I recently had occasion to step inside the old Greenwich Savings Bank at 36th and Broadway, now rented out for posh events as Gotham Hall. What a gleaming, glorious temple it was/is inside. Columns, gilding, a high-domed central hall, beautiful coffered ceiling elsewhere, a grand chandelier. All for a bank, where you might take your sockful of quarters for safe-keeping. It's a banking Parthenon. After that I walked around a bit and began noticing all the great marble and stone edifices, now abandoned or converted into condos, that were once bank branches. What the moneymen once did to beautify our City! Sure, they did it for their own ego-driven purposes as well, but everyone in eyeshot benefited a little.
And look at what banks do today. Slap up cruddy, jerrybilt, boxy, soulless branches in every lowslung, ground-grubbing cubbyhole they can find, spraying their numbingly plastic palate of primary colors (blue, red, yellow, white, blue, red, blue, blue, blue...) all over the place, injuring the corneas of all passersby with their blinding, insistent boldness. Plastic pens, plastic ATM booths, cubicles and floor rugs. No gild, no marble, no brass, no height, no breadth, no air. The Citibanks, in particular, remind me of public toilets. Commerce branches make me think of Staples. And Washington Mutuals, which its floating rings of solo teller desks, like so many cashiers, come off like cell phone stores.
C'mon bankers. You'd got bags of money. Show a little self-respect. And a little respect for the City as well.