There are many things that diminish the great beauty of New York. But some do more than their fair share. Here are a few, in no particular order.
Crapitecture. It's thrown up in a second. Cheap brick. Cheap glass. Cheap materials. Faceless, featureless, utilitarian, overwhelmingly tan and brown, Soviet. It's unbeautifies the very sky around it. Your mind is suddenly sealed in an airless vacuum as you stare blankly at its uninspired boxiness. Its aura speaks of a bloodless disregard for life's quality. Walk down ten blocks, each one lined with one piece of Crapitecture, and you're ready for the rocking chair.
All Banks: They now all have ugly, bulbous, vulgar logos, in hues of sky blue and fire engine red. They have innumerable branches. And they're on every corner, anchoring each intersection in homeliness.
Plastic newsboxes. They clutter up ever corner with bright orange, bright pink, bright green, bright purple and bright blue hunks of god-awful plastic. Each box (aside from the ones containing The Onion) are filled with instant waste material. And once they're empty, they get filled with actual waste, becoming impromptu garbage cans. Bursting Hefty bags are more lovely.
Cemusa: Newstands that look like they should be selling junk jewelry as kiosks at a low-rent mall. Bus shelters that pummel you with advertising and shelter you not at all. Each made of the silver metal and glass of anonymous modernist international everyday architecture. They say: You could be anywhere. Which leaves you nowhere.
The New Breed of New York Convenience Hotels. Don't these places care what they look like at all? I wouldn't stay in them as a mouse.
Chain Store Signage: There is nothing in this world more—nothing!—visually punishing that the pink-and-orange beacon of a Dunkin' Donuts. Chain stores signs and awnings are purposefully garish, loud and tasteless. It's the basest way to get the consumer's attention. And they ruin the aesthetic of every block they're on.
Cement: Blue stone was beautiful and resonant. Cement is flat and soul-killing.
Scaffolding. Owner of buildings that require scaffolding, either because they are being constructed, or are in danger of falling apart, should be charged for each day that these eyesores remain standing.
Roller shutters. A product of the bad-old '70s. They nullify streetlife. They shut out the light in the eye of every storefront. A necessary evil, perhaps.
Cars. Nothing to be done about this, of course. Robert Moses lassoed the city with highways and made sure we'll be saddled with cars and more cars until doomsday. But if you've ever taken a good look at one side of the street during an alternate-side parking day, you know what I mean. Suddenly, the street just looks better. The view is not blocked. Attractive buildings can be seen in full, lawns and stoops, too. Trees aren't crowded. Same thing with old tax photos of the City. What makes these old scenes so attractive? Oh! I know: no cars. Finally, let's face it. Today's cars, when compared to the autos of decades past, are mundane and just plain unsightly.
(For those of you who are all negative about negativity, I promise to list ten things that make New York looks better next week.)