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Carter's View

The 96th Street Station of the West Side IRT subway has a spanking new station that resembles a 22nd-century riverboat paddle-wheeler and its glass and grey-granite superstructure is throwing down its gloves to neighboring buildings to get with it.
Already, it's gotten one positive response at 208 West 96th Street where a narrow 8-story building with curved, perforated balconies has arisen from among a row of tenement structures weary from wear. The new 8-story rental building is a mix of the wavy balconies at 11 Kenmare Street in Soho and the Highline 519 building with its cloud-like balcony screens. All three are pleasant variations on small buildings with fire-escapes, the stable of the city's housing inventory. There are a few, attractive fire-escapes that are best used to guide wisteria up the outside of a building as one has yet to come across historical statistics on how many lives have been saved by them as opposed to how many streetscapes they have ruined with their spindly netting of attractive facades.
The other new station on the Upper West Side is the more handsome one that can be found on the north side of 72nd Street and Broadway. Here the designers not only took the green color palette of the south shed as a fine jumping-off point but added glass blocks, everyone's father artsy semi-transparent building element that seems to impart motion to the substantial solidity of a structure, but also enlarged Verdi Square into a very pleasant little park.
The 96th Street station had no such architectural ancestry but has applied large ramps of light gray granite to provide disabled ramps and stature. The immediate vicinity, of course, had been significantly upgraded when the Zeckendorfs erected the very impressive and sculptural orange-brick tower known as Columbia to be followed more recently by Extell's two reflective-glass, mid-block residential tower between 98th and 99th Streets, the Ariel West and the Ariel East. These three high-rises, coupled with the recently completed Columbus Green complex of four-high rise buildings on Columbus Avenue between 97th and 100th Streets are significant landmarks that denote a new skyline and a major upgrading/gentrification of the neighborhood.
The new 96th Street does not look like a weapon of mass destruction but perhaps a little like some new vacuum cleaner from a Mr. Dyson that can round corners faster than a flying bullet, or whatever. Fortunately, the very solid Columbia led to the development of two major and fine residential buildings at 95th and Broadway, the Lyric on the southwest corner and the Princeton House at 215 West 95th Street on the northeast side. The Lyric is the more substantial and houses both the Symphony Space, the Peter Norten Theater and the Thalia cinema, all now important cultural venues for the community, reinforcing the old-planners' tale that transit stations should be engines of urban activity and focus.
Down at 93rd Street and Broadway there are two new projects, the new Melar on the southwest corner, a rental, and 220 West 93rd Street on the south east corner, an attractive, pre-war condominium.
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Architecture Critic Carter Horsley Since 1997, Carter B. Horsley has been the editorial director of CityRealty. He began his journalistic career at The New York Times in 1961 where he spent 26 years as a reporter specializing in real estate & architectural news. In 1987, he became the architecture critic and real estate editor of The New York Post.