Matt Chaban airs an irregular gripe with Frank Gehry, FAIA, in The New York Observer: Gehry’s residential skyrise has too many windows, and it takes window washers too long to clean them. “[T]he lengths to which the humble window washer must go to clean New York by Frank Gehry, the 76-story downtown apartment tower,” Chaban writes, “are as extreme as the ripples in the building’s facade, according to [The New York Times].”
Except that’s not exactly what The New York Times says. In a story about new residential high-rises springing up across Manhattan, Times reporter Elizabeth A. Harris notes that window washers are enjoying their excellent fortunes. They’re in high demand now, she reports, and can make tens of thousands of dollars in the time that it takes to clean a skyrise.
It apparently takes window washers a while to clean New York by Gehry: six to nine months, according to the story. By comparison, it takes two crews three months to clean Times Warner Center at Columbus Circle. But this is an incomplete comparison. Maybe it’s just one crew assigned to New York by Gehry. (That could make sense: the Times Warner Center comprises two towers—both of which are shorter than New York by Gehry.) Perhaps the window washers at Columbus Circle are more efficient than the ones at Spruce Street. Or maybe it is much harder to clean the windows along a rippling building than it is to clean windows along a rigid skyscraper.
“No wonder nobody wants to pay for overwrought designs,” Chaban writes. “From leaky ceilings to lugubrious window washing, why bother?”
That’s a large comparison to draw. Even if it turns out that it takes the same window-washing crews months longer to clean New York by Gehry than it does to clean another similarly sized skyscraper—in other words, all else being equal—readers should be asking themselves: so what? This is a price easily determined and acknowledged up front and built into the price of the rental. Leaky ceilings are a disaster; some variance in the cost of window-washing for more or more-complex windows is just the cost of doing business.