"An authentically quaint vision of a hopeful future"

ESP from library

Beam me up.

Architect Michael Molinelli, in an appreciation of the Empire State Plaza in the current issue of Hudson Valley Mag:

The plaza appeals to me because it is a futuristic vision built with great optimism. In many ways, it could have been a set on the original Star Trek. ...
It looks dated now because we currently like to affect older historical styles. Give ESP another 40 years and it will no longer be old, but venerable and -- perhaps -- an authentically quaint vision of a hopeful future.

Earlier on AOA:
+ Cracking open the origins of The Egg
+ Ben Folds' short tour of the ESP
+ The Egg is famously strange
+ Talking with They Might Be Giants' John Flansburgh about The Egg

Comments

Except that it's cut off from the small portion of walkable neighborhood that wasn't torn down to make room for Rockefeller's giant erection to himself. Talk with some of your older neighbors and maybe even parents, the buildings/neighborhood/houses that they took out for this would make you cry. Imagine if Center Square (the cool part, you know the brownstowns and cobble streets, not the nutjobs and muggers) stretched from where it is now all the way downtown.

I know it created a ton of jobs but really, it just never seems to fit in no matter how architecturally stunning(?) it may be.

Uh, no.

The ESP was Rockefeller's vision of a modern Forum of Rome. The only problem is that they scaled it up and it doesn't really function as intended. Standing on the plaza expresses how the planners of the 1960's held the position of the individual vs. government.

40 years from now, people will be trying to figure out how to secure the marble slabs that will no doubt be falling by that time, or maybe how to raze and redo portions of it.

"Imagine if Center Square (the cool part, you know the brownstowns and cobble streets, not the nutjobs and muggers) stretched from where it is now all the way downtown." -Save Pine Hills

This is ridiculous. You have no idea how the area of the city in question would have developed if the Plaza was not built. I don't claim to know anything about the history of the city, but a simple search on Wikipedia shows 'About 9,000 people were displaced, mostly from working-class and poorer sections of older Albany'. If the area was in fact low-income, how do you know the "nutjobs and muggers" wouldn't be occupying that space? And Albany would be missing it's most recognizable features, and the thing that defines our city skyline (and the city itself to most out-of-towners).

The only place I hear negative things about the Plaza are here, in the comments. Everyone I know who lives in Albany actually appreciates it, including myself.

Kennedy's "O Albany!' has a substantial portion dedicated to the plaza, how it was built, and what we lost in the process.

I agree with Save Pine Hills that a huge chunk of Albany's historical character was erased in one fell swoop. But Paul is right; we don't know that the neighborhood would have been an idyll. Honestly, there are plenty of areas for the Center Square "character" to expand to if the socioeconomic reasons are there; the fact that it doesn't tends to make me agree, the area where the plaza now stands would just as likely have wound up more closely resembling its neighbor to the south.

> And Albany would be missing it's most recognizable features,
> and the thing that defines our city skyline

And that's important because?

> and the city itself to most out-of-towners

Exactly. And I don't mean it as a good thing. I remember the out of towner photographer who was mentioned on AOA a few weeks ago for complaining about Albany being completely dead. Why? Because the only thing he managed to bump into during his short trip was downtown and the ESP neighborhood. The way the ESP cuts the town is sad, that's what it is. This is a big useless space after 6pm, especially now that the Concerts at the Plaza series have been canceled, yet again. Sure, you can picnic there, but marble gets old.

"This is a big useless space after 6pm, especially now that the Concerts at the Plaza series have been canceled, yet again."

But this is a (very valid) complaint about use, not about the plaza's existence period. The plaza could be, and has been, a much more valuable space to Albany if it were taken advantage of. Half of the, and I use this word loosely, beauty of the plaza is the underground parking; it doesn't need yet another parking lot or hordes of suburbanites packing the narrow streets looking for somewhere to leave their cars. q.v. any Washington Park event, Alive at Five, etc.

Then again, who am I to say; if I knew how to run city events, I would actually be doing that, I guess.

Molinelli did get at least one part right; when I see those towers, I'm always looking over my shoulder for the Borg.

@-S: "especially now that the Concerts at the Plaza series have been canceled, yet again."

Dude, you are so wrong. I mean me. I stand corrected, there will be free summer concerts at the ESP this year, wohoo. Get ready for crepes.

From what I understand (from first hand accounts- I was not born yet), the neighborhood before the plaza was not a good one. Even the area of Center Square was not good. Yes, the brownstones were historic, but the neighborhood itself was run down and full of crime, very much the same way Arbor Hill is now. It was actually the division of the neighborhood by the plaza that created a neighborhood that young professionals wanted to move into. Lark Street became trendy. Center Square became a neighborhood of window boxes and gardens. While the loss of those historic buildings is undeniably tragic, I do believe that the plaza is what made the Center Square/Lark Street neighborhood as nice as it is today.

All good points. I disagree though that the bad neighborhood of those days would still be bad 50 years later.

Anyway, when I saw this post I could never figure out what was worse for Albany: the ESP or 787 being built in it's current location. I'll have to lean towards 787.

@Save Pine Hills - I would agree with you that 787's placement was a worse development than the Plaza - Cutting off access to the river was definitely a dumb move... but as we know, Albany is not alone in that kind of dumb move.

Like Summer suggested, I have my doubts that Center Square would have developed the way it did. If the Plaza wasn't there, I don't see what would have stimulated redevelopment or raised land values in that neighborhood. Just the fact that the buildings are historic does not mean they are worth anything (monetarily). Look at the burnt-out, boarded up, abandoned historic buildings of Detroit, Buffalo, etc.

The Plaza could be so much better as a 'city center' if it was utilized - Sebastien is right, it's often empty down there... because everything has been canceled. If the concert series comes back, that would be a great start. I'd love to see a (preferably free) classical series at the Plaza. Maybe hold the farmers market at a time of the day/week when working residents could actually attend it. Hold more events outside under tents instead of in the convention center underground. The increased foot traffic from those could encourage food vendors to be in the area on weekends instead of only there for state workers' lunch time. I have never been to the concourse at a time when its shops are open. The food court area is closed even when events are held in the convention center. Wasn't even the ice skating closed last winter? It's like we askingfor the plaza to be empty.

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