Wednesday, September 28, 2005

South of the Cross Bronx Expressway

New York's Department of Housing Preservation and Development may have been competing for the Potemkin Prize last summer [1983], when it announced a plan to mount decals in the broken windows and empty frames of all the hundreds of burnt-out and sealed-up buildings that line the Cross Bronx Expressway. The decals would portray neat drapery, flowerpots, and window boxes, intimations of comfortable and happy domestic scenes. That way, commuters who passed through the Bronx en route to Westchester, Long Island, or the Connecticut executive belt wouldn't have to be upset by the sight of the misery that lines their way.
Marshall Berman. "Roots, Ruins, Renewals: City Life After Urbicide," Village Voice, September 4, 1984

Potemkin was a Russian statesman who had an impressive, fake village built along the river bank in preparation for a tour by Catherine the Great. The village consisted of just the facades of houses which were removed after she passed by and then reassembled further down river. Thus as Catherine traveled by, she would see many pleasant villages with happy peasants and think all was well in her kingdom.
Mel Rosenthal