Some of New York’s neighborhoods are analogous to the strata of a tropical rainforest in that they possess a variety of different storied buildings that closely cohabitate.

From the forest floor arises the understory (also known as the shrub layer) where buildings around 10 stories reside.  On the Upper East Side, buildings under 20 stories are sparse.

The forest canopy layer is densest and nestled between the forest understory below and the forest emergent layer above.  This level holds the most biodiversity, which holds true to our urban fabric.

Up where the trees emerge is the forest emergent level, and they get the most attention. This is where the buildings pierce the urban fabric and rise above the others. Woolworth, Mercantile, Lincoln, 1 Wall Street, Chrysler, Empire State, 731 Lexington, One World Trade Center, and One57 have, through the years and up to this very day, received all the glory.

YES, but what of the “shrub layer”?

This shot was taken on top of a 5-story building located at 3 E 52nd Street, looking South, and captures the top of the neighborhood’s “understory”.  I feel that this part of the urban fabric is the most under appreciated portion of our city.

When edges become both blurred and defined, an interesting juxtaposition occurs. These four buildings are sited on E 53rd, E 52nd, E 51st, and E 50th Streets. As if collaged, though, these existing buildings (parts) make up a single photo-image (whole): a glimpse of 4 blocks in one view. 

Incite your senses the next time you visit New York’s understory.

View of the Upper East Side’s “shrub layer” brought to you by Merritt Vossler.