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East Harlem Plaza: Both Belated and Ahead of Its Time

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Today's New York Times takes a look at the long and bloody history of East River Plaza, the incoming Harlem mall that will bring Costco, Target, Best Buy and Marshall's to upper Manhattan. Nowadays, opening a big box store in the city doesn't seem that crazy, but developer David Blumenfeld actually came up with the idea for the mall in the early '90s, long before chains understood the potential of a Manhattan site.

Had the plaza opened on time, it would have been regarded as a pioneer. Instead, it's a cautionary tale about the myriad ways red tape can slow a development project. Take, for example, the issues with the facade. In 2007, the city demanded that construction workers stop putting up a design that didn't match the one approved by the Planning Department in 1999. But eight years is a long time when you're talking about aesthetics—think about what we were all wearing pre-Y2K. Then again, maybe it's for the best. "Under a design commissioned from Kevin Roche, a Pritzer Prize-winning architect," writes the Times, "the facade would have been draped in mesh, with an American flag sandblasted onto it." Sounds very Diesel, and not necessarily in a good way.
· A Difficult Birth for East Harlem Mall [NYT]
· Planning Commission Hates America, or Maybe Betsy Ross [Curbed]