Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Main Street Trip to Fort Lee, Bogota, and Hackensack

A Post by Laura Gabby

While there is much that could be written on each of the main streets we visited in New Jersey on February 21, 2008, a few major points stood out to me. Bogota, which had the smallest stretch of “main street,” struck me as very similar to a neighborhood that I lived near in Spokane, WA called Browne’s Addition. Browne’s Addition was originally the most elegant, expensive neighborhood to live in and had all of the huge Victorian houses. However, throughout the 1970’s, 80’s, and 90’s, buildings began to be abandoned and burned down. Additionally, much of the nearby downtown area emptied out with the opening of a huge mall on the north side of Spokane. The area became associated with drugs and violence and most of the remaining housing became overcrowded. Even so, it still had the most beautiful houses in the entire city and my mother and I would occasionally wander up and down the streets looking at houses and end at the Elk, a soda fountain that had the most original drinks in town. The houses near Bogota seemed similar to me – old beautiful houses, some of which were in use and well maintained but a few beginning to see some damage and one boarded up because of a fire. The nicest house we saw in Bogota had a yard filled with artwork and pottery, however, the statue that was the most intriguing to me was hidden in the backyard behind a row of bushes. It was a statue of multi-colored people holding hands facing outward in a circle, and it seemed like something that would be beautiful in an open space such as a park.

The other major thing that stood out to me was a seeming trend between the three towns. Fort Lee, the town that was closest to Manhattan, seemed to be the most “full” in the area surrounding main street. Stores filled up all of the space on main street and lots of areas nearby and large housing high-rises were very close by. However, there seemed to be only a small and seemingly disappearing thread to the town’s past, as many of the stores were new and there was only a small area where houses hadn’t been replaced with high-rise buildings. The next town over, Bogota, did not have the large high-rise buildings and similarly had fewer stores that looked brand new. It seemed to have a stronger thread to the town’s past, as many older homes surrounded main street. However, it seemed to be suffering from more abandonment than Fort Lee, as some storefronts along main street were not occupied and a home at the end of main street was boarded up from a fire. Finally, Hackensack felt the least “full.” High-rise buildings were away from the main street and the area surrounding the main street was almost completely emptied out for parking lots. It seemed very difficult to tell what might have been there before, as no older homes were left surrounding main street. The main street itself seemed to be the most diverse mix of old and new and multiple uses. However, it seemed clear that a lot of the older stores were on their way out while a lot of the newer stores seemed to be prospering. This didn’t seem surprising, as it is hard to imagine where the original Hackensack residents, who lived in the houses that were replaced by parking lots, now live. So the general trends seemed to be increasing density as you moved towards Manhattan and increasing gentrification as you moved toward Manhattan, with the exception of Bogota, which seems to be an exception because it was not carved out by urban renewal for high rise apartments to go in.

1 comment:

Laura said...

I should add that the comments about Browne's Addition are all how my under thirteen-year-old mind remembers it, since I moved away when I was thirteen in 1997. I know that the downtown was largely carved out by the World's Fair that was held in Spokane in 1974, though I don't know what it was like before that. My guess is that the deterioration of Browne's Addition had much to do with the World's Fair and the gutting of downtown, though I was only there to see some of the old buildings boarded up and the mall going up on the north side of Spokane.