Photograph by Emily Fishman
August 17th, 2019
I work within 68 Jay Street. I like the building on most days. It's quiet and the people are friendly; and we have a gem of a coffee shop in our lobby. It’s an old building and the elevators don’t always work, but the view of Lower Manhattan and the Manhattan Bridge delights and inspires me. However, sometimes things change around here just because somebody says they need to change, even if the change serves zero aesthetic benefit.
The most recent example took place earlier this week, when the hardwood floors in our hallway were ripped up and replaced with a dreary grey laminate. I cannot trace a reason for this change, and even if I tracked down the building’s management and asked them why the real wood had to go, I’m not sure that we’d be able to find any common ground.
On Thursday afternoon, my officemate, in one-fourth jest and in three-fourths complete seriousness, sat on the last section of the hardwood floors as the four or five men with hammers and in hardhats took a break from relentlessly ripping up and gutting the floors of our hallway. As she sat on the floor in protest, I stood out in the hallway for a few moments and watched, heartbroken.
The next morning, they were back again and finishing the job: ripping up and throwing pillars and segments of wood around the hallway, which created a deafening sound that brought to mind Jenga blocks falling and falling and crashing and crashing against a table. Except once all of the pieces fell, there wouldn't be any laughter, or setting the blocks up again and asking whether anyone would want to play another round. Instead, the blocks would be thrown out and swept aside, then discarded into a dumpster and never to be seen again. No more Jenga, unless you want to play with laminate. And you don’t want to play with laminate.
This is what the absence of power feels like, to stand by, helplessly, as my workspace transforms in a way that doesn’t make any sense, or resonate with my own personal aesthetic impulses; but presumably, must make a difference toward someone's economic bottom line.
This is why I keep writing and publishing and editing this journal: because the way a city feels matters, and who gets a say in how a city looks and feels matters. And when voices and stories and ideas that need to be heard are suppressed, we all feel the weight of these silences.
- Isaac Myers III