A Tale of Two Towers: 8 Spruce Street and One World Trade Center

11 Oct

Spruce Street and One World Trade Center I took part in last Wednesday’s Community/Labor March To Wall St. in New York City. I met some musician buddies at Washington Square Park and we marched to Foley Square with the New York University group, though none of us are affiliated with NYU. From Foley Square, a bit Northeast of City Hall. There we joined up with the main crowd, and a passel of musicians, and headed on to Liberty Plaza, flanked and guided by police all the way.

Not long after we left Washington Square Park, say a five or six blocks out, I noticed this building ahead, and I kept tracking it all the way down:

NYC - Civic Center: 8 Spruce Street

Photo of 8 Spruce Street by Wally Gobetz

That’s a new luxury apartment building at 8 Spruce Street, just south of City Hall. It was designed by starchitect Frank Gehry.

Does anyone who lives there care about us marchers? I thought. It’s a pricy building, with studio apartments starting at $3770 a month, which is over $42,000 per year, and two bedrooms at $6045 per month, almost $61,000 per year. I’m thinking that, no, the folks who live there are more likely in the 1% who’re living high off of banker’s bonuses than in the 99% who can’t afford health insurance and who won’t have pensions when they retire.

More likely than not, they think things are pretty much OK as they are. Maybe the bonuses are a little slim, but the rabble down here marching to Liberty Plaza, we don’t figure in their view of the world. They have no empathy with us.

But then how could they?

My father was an engineer. He worked in an office. But his work took him into coal mines to collect samples and to inspect the coal face. He knew that mining was dirty and dangerous work and believed that no one should have authority over coal miners unless they’d worked in the mines themselves.

That’s what I’m wondering about those people who live in luxury towers: Have they worked in the mines? Not literally the mines, though that wouldn’t be a bad idea, but have they worked jobs where they could barely make ends meet, where you don’t have any control over hours and tasks, where the company isn’t picking up the tab for lunches, dinners, and country club memberships, where there’s no health insurance and no day care subsidies? Have they worked those kinds of jobs? If not, then how can they possibly know what life is like in these United States?

This problem is real and deep. Here’s a paragraph from the Wikipedia article on the subject:

Just about every socio-economic indicator shows that the distribution of income in the United States is becoming increasingly unequal. In 2010, the top 20% of Americans earned 49.4% of the nation’s income, compared with the 3.4% earned by the roughly 15% of the population living below the poverty line. This earnings ratio of 14.5 to 1 was an increase from the 13.6 to 1 ratio in 2008 and a significant rise from the historic low of 7.69 to 1 in 1968. Looking back even further to 1915, an era in which the Rockefellers and Carnegies dominated American industry, the richest 1% of Americans earned roughly 18% of all income. Today, the top 1% account for 24% of all income.

That disparity, and it’s growing day by day, is what the Occupy Wall Street protests are about. Now look at this building:

IMGP3765rd 1 World Trade Center

That’s the top of One World Trade Center, aka Freedom Tower. When completed it will by 1776 feet high, the tallest building in the United States and one of the tallest in the world. It will dominate the New York City skyline in a way that the demolished Twin Towers never did.

And dominate is what it’s about. It’s a huge faceless building, like other skyscraper office towers in New York’s financial district. And, as we all known, it has been plagued with problems, the chief of which is whether or not lower Manhattan actually needs all that office space. If not, then how will this monster pay for itself?

Perhaps it won’t. Perhaps the 99% will pay for it out of the fees we pay to travel to and from Manhattan though tunnels, over bridges, and on the PATH train, a small subway line run by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which is the developer of the World Trade Center site. Of course, it would be difficult to prove that that’s why those fees were recently increased by a considerable margin, but that’s the feeling on the ground in Jersey City, where I live.

Those of us who have to take the PATH train, or have to drive ourselves over the bridges and through the tunnels (rather than sitting in limousine luxury), we’re paying more of our hard-earned money in unavoidable transportation costs so that powerful politicians and rich developers can build monuments to themselves.

That’s what those two towers are about. It’s the sky people vs. the ground people. And the sky people are making us pay for the privilege of living beneath the places where they live and work. That’s not democracy; it’s plutocracy.

We must bring it to an end.

Now.

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One Response to “A Tale of Two Towers: 8 Spruce Street and One World Trade Center”

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  1. The Bankers Don’t Get It! « Truth and Traditions Party - October 15, 2011

    […] But anger over jobs has reminded us of something that goes deeper than that, much much deeper.  These guys are out of touch; they don’t have a […]

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