Last week I paid a visit to a friend from high school, the actress Tina Stafford, who lives on the 40th floor of an apartment building on Tenth Avenue. The apartment has a porch, a roomy one, with a sweeping view of Hell’s Kitchen, the Hudson and the northern half of Midtown. Tina spends a lot of her free time on that porch, as would I, watching New York go about its business. She’s noticed some surprising things.
I asked her to point out some of her favorite buildings. “There’s the old New York Times building,” she said, pointing to a gray tower to the east. “It has that glass ball on top that always glows white at night. But then, at some random interval, it will flash red. Just for a moment. I have no idea why.”
I asked her what another building was, a skyscraper made up of mirrored triangles, and she told me it was the new Hearst Tower, the first big edifice to be built in New York after 9/11. Tina has a story about that building too.
“I used to hate that building, because it was the only gap in the skyline,” she said. “We could see just a tiny bit of Central Park through there. Even a corner of the Met.
“But now that’s gone. It’s affected the birds, too. The big birds – the birds of prey – used to fly to and from the park through that slot on Eighth Avenue. But the new building seemed to confuse them. They didn’t know what to do. Now they head up on Tenth Street.”
I examined the skyline and contemplated the plight of a Manhattan hawk, continually forced to revise its route through the mountainous city, stumped on its morning commute by a new skyscraper like a taxi stuck behind a pothole crew.