In 2013, New Yorkers unwittingly became members of a collective audience, with viewing panels into construction sites becoming mandatory by Local Law 47. 47 (section 3307.7.1) painstakingly details the requirements of these windows (one per every 7.6 meters of Hunter-Green wooden fencing, a minimum of 30.5 by 30.5 centimeters in size, blocked off with plexiglass, etc.). According to a spokesperson for the Department of Buildings, the windows give “neighbors a quick and easy way to understand the changes underway in their neighbourhoods”. In theory, the diamond-shaped peepholes that open up construction sites like those at 432 Park Avenue or 111 West 57th Street should offer the average citizen a behind-the-scenes look into the flexes and flows of their city.
Although these roughly hacksawed windows do instill anticipation, the reveal of the City-in-Transition falls flat. The spectacle is of an embarrassed landscape: braces and barricades and a stage, strewn with clues as to the diet of the average American construction worker: a Red Sea of crushed Coca Cola cans, discarded Kit Kat wrappers and emptied Malboro packs. There is no sudden understanding of a development; the Department of Buildings’ promise of transparency holds little truth. As a result, the miniature theatres that punctuate the city’s streets are poorly attended, overlooked.
If 47 has truly been put in place to encourage and facilitate an accessibility of the ever-changing urban landscape, then perhaps the viewing panels themselves should be more intriguing — a red velvet curtain always helps — and the stage should always be extravagantly set. Give New Yorkers a reason to pause, and they in turn will become a riveted audience.
Avirgan, Jody. “Go ahead, peep into that construction site.” WNYC. NYPR, 9 May 2014. Web. 11 June 2016.
Carr, Nick. “Looking Through The Sixth Avenue Peepholes.” Scouting NY. Scouting NY, 28 Mar. 2011. Web. 11 June 2016.
“Home.” Nonobject. Nonobject, n.d. Web. 11 June 2016.
United States. The City of New York, Law Department. Local Law No. 47 of 2013, Council Int No. 1003-A of 2013. New York City: GPO, 2013. Print.