the sky lineWhen Will They Ever Finish Manhattan?
One of the earliest citations appears in the March 16, 1935 issue of The New Yorker magazine, where no less an architectural critic than Lewis Mumford opened The Sky Line department with the quip, “The age of remodeling is now in full swing. Shall we anticipate history and call it the age of remuddling?” Mumford’s column, titled “Bars and Lounges,” focused on the changing face of Manhattan watering holes, but his intro referred to a wave of civic architecture upgrades that washed over New York City in the 1930s – in part at the behest of Robert Moses. As the new commissioner of parks under Mayor Fiorello La Guardia, Moses had both the political clout and the pocketbook to get things moving in the depths of the Depression, and he began a sweeping campaign to rebuild the city’s public works, one that would soon earn him the mantle of Gotham’s Masterbuilder of beaches, expressways, and airports. Mumford went on to damn with faint praise. “The nicest things that the city can show as a result of these efforts,” Mumford gibed, “are the handkerchiefs of playgrounds that Mr. Moses and his collaborators have been scattering all over the city.” Mumford, the urban planner and critic, continued to note, “They would be even nicer if Mr. Moses’ taste in architecture, though decent, were not tainted with the suburbanism of the ‘twenties. He has dogmatically, I understand, refused to countenance ‘modern architecture’.”