The Worst Buildings in New York City

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Christopher Gray, who writes the “Streetscapes” column for the New York Times, is looking for New York City’s worst buildings. We have been asking listeners to submit pictures of what they think are the worst buildings. He discusses what makes a building bad and unveils his choices for the worst buildings.


Christopher Gray

Comments [42]

George from Brooklyn

I recommend the Hunter North, West and East buildings of Hunter College's main campus on Lexington Avenue and 68th. The interior is no better. Stark contrast to the armory across the street.

Sep. 25 2007 10:18 PM
Berkley from Manhattan


All of the buildings in this submission have attempted to convey an architectural ideal, unlike my submission for this segment: The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey bus terminal. The green steel on the exterior is ugly and cage-like. The interior is drab, decorated with orange tile, brown brick, and tan linoleum flooring. This place is the worst building in New York. It's disgusting.

Sep. 25 2007 06:58 PM
Jill from Summit, NJ

The reason that the telephone company buildings didn't have windows was that they were being built to survive various disasters, some up to atomic blasts several blocks away. Like the old telephones that Western Electric made in 1980, they weren't pretty, but they were designed to last (in the case of phones, for 40 years).

As the technology changed from mechanical to electronic to light based, less and less space was needed and so those old windowless towers and many other telco buildings became dinosaurs unless they changed.

Jill, retired telco manager

Sep. 25 2007 02:16 PM
chestine from NY

all trump buildings, esp the one on columbus circle are awful

i think manhattan is going to be dim soon with too many tall tall buildings.

Sep. 25 2007 01:51 PM
Tony from Midtown

The horror of all horrors is the "face-lift" given Electric Lady Studios on West 8th Street in, I believe, the late '90s. Originally owned by Jimi Hendrix, the studio was noted for the "face" constructed with brick, mortar and glass, that made up the building front when it was designed in 1969. Not only a true sign of the times of the '60s, it was also a testament to Jimi Hendrix's vision. Today, the studio is denoted street side by a bland brick wall and glass window.

Sep. 25 2007 01:50 PM
chestine from NY

Do you know waht teh reactions were at the time all teh Park Avenue prewar buildings were built between 60th and Carnegie Hill?

Sep. 25 2007 01:48 PM
Steve from NYC

I believe there were three theaters that died so that monstrosity the Mariott Marquis could live. One of the demolished theaters was the lovely Helen Hayes Theater. Its destruction broke the heart of the actress it was named after. They renamed another theater after her, but it was a horrible loss for theatergoers and NYC.

Sep. 25 2007 01:36 PM
Jill from Upper East Side

Pan Am buiding gets my vote for sheer gall - a big bully astride Grand Central and Park Avenue. I guess it's called Met Life now. We can be grateful it doesn't have a Snoopy on top?

Sep. 25 2007 01:34 PM
Leon Freilich from Park Slope


The prize must go to Atlantic Yards,

Built over unused railroad tracks,

A monument to private greed

And a burden on taxpayers' backs.

Sep. 25 2007 01:20 PM

I don't have a photo the loss of the old Penn Station to the "modern" rat maze of today is tragic.

Sep. 25 2007 12:43 PM
Kate from Prospect Heights, Brooklyn

I wholeheartedly second the nomination posted on flickr by JC,BK, titled “Brand new construction in not-yet-Landmark-District-designated Prospect Heights, BK.”

This is on the corner of Underhill Avenue and Prospect Place, Brooklyn. It is just soooooooo ugly. Recently the fence was added, but I’m sorry it doesn’t make any difference, it is a very very unattractive eyesore.


Sep. 25 2007 12:34 PM
Francyne Pelchar from NYC

Couldn't get there to take a photo but I would like to put in a vote for the bus station at the GW Bridge. Ugly blue plastic-oid surface and is at variance with the architecture of the area....old apartment houses. And it's shabbed-out.

Sep. 25 2007 08:09 AM
Jeremy from Manhattan

If you don't mind, I forgot a runner-up: the High School Communication Graphic Arts on 50th between 9th and 10th. The regulated facade dominates the block as seen from my office on 43rd. There is nothing appealing to the rhythm of small windows and air conditioning units. It looks like a Bauhaus mistake looming over the fabric of Hell's Kitchen.

Sep. 24 2007 06:24 PM
Jeremy from Manhattan

While I was not able to take a picture, I feel that one of the most ugly buildings in New York is the brick monstrosity on the corner of 34th Street and Park Avenue. Not only is it brutalist in all of its wrong connotations, it is a terrible building urbanistically absolutely disrupting the street and the "street wall" of Park Avenue. Why did designers ever believe that turning buildings on an angle to the grid was a good idea (see: almost any housing project).

Sep. 24 2007 06:17 PM
maya smith from brooklyn

i am now fascinated with this topic and the photo pool on flickr but i wanted to know what the blue lego building is that leonard lopate mentioned either during the original show with christopher gray or subsequently. i'm sure i must have seen it but i am not sure.

Sep. 24 2007 04:50 PM
Peter Cooper from Cooper Square

I totally agree that new Cooper Square Hotel is almost comical in how it sticks out from the neighborhood. Peck Moss, the obnoxious developers, put out a press release saying their new hotel would put Cooper Square on the map. These LA hipsters don't seem to realize they're building on what's been a neighborhood for more than a century. The Bowery is going to have its own (ugly) skyline. What they're trying to pass off as cutting edge would fit nicely in any suburban mall circa 1986.

Sep. 21 2007 04:58 PM
Christopher Gray from Remember when people said "Hurry - it's long distance calling!"

To everyone who has posted photos and comments - I am so thankful to you. This conversation has been so illuminating to me, and the writing and remarks have often been wonderfully acute - and hilarious.

You could write an architecture column with your stuff.


Sep. 21 2007 04:52 PM
Christopher Gray from High above the intersection of 80th Street and Broadway!

Coriander, I feel your pain. But WNYC sets the regs and specs of the posting system. I am not too good on Flickr, either.


Sep. 21 2007 04:12 PM
Coriander from east village

Mr.Gray -
Many people were unable to get through the complicated posting procedure - would you please consider excepting a few late ones due to this - there are people who started trying to post before the deadline but couldn't. Thank you

Sep. 21 2007 01:46 PM
kristin from brooklyn

I just posted my pics of the NY State Supreme Court Building at Borough Hall. This building is an eyesore - awkward and ageing disgracefully in an otherwise pleasant public pedestrian thoroughfare (Borough Hall). Negotiating from Flatbush via Metrotech (another atrocity), then jig-jogging through the Marriot to Adams Street is aggravating enough. But to then come face to face with this monster of malproportion and lackluster surfaces is just too much. I cringe and hold my breath as I shimmy by to get to the subway and other amenities.

Sep. 21 2007 12:11 PM
Coriander from east village

For a creepy tower right out of a comic book -- the Cooper Square Hotel being built on 3rd Ave btw 5th and 6th. It symbolizes exploitation - building the highest and most out of character for profit and trying to look like hotshots. If it wasn't real it would alsmost be a laugh! Better called the "Sharkfin Inn!"

Sep. 20 2007 09:03 PM
Walter Dufresne from Park Slope, Brooklyn, NY

"Worst" is the superlative of "ill." Hip-hop slang slings a replacement, in the form of "illest."

The current Madison Square Garden takes my prize for "illest" by creating the greatest possible contrast between what was and what is. I'm unsure about "worst" and "ugliest," and MSG only "ills" me because of the site's painful architectural history.

Sep. 20 2007 02:06 PM
Robert from NYC

I must agree these are really ugly buildings, blech!

Sep. 20 2007 09:46 AM
Joan Durand from queens

The Jacob Javits Center is my first choice for New York's ugliest building. (It would also top my list for most inhumane, inconvenient, and inefficient, but that's a whole new contest.) I.M. Pei should be sentenced to live and work in this atrocity as punishment for having designed it. Of course, there are now plans to expand the thing and spend another billion $$, adding insult to injury.
Second place would have to go to Penn Station,
although it hardly qualifies as a building.
This hideous train shed is a point of entry for a city that claims to be the world's greatest? It deserves to be demolished at the earliest opportunity.

Sep. 20 2007 12:59 AM
Sunphat Yau from X-nyc-LA 4a bit

Just looking at those images on the flicker-link I'd have to disagree with several of the entries. Some look like AIA classics, the Pan-Am, the lipstick and that cube-looking Calhoun school seem pretty cool in my opinion. I do agree that Trump has been responsible for many eyesores in the city, along with the ugly "project" style or lack there of buildings.

Sep. 19 2007 03:07 PM
Ozzie Alfonso from Upper West Side, Manhattan

My submission for ugly building is the brand new (not yet completed) monstrosity that juts out high above all other buildings - on Broadway, between 100 and 99th Streets. I posted three pictures of this building I call "The finger" (guess which one) for obvious reasons.

As the most unfriendly building is the Frank Gehry all transparent "sails" building right on the West Side Highway in the 20s. It doesn't even try to address the street. The main entrance is all but hidden. Maybe an interesting piece of art, but definitely NOT a building.

Sep. 19 2007 01:22 PM
Steven Landau from midtown manhattan

By far, the worst building in New York (and maybe the entire world) is the Westin Hotel at 8th Avenue and 42 Street by Arquitectonica. I think of this as the ejaculating building, as anyone who has seen it an night will understand. I also blame Robert Stern for this terrible building, because I suspect his complicity in selecting its design, considering that he established the post-Philip Johnson architectural guidelines for 42 Street. The presence of the new Times building, perhaps the best new building in New York, only one block away, makes the Westin Hotel's urban insult seem even more egregious.

Sep. 19 2007 12:46 PM
Ralph Lewis from Bowery & Rivington

Often it's not the building, it's where in the City it's built - too often nifty architecture is ruined because it's out of place in the neighborhood it's built.

Certainly, sad as what happened to the WTC towers was, those were the 2 ugliest NYC buildings ever. Bobst Library on Wash Sq. is probably the worst now.

But almost everything being done to the Bowery now is a disgrace. And I'm an arts lover, but the new New Museum couldn't be more out of character. The Bowery Mission is a lovely building with incredible stained glass windows - it stands next door as a comparison of just how ugly this new museum is. Context is everything and this arts group really blew it. sooo sad.

Sep. 19 2007 12:34 PM
amanda from harlem

wow, maybe to counteract all this negativity there should be a 'my favorite building' contest next week. . . . .

Sep. 19 2007 12:26 PM
Tom from New York City

The trump buildings along the Hudson have to collectively evoke the worst feeling on a massive scale in New York. What eyesores in an otherwise varied city.

Sep. 19 2007 12:21 PM
Dave R from Westchester

I concur that Stuyvesant Town's appearance from the street is nothing to praise. However, as a former resident, the park-like interior and amenities were outstanding for young working families. Perhaps the entire complex should be considered in the evaluation.

Sep. 18 2007 04:43 PM
Steve C from PA

As a former Astorian NYer I nominate the various Trump bldgs. sprinkled throughout Manhattan as the ugliest. Three come to mind: East 68th street and 3rd Ave; that monstrosity near Columbus Circle and the worst has to be that tall black thing on Fist Ave just north of the UN. It ruins the great skyline view from Queens.

Sep. 15 2007 01:04 PM
Len Maniace from Jackson Heights, Queens, NY

This is a category of building: Those recently built 1-5 family buildings in New York City that have their lower facade adorned with gas, electric and water meters.

If this is good for small buildings, it'd be fascinating to see it on big buildings with 100 or so units.

Sep. 15 2007 12:38 PM
Gene from NYC

NYU's taste in architecture is notoriously bad, as well as out of character with either Village.

The most recent example is the Skirball Center "Lighthouse".

One of the older examples is just across the street--the red towering monstrosity, the Bobst Library at 70 Washington Square South.

Not only does it sit like a giant brick in a space-challenged neighborhood, but its sheer bulk cuts off a good 1/4 of Washington Square Park from sunlight in the winter. The result: that section is avoided like the plague.


What an insult to the neighborhood--you could fit 10 brownstones in the Bobst's massive atrium.

In addition, looking down from the 10th floor to the MC-Escher-like floor below almost invites a plunge. Which has indeed occurred, at least 2 suicides. NYU's solution? Huge, ugly hard-plastic barriers on all floors.

And, of course, NYU treats its students no better than its neighbors. Each redesign over the years had made the actual useful space for students trying to study tinier and tinier and tinier.

But lots more room for the Administration!

Sep. 14 2007 03:27 PM
dalton from Brooklyn

I didn't take this picture, but the Westin Hotel in mid-town gets my vote. Pee-ew!

Sep. 14 2007 12:10 PM
Christopher Gray from Planet Krypton

Hey ... what the heck is "worst", anyway?

Sep. 14 2007 09:21 AM
elizabeth novak from new york / new jersey

Dear Leonard,
I, think the ugliest buildings in New York are not what is but the spot where they were. A gaping hole mired in controversy and pain.Ofcourse,I am speaking of the Twin Towers.It is a puzzelmet to me why we don't replace them on the same spot. We can not replace the lifes that were lost that day but we can surely rebuild.The Twin Towers may not have been everyones favorate architecture but they were certainly mine.The centinels of New York and America.Their symbolism was not lost on the terrorist.They picked them for a reason.For that same reason we should rebulid them, more beautifull and more significant than ever.
Never give up, never give in and certainly never surrender - the Twin Towers are as significant as the Statue of Libery, The Constitution, the Grand Canyon - now they are not just architecture,they are symbols of the America the Beautifull in all its aspects.
Thanks for the "ear"
warmest regs
elizabeth novak

Sep. 13 2007 01:23 PM
Kate from Brooklyn

Most definitely the Verizon building..luckily it's being totally redone to be energy efficient and much more attractive with a glass curtain wall.

Sep. 13 2007 12:50 PM
Kale from NYC

The new cluster of luxury condos along the Bowery just north of Houston. Not just plain old luxury but hip luxury apartments. Names like the Avalon and Ludlow.

Whose idea was it to forge this sterile area? Such an imposition of sleek modern buildings is a giant sinkhole planted by the borg whose goal it was to suck the life and passion out of an otherwise vibrant, lively, dirty area. Just add life-sized vogue magazine cutouts and the project is complete. Oh wait, they really did that with the window dressings.

Maybe it won't be such a dead zone once people start living here but somehow I doubt it since most new residents will either be working their asses off downtown to pay the rent or spending most of the time infesting nice spots in other international cities. There is one plus though - Bowery bums will now have some luxury sidewalk to set up on.

Sep. 11 2007 05:29 PM
Be from Manhattan

The all curvy, all glass building on Astor Pl., which is 75 percent empty two years after opening, is perhaps the ugliest building in the city. Not to mention the fact that they incorrectly call it "undulating." Undulating would mean that the building moves. It does not. It is merely curvy. And an ugly, all glass eye-sore.
Why don't architects make things with character anymore? Some brick, and nice facade....

Sep. 11 2007 11:01 AM
stu in nyc

What about buildings that may be artistic from an architectural standpoint, but scaffolding stays up forever with no work being done, which allows the homeless to seek shelter, dumpsters stay out longer than necessary, dog feces are never removed from the sidewalk, and snow is not shoveled on a timely basis? I am referring to the 3 sides of the Apthorp building on the Upper West Side that do not face Broadway.

Sep. 11 2007 10:28 AM
Rob Schoenbaum from New York, NY

To be perfectly honest I thought the World Trade Center towers were two of the biggest eyesores ever to disgrace the New York skyline. I mourn the thousands who died in that horrific attack but I do not miss those buildings. Their replacement, the Freedom Tower seems none too inspired either. Maybe great architecture and the political process in New York are mutually exclusive?

Sep. 11 2007 06:21 AM

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