Friday, May 23, 2008

*Everyday Chatter

Bob Arihood gets into the 6B Garden to show what has been saved from Eddie Boros' Tower of Toys--a collection of hobby horses and other toys that a garden insider told me will likely be auctioned off to raise money for the garden. I'll keep you posted on that possibility:

photo: Bob Arihood

Speaking of lost toys, a member of the VNY Flickr Group just posted a bunch of great pics of defunct toy shop Second Childhood. They closed in February and I'm still mad about it. [jackszwergold]

VNY reader BaHa blogs about Kalustyan's, a great old place I've been meaning to get up to and haven't, so read all about it here and smell the spices. [Serious Eats]

Park Slope mommies kill one of their own--as their favorite hangout shutters thanks to the gentrification they helped bring: "like Saturn devouring his young, that insatiable gentrifying beast has come to home to feed." Nice, but Medea might have been a better metaphor here. [Bk Paper] via [Gothamist]

Gawker gets "riled up" about the recent--and not so recent--New York vanishings, and their commenters wonder WTF is going on in this town. [Gawker]

What do you miss about New York? Read all about it. Hundreds commented. Makes you feel less alone. [City Room]

A "poverty tourist" from the UK decides the LES is too unappealing to merit saving. [EVG]

Watch this rather adorable New York story illustrated by comic-book artist Chris Ware. [Tilzy] via [Fimoculous]

Is it time to stop hating the SATC-wannabes, the "Scary Sadshaws" who angle for the position of "queen of New York narcissism"? Nah... [Jezebel]

Who doesn't love New York's potato-peeler guy? You've seen him, you've wondered about him, now here's his story. [Villager]

12 comments:

Joshua said...

I knew our best&bightest would eventually find this excess criticism of their SATC culture a bit disconcerting. "Hey...they're like, talking about like, us!"

Let's see, how long (since the mainstream media began aknowledging that a lot of people don't like these kids) did it take them to start whinig about being attacked? A month? Two weeks?
I think they have some unpleasant shocks coming.

JackSzwergold said...

Thanks for the picture links!

As far as Tea Lounge goes, it's shocking but I wouldn't be surprised if they find another space. The Union Street location is doing well and I'm sure some local building owner would love to have them there.

PS: Who in a down-market raises rents like that?

Kiry said...

Uh, Park Slope "mommies" are to blame, eh? You know, Park Slope has been gentrified for what, 30 plus years? And you're blaming a bunch of caffiene and adult conversation deprived mothers who hang out at a coffee shop? Guess who else hangs out there? Many "writers" hacking away on their Macs working on their "novels" or...their blogs! Oh, PS, lesbians drink coffee too. Some of them work there, and make great lattes. But just keep railing on the "mommies," Jeremiah.

L'Emmerdeur said...

kiry,

Gentrification is characterized by an uncharacteristic flood of wealth into a neighborhood which is triggered by massive re-development. I doubt "writers", "bloggers" or "lesbians" were the sources of wealth. Some were, most probably moved to Park Slope because it was affordable compared to other areas from which they moved.

These folks moved into existing housing because they were looking for cheaper housing. Gentrifiers move in because that housing has been destroyed and replaced by expensive housing stock.

Neighborhoods can change without being gentrified. Minority groups move out as they prosper (think the Greeks of Astoria who moved out in the 1980s) and are replaced by new waves of immigrants. Cultural changes occur as well. Young folks - artists, writers, "lesbians" - move in to these neighborhoods as their previous locales become too expensive, but they don't change the economics in any meaningful way, because they don't have the means with which to do so. they might bring some bars and cafes to the neighborhood, but they don't bring the condos or nightclubs.

In fact, you could classify the writers, bloggers and lesbians as "pre-gentrifiers". The immigrants established the neighborhood and created amenities (stores and services), the pre-gentrifiers moved in and made it "cool", and finally the gentrifiers looking for a cool new neighborhood flood in with their cash and drive the first two out.

So, no, writers, bloggers and lesbians did not gentrify Park Slope, they pre-gentrified it, much like the same types of young people did in countless other neighborhoods in New York the last 30 years.

By and large, the pre-gentrifiers do not force the immigrants out, because they do not have a meaningful economic impact on the locale - they are as low-income as the original residents. They do not displace existing residents, because they have no meaningful impact on prices. They do have a cultural impact as they bring the types of storefronts that appeal to them - different yes, but not "expensive". These cultural changes then attract the gentrifiers who displace the first two by driving up real estate prices. When prices go up, both residents and stores leave and are replaced with more gentrifiers and high-end retail storefronts as well as chain stores.

L'Emmerdeur said...

On another note, the pendulum has begun to swing the other way. New York City could do no wrong for the last 15 years. As I have stated previously, this cannot last forever. New York goes through phases of love and hate, with the previous peak in the 1950s and early 1960s and the previous trough in the late 1970s and 1980s.

Jeremiah Moss said...

kiry, just like witches, there are good mommies and bad mommies. unfortunately, nyc right now has a surplus of bad ones. all the good ones moved to the midwest. we need them back!

chartreuse velour said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Urban Prof said...

Actually, L'Emmerdeur, I think you (like Jeremiah) have major misconceptions about gentrification that allow you to define it in such a way that is more amenable to the particular point of view you have (artists, writers, bloggers, lesbians, lower end professionals = good, yuppies = bad). Your idea of pre-gentrification doesn't work, given all the conclusions of all the research on gentrification, and frankly seems like special pleading in order to obscure the fact that many of those who decry gentrification are also gentrifiers themselves. Funny how everybody thinks that gentrification begins only after they arrive.

First, gentrification is the class transformation of a place such that people with higher class position replaced those with lower class position. Thus, it is relative to those who were there before, not just to those who came later. So even the "starving" artists or "poor" writers were in fact "rich" in relation to the very poor people who were there before. Now they are being displaced: so gentrification has moved up the class ladder so that gentrifiers are now being gentrified.

Second, gentrification goes a lot further back in time then you think. For example, the gentrification process in the East Village began in the 1970s, when the city government and landowners took actions that led to the displacement of poor LESers and the luring of writers, artists, and "bohemians" to the area. Read Jagna Sharff's King Kong on Fourth Street or Chris Mele's Selling of the LES for details.

Third, the city government and landowners play a major role in preparing the ground for gentrification and then facilitating it. Despite the frontier/pioneer mythology embraced by many early gentrifiers, they are usually moving into an area that has been prepared for them already: via targeted policing strategies, supports for development, increases in city services etc. Again, this occurred in the 1970s and the 1980s in the East Village: take a look at Neil Smith's New Urban Frontier.

On another note, you might want to tone down the didacticism until you acquaint yourself with the actual history of gentrification in NYC. Even a cursosy glance at the wikipedia page on gentrification and the role artists and so on play might be a good idea.

Jeremiah Moss said...

urban prof, i appreciate your explanation of gentrification, but i do find some holes here. how is "class" defined and how "wealth"? why is the starving artist considered richer than, say, the working-class plumber who makes a good living? this has always baffled me.

also, the word "gentrification" as i have said before, is really shorthand for what's happening in this city today. it's not the best word and i regret having to use it at all.

i've used "vongerichtification" and other words, rather tongue in cheek, to try and describe it.

there is something in the personality of--not yuppies, i'm not talking about mere young urban professionals--but people who have no interest in maintaining the integrity of the city and its neighborhoods as they are, but are hell-bent on "cleaning it up" and "improving" it. there is a destructive intent here and that's what i want to critique and analyze most.

i'm not writing as an academic and i am not an urban studies expert. but the evidence is overwhelming. you only have to walk through the streets, day after day, to see it--the city is being bulldozed. that goes far beyond gentrification.

who is giving attention to that?

urban prof said...

We can define class in this context as defined by the control of money. Wealth means having more accumulated money. Income means having a greater in-flow of money in a particular time period. A plumber may well be more wealthy and have a higher income than a writer (probably does, actually). A writer probably has a higher degree of status (defined in terms of aesthetics, tastes, self-presentation, etc.). And that writer may by virtue of education, networks, etc. have the potential to increase his or her wealth/income in the future in a way that the plumber does not.

In any case, plumbers were not gentrified out of the East Village or Park Slope in the 1970s. Rather, low-income service and industrial workers and unemployed people were (neither had much if any wealth). And they were replaced (with much assistance from developers, landlords, and the city government) by people with higher levels of wealth, income, and status. People (full disclosure!) like my parents, and like me, and I suspect like you, Jeremiah, as well.

Also:
-Language about cleaning up the city and improving it WAS used from the beginning of gentrification. In fact, such language is endemic to modern urban life, which has seen episode after episode of attempts to upscale the city.

-The people who were displaced by the earliest gentrifiers also felt like the integrity of the city they knew was under assault. They resented the artists and bohemians who came into the EV in the 1970s and 1980s.

So, no, I don't think that there is a radical difference in quality in what is happening now. This is not to say that gentrification has not expanded in scale or degree, which it clearly has: it has become a central tenet of urban policy and a central fact of urbanization instead of a relatively small-scale process effecting a handful of neighborhoods. I think that the major change is actually that gentrification is now displacing earlier gentrifiers who have built up a myth about the city and their place in it and who, unlike those they displaced years ago, have access to media outlets, blogs, and so on.

This doesn't mean what is happening shouldn't be fought tooth and nail It only means that the problem goes beyond the personality flaws of yunnies to the way the political economy of the city works. And stopping gentrification means changing that political economy through political action and alliance building.

This is why critical and radical urban scholars of NYC like Neil Smith, Miriam Greenberg, Jason Hackworth, Arlene Davila, Kim Moody, Loretta Lees, Josh Freeman, and others (including me) do the work they do - to analyze the workings of this urban political economy in order to change it. So we are paying attention (and often working with various political groups to do so). But this kind of work doesn't fit well with the urban triumphalism of the Bloomberg era (one of the scholars I listed above -- a major figure in urban studies -- has submitted an editorial to the NY Times once a year for the last two decades: so far, no success).

Jeremiah Moss said...

glad to hear we're not in total disagreement. i do take umbrage with the idea of the myth of the city, and especially, the EV/LES.

Artists and writers were moving here as early as the early 1950s when they were priced out of Greenwich Village, home of the original bohemians of the 1920s and 30s. DeKooning, Ginsberg, Kerouac all moved here in the early 50s. So you might say the first gentrifiers came in 1950, not 70 or 80.

Also, socialism and political demonstration in the EV goes back to the 1870s. We also had a long era of Jewish intellectuals and Yiddish actors in this neighborhood.

So I don't think it's a myth that the EV/LES, and much of NYC in general, has long been a haven for a mixture of types, including and punctuated by: artists, writers, intellectuals, rabble-rousers, etc.

That is being wiped away systematically today by the political policies you speak of. and those policies have created a tremendous haven for "yunnies," "joneses," and the like--for personalities who are attracted to safety, cleanliness, and wealth above all else, who devalue humanity, creativity, and diversity in all its messy unpredictability.

these personalities, in turn, maintain and strengthen the political economies. you can't have politics without people, without human trends.

and the trend we're living with now is one deadset on bulldozing the city as it is and replacing it with a sterilized simulation.

urban prof said...

To clarify - the myth I am referring to is the myth that many people - who were gentrifiers and did displace others - hold that posits a period of innocence/authenticity that only ended after their entre onto the scene. You are absolutely right about the tradition of radical politics, embracing difference, and rejecting bourgeois values in NYC and the LES/EV in particular. My point is that this tradition and the people who came or live in NYC because of it (like me) is intertwined with the often destructive political economy of the city. So one can be a gentrifer and part of this tradition: in fact, many people (again like me) are. It is not a matter of innocence and authenticity on one side and guilt and destruction on the other but a much more complex story.

My hope is by acknowledging the fact that this is not a morality tale but a political and economic one that action can be directed in the right way -- not at yunnies but at real estate developers, and not at park slope mommies but at city hall. That is at those who hold the real power to destroy the NYC that symbolizes an alternative to mainstream, corporate, American culture.