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New York I Love You But…


Is it just me or am I seeing more stories than ever about how gentrification of this great city is reaching saturation point?

Emotions run the range from anger, as expressed by Brian Carter in the New York Press, writing about the “discovery” of Washington Heights…

As obnoxious as it may be for one transplant to look down on another, there was something incredibly annoying about watching a new arrival get all worked up and excited about their move to the neighborhood. It was certainly an irrational resentment, though the fact still remained. I moved up there long before it was a safely accepted and recognizable neighborhood. I lived there for years without the perks, without the restaurants and gourmet markets, the coffee shops and “like-minded” neighbors who sprawled inside them. I loved it exactly the way it was and never asked that it add anything new or extra to suit my conveniences or comforts. In fact, I thought it was a lot better without all of that shit.

…to outer borough bemusement, as observed by Joshua M. Bernstein in Time Out, noting how Brooklyn bars are now suffering from the same weekend overcrowding that drove their original denizens away from Manhattan…

It’s no secret that Brooklyn is swelling with trendy, single residents who would have opted for a downtown Manhattan address a decade ago (or today, if they had the funds)… Ryan Pederson of Prospect Heights rarely patronizes beer-and-burger bar Soda, because “it’s changed from a beloved neighborhood hangout to a place that’s packed regardless of the service. Good luck getting a drink if you’re sitting at a table when Soda’s busy.”

Any excuse to print a Joe Coleman painting. I was fortunate enough to film in his old 13th Street apartment once: it housed probably the greatest collection of serial killer art(efacts) in private hands.

…to familiarity stories about adopt-or-die coffee bars in the East Village, as in this piece in the Times about Alt Coffee, which originally catered to the anarchists and activists around Tompkins Square Park…

Alt Coffee will reopen as Hopscotch, a coffeehouse with a new name and a new look meant to keep it in step with the evolution of a neighborhood where stroller-bound children and their parents have drained away some of the East Village’s grit.

The cafe’s owner, Nick Bodor, said that since 2001 his insurance costs have tripled and that it recently became more expensive to rent computer equipment, leaving him little choice but to accommodate the changing times.

Although he said that the neighborhood would be well served by a cafe that caters to children and thought he could preserve much of the vitality that made the place appealing, Mr. Bodor acknowledged that he was saddened by the economic necessities that forced the change.

…which reminds me that I wanted to quote from the Tonic club’s sad farewell letter…

After more than 9 years as a home for avant-garde, creative, and experimental music, Tonic will reluctantly close its doors on Friday, April 13th, 2007. We simply can no longer afford the rent and all of the other costs associated with doing business on the Lower East Side.

The neighborhood around us has been increasingly consumed by “luxury condominiums”, boutique hotels and glass towers, all making the value of our salvaged space worth more then our business could ever realistically support. We have also been repeatedly harassed by the city’s Quality of Life Task Force which resulted in the debilitating closing of the ))sub((tonic lounge in January. Coincidentally, this campaign began as our immediate neighbor, the Blue Condominium building – a symbol of the new Lower East Side – prepared to open its doors.

…and finally, for now, from this refreshingly poetic piece by Sari Botton in the Village Voice, noting how real estate karma may have come back to bite her on the rear end. In 1993, she deposed the brilliant outsider artist (and East Village staple) Joe Coleman from his $234 a month rent-stablized apartment. (The apartment now goes for $2100 a month.) She and her husband recently vacated their Avenue B apartment to make way for film director Michel Gondry, promoting Botton to ask whether…

The East Village has transformed from the cheap place you went to live in squalor while you strove to make it as an artist, to the place you aspire to go once you’ve made it.

…But I think she already knows the answer.

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