Sunday, April 03, 2005

I AM IN A STATE OF SHOCK. I just found out the Plaza Hotel is shutting down, forever; construction crews will soon be swarming all over it, turning the fabled haunts of Eloise into condominiums and fancy stores. It's not that I ever stayed at the Plaza. It's not that I ever expected to stay at the Plaza. Hell, I don't even think I've ever been inside the Plaza. But it was one of those gorgeous buildings that have been around since always, and that so symbolize Manhattan, that it's impossible to think of the city without them.

The owners of the Plaza say it's an "extensive redevelopment into a mixed use retail, residential and hotel complex," but after all that it's not going to be the same place anymore.

The Plaza is one of many beloved signature buildings, gone now, that took on, each in their own way, part of the essence of Manhattan.

Taken together, these lost buildings and rooms form a kind of ghost city, an island of memory that hovers above the real, evolving Manhattan. It is a shadow New York that once was and might have continued to be, had the economic and political forces that shape the city been different. It is also the only New York that is a perfect New York, for as Marcel Proust wrote in "Remembrance of Things Past," "the true paradises are the paradises we have lost."

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