Last week, The Observer learned with the help of Rutgers economics professor Jason Barr that the reason for the development of Midtown apart from Lower Manhattan, and the skyscrapers both possess, had nothing to do with bedrock beneath these towers, as had long been believed. Call it the uncanny valley, the soaring mountain range that makes the New York City skyline the best in the world.
Having determined what was not the cause of this unique skyline, The Observer thought we had figured out what was, that being the flight of the wealthy north. But it turns out one very influential urban investigator begged to differ: New Yorker architecture critic and Pullitzer Prize winner Paul Goldberger.
Among the reasons New York has the finest skyline in the world—consider that a statement of fact, not opinion—is not simply the skyscrapers bounding up the island of Manhattan but also their unusual arrangement. Like a great mountain range, the city is arrayed around the twin peaks of Downtown and Midtown.
Perhaps the appeal is Freudian.
It has long been believed that New Yorkers could thank God for their unusual agglomeration of buildings (or, for those on the Upper West Side not believing in His good work, eons of geological development). It turns out that Manhattan has a bedrock unusually suited to the construction of very tall buildings, in many cases just a few meters below the surface. But that solid land drops away in the gooey middle of the island, long limiting the heights of buildings in the city.
Or so the aphocraphists have been passing down for decades, at least since noted geologist Christopher J. Schuberth released his seminal The Geology of New York City and Environs in 1968. Therein, he posited his belief in a correlation between bedrock and big buildings, and like the Empire State Building, it has stood the test of time. But like a bad retaining wall, it all came tumbling down last month.