In 2015, Adam Friedberg suddenly began taking an interest in the jagged skyline of downtown Manhattan. Despite having lived in the area for almost 30 years and working as an architecture photographer, the gentrification-led phenomenon of the vanishing single-story building had somehow never really sunk in for him. In low-rise neighborhoods like the East Village and Lower East Side, newer buildings as tall as eight stories tend to stick out.

The landscape "felt like a broken tooth," said the 53-year-old recently in an interview with Gothamist.

From an aesthetic standpoint, the negative space created, the swath of sky framed between buildings, called out to him. So he decided to set out to document the neighborhoods' single-story buildings. Because there was no deadline, he worked the way he wanted to: in film, using a black and white large format 5x7 view camera, and rising before dawn to capture the spare-looking images when there were no cars or people around.

Initially he thought there would only be around 30 such buildings. But as he walked the corridors—14th Street, Canal, Broadway and Avenue D—he found that were more than 100. Given the pace of development, he began to feel a sense of urgency with the project. Ultimately, some of the one-story buildings got torn down before he was able to get to them.

"These [single-story] ones are the most vulnerable," he said. "They have space on top of them... Nobody is going to build a new one."

The photos have garnered the attention of those interested in the city's ephemeral quality. In 2016, T Magazine showcased some of his photos on its website. Following that, the Center for Architecture called and expressed interest. Since November, the cultural venue has been showing 54 of Friedberg's photos in an exhibit titled Single-Story Project.

Not every building, however, is doomed for destruction. Friedberg's photos include one of the Lower East Side's most iconic storefronts, that of Katz's Deli. In 2015, the famed pastrami-maker sold its air rights for about $17 million so that a developer could build an 11-story condominium next door.

But Friedberg told Gothamist that several of the property owners he spoke to, who mistook him for a real estate developer, seemed desperate to sell.

He doesn't blame them for wanting out. "If they aren't making money you can’t force them to stay there," he said.

In addition to conversations with owners, the project taught him a lot about some of the inner workings of the city, in particular its car-owning class and the choreographed shuffle performed by those complying with alternate-side-of-the-street regulations. Because he was determined not to have cars in his photos ("too distracting," he explained), he sometimes had to negotiate with drivers, three or four at times, to temporarily park elsewhere on the promise that he would secure the spaces for them when he was finished shooting. Other times, he even resorted to leaving notes on cars that never seemed to move.

"It’s really hard to get these people to agree to this," he said. He recalled that one individual called him a "dirtbag photographer."

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Greenwich Avenue

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But nearly five years after he started down this road, Friedberg is not finished. He is still shooting New York's built environment, sharing many of the photos on his personal Instagram account. His new focus, however, is on buildings and facades with a "quirkiness about them that is very New York."

"I don't see an end to it," he said.

His exhibit at the Center for Architecture runs through February 29th.