The ironies could not have been more stark. Just a few years earlier and a few hundred yards to the south, Robert Moses, with the blessing of Mayor Wagner, had sought to destroy hundreds of similar cast-iron buildings to clear a path for his Lower Manhattan Expressway, with no thought whatsoever for the area’s historic architecture. Now, under a new mayor, that same architecture was not only being saved (in part by new zoning provisions designed to encourage its reuse) but also being lovingly and imaginatively reinterpreted. The desire to actively enjoy the existing landscape of the city — to find delight in its idiosyncrasies, its mixture of new and old, its picturesque vistas and tucked-away corners — was no longer the private, somewhat suspect pleasure of a few eccentric individuals like Murray Burns, but had come to be societally approved and officially supported.
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