should make a habit of doing so, but we can do it with out a brief message from our sponsor.

1 comment:

Michael said...

I would love to see a petition to present to Verizon and to the city regarding the removal of the Verizon sign.

It is a horrible intrusion. So tremendously ugly. I'd sign it.