My top ten New York buildings

Empire and Chrysler together

Forgive me, those of you who thought I fell victim to the notorious man-eating parakeets of Staten Island. But as hard as I tried to farm it out to a group of guys selling Circle Line tickets outside the Empire State Building, the truth is, this book can’t write itself. As I head into the final stretch I wanted to leave you with something to debate in my extended absence. One of the first things people would ask me when I told them I was doing this project was, “Well, Miss Hammer Toe, what’s the best building in New York, then?” It’s a question that’s impossible to answer because as everyone knows, there are ten. And here they are.


The Maritime Hotel: Maybe I’m a sucker for porthole windows. But when I saw this baby looming on the Chelsea horizon, I felt like my ship had come in.

Haunted house

Navy Yard housing: This is one of a long row of abandoned houses in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Every time I happened to ride my bike past it, it was cloudy, raining or getting eerily dark. Coincidence? You tell me.

Pink Palace

Palazzo Chupi: It’s impossible to capture the glory of this Julian Schnabel-designed building in the West Village because it’s like the architectural equivalent of a mullet: business on the bottom, wild pink orgy on the top. I came back here several times, just to make sure I wasn’t being too hasty when I decided that this was probably one of the most exciting things to happen in New York, like, ever. It is. As a woman walking her dog by me when I took this picture said: “Holy crappers.”


Bayard-Condict Building: Grab yourself a slice of Two Boots pizza (right across the street), position yourself on a bench, and pay this foamy, frilly lady some serious attention. At first I was sad that such a gem was stashed away on this tiny strip of Bleecker. But then I realized it was better this way because it was our little secret.


124 E. 19th Street: Tucked into the “Block Beautiful” near Gramercy Park is this single family home. You can go right up and look in their windows to see the entire inside, too. It’s topped with one of the precious little stepped-gable roofs I got excited about every time I saw in New York, because I thought to myself, wow, this really is New Amsterdam.

Chris Burden: What My Dad Gave Me

What My Father Gave Me: Yes, I’m counting Chris Burden’s Erector-set skyscraper as a building! It’s as big as other structures on this list. But I’ll also count the elegant slab of the GE Building behind it, with the best observation deck in town. Spend your afternoon in the open-air Top of the Rock. You’ll get a great view of the tourists wedged into the tiny cages atop the Empire State.


Secretariat: The Lever House is pretty but UN’s site on the East River makes for one of those stop-and-gawk moments as you’re walking around New York. I came up the stairs onto Tudor City, stopped in the middle of the street, and almost got hit by a car. That’s how good it is.

Hibiscus on Barclay-Vesey

Barclay-Vesey Building: Please allow me this one semi-sentimental entry. I remember during the 9/11 coverage, as steel and glass buildings splintered like toothpicks, one building that seemed to be holding steady in the midst of it all. Its slanted profile and series of setbacks gave it some kind of weird Babylonian temple vibe, which was even creepier with smoke and flames swirling around it. Of course we know now that this building, widely considered the first Art Deco skyscraper, was heavily damaged. But it has been restored, right down to its delicate hibiscus carvings, which sure do look awesome next to the new WTC7. A true survivor.


Westin Times Square: Someone is going to revoke my design writing license for claiming this as one of the best buildings in New York, but I don’t care. No architectural statement is so perfectly suited to its surroundings. I want to have a dress made out of this.


Dennett Place: I think I’ve said everything that can be said about these amazing little apartments in Carroll Gardens. And that’s not even the half of it.

See you back here in a few days.

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  • Rachel T

    So neat! I haven’t been to NYC in 20 years or so… I guess I would’ve only been about 10. And I was paranoid our rented family van was going to get broken in to & couldn’t get over all the people sleeping on the corner with their pillows. I guess I’m not much of a NYC girl. But I LOVED this quick tour!!! Thanks!

    Cracking UP over the mullet & “holy crappers” comment. That will make me laugh all day long!

  • minus five

    those row houses are my favorite ever. one day, i’m going to put on some boots and go trespassing behind that stupid chain-link fence.

    and i’m glad the miniature door street made the list of favorites. i don’t think it’s been covered in any other book.

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  • minus five

    those row houses are my favorite ever. one day, i'm going to put on some boots and go trespassing behind that stupid chain-link fence.

    and i'm glad the miniature door street made the list of favorites. i don't think it's been covered in any other book.

  • Hillary Murtha

    Hi! What great images! I’d love to use a pic from your site on my own forthcoming blog ( It’s not yet launched, but I’ll be discussing the history of American objects – including buildings. Could I use one of these terrific pics? I’d credit you and provide a link to your blog.

  • Alissa

    Of course, all my images are creative commons licensed on Flickr. Thanks!