Northern Manhattan is an interesting place. My wife and I lived on 176th and Broadway for the last two years of our stay in NYC. I remember biking to and from the office in Union square thinking that things were much more complex than they looked on a map.
North of 125th street, the terrain gets much more hilly. Aside from being tough to bike through, the hills themselves create bizarre moments as they run up against the regular street grid.
West 190th street is a perfect example. The topography drops off in such a steep way that the building itself was built up on a lattice-like steel frame and left exposed to the elements. The area below the building was infilled with trees, and a shocking amount of trash built up over time. Other buildings enclose the massive steel frames used to prop them up over the terrain, but not the buildings on 190th st.
Clearly, this isn’t a great solution. It was most likely the less expensive option. I guess when real estate prices are as high as they are here, developers can afford to create these less-than-ideal conditions in some areas. It’s a shocking site, nonetheless.