From “Urban Decay” to Urban Renewal: Manhattan Gets Prettier

The Port Authority Bus Terminal may soon get an incredible face lift.  According to Annie Karni of The Sun a Gleaming Office Tower May (soon) Rise Upon a Symbol of Urban Decay. 

The Port Authority Bus Terminal, for decades a symbol of urban decay and a hub of crime, drugs, and vagrancy, is moving toward a complete overhaul and could soon be topped with a soaring office tower or two.

With rents in Midtown Manhattan reaching record highs and vacancy rates dipping to new lows, developers are showing a renewed interest in building a 42-story office tower above the bus station and retail hub.

The board of the Port Authority today is expected to approve the resumption of negotiations with two prominent developers for the purchase of the lucrative air rights above the bus terminal on Eighth Avenue.

In July of 1989, I moved to Hell’s Kitchen having never even visited New York City before.  My girlfriend at the time picked me up from the dilapidated Port Authority Bus Terminal.  I would be lying if I didn’t tell you that the experience of walking through that building and continuing through the streets to 10th Avenue and 51st Street (which I called home for the following 18 months) was scary as hell.  Coming from just outside the city of Baltimore (I could literally throw a rock to the city line…and often did), you would think that I would be somewhat immune to "urban decay."  Now before everyone from Baltimore goes crazy here, that city has made great strides to clean itself up but I’m here to tell you that it has a loooong way to go.  Manhattan on the other hand has improved exponentially in the past 18 years that I have resided here.

When I arrived, the Port Authority Bus Terminal wreaked of urine.  Several unfortunate people were curled up on the floors throughout the building, some with the ingenuity to build shelters with boxes and blankets.  Prostitutes and drug dealers were plentiful and spilled out of the building on to pre-Disney 42nd Street.  It was seedy.  For the following 18 months, I kept a P.O. Box at the Port Authority Building (I wasn’t allowed to use the mailbox in the Westie inhabited apartment building I lived in) and checked for mail once a week so that I didn’t have to walk through the place.  My first job in Manhattan was at the Silver Bullet Saloon on the 8th Avenue side of the building.  I walked in and asked the guy behind the bar if they needed help and he threw an apron at my chest and said "hop behind the bar chief."  I quit that job 2 hours later when I witnessed an ambulance refuse to pick up a very sick homeless man on the sidewalk because he had no insurance and another fine gentleman drag a commuter by her purse in a mugging attempt (not sure if he succeeded).

Then Disney moved in, crime dropped, destination restaurants moved in, residential and commercial development skyrocketed and people have felt safe in this neighborhood for more than a decade. So bring on the "Gleaming Office Tower" I say.  The wait has been long enough. 

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