ideas that are being generated from a book I’m currently reading, The Suburbanization of New York

This whole discussion seems to stem from some general ideas about NYC I came to not long after moving to the city early last year. I got around a lot as my job at the time had me working citywide and I noticed how some areas in the Bronx and further out in Brooklyn and Queens seemed pretty ghetto while the whole of Manhattan (yes even Harlem and Alphabet City) seemed… if not shiny and new at least safe, secure and to some degree bland and homogenized. It seemed a lot like a big vertical version of places I’d lived before. While there where a few areas along the East River that seemed in transition, not quite ghetto but not quite “Manhattan”. The use of quotes here is somewhat important as I use “Manhattan” as a way of contextualizing everything that anyone I’ve heard talking about or read writings about seem to be arguing that just a couple or few decades ago Manhattan was an island of heterogeneity from which the edgy dangers of city life worked to scare off those who didn’t thrive on it. The city pulled more like minded people in and the crazy cauldron fomented it’s own environment, unique in the world. Without going into detail, this is no longer the case.  It is bemoaned by many including the authors of a great collection of essays I fid myself in the middle of now, The Suburbanization of New York.

My general understanding, admittedly as a very ignorant newcommer, was that the natural progression of things was that Manhattan would increasingly become the land of crystal palaces, exclusive spaces and astronomically outrageous rents only to be understood, much less paid, by the super rich. All the while the outter boroughs would graadually be gentrified as well. Brooklyn is quite obviously the next in line although not the entirety of Brooklyn. It is obvouse that access to Manhattan is still a major factor in the areas that area redeveloped nowadays. So it is, the East side of the East River and corridors corresponding to the L train, the J and Z trains and a few others are quickly becoming land of the hipsters. I vinerable crowd whom I don’t really identify with or claim to understand. But I do understand that they are the first sign of gentrification. The trendy young crowd that is forging their way into the lower rent areas and in the process raising rents. A discount apartment for them is just out of the price range of the single black woman or working class group of hispanic fellows that used to live there.

The sad thing is I really don’t think they understand what it is they do to a neighborhood, which we will be getting into in a moment. I don’t claim to understand this group anymore than the punks, beatniks, flappers or any other coolture group that proceeded them but it definitely seems to me that the terminally cool bring with them the eternally cool chasing crackers who don’t understand what exactly it is they are moving into the neighborhood for. These are the folks who are happy when the innocuous Duane Reade shows up on the block and looks at on another a couple years after moving into the neighborhood and wonder, what happened to the edginess of the neighborhood? when did all my neighbors become carbon copies of me? Meanwhile the trendsetters, while not necessarily priced out nowadays, choose to find a place to dwell with decidedly fewer strollers and Starbucks opting instead for ddirty, dangerous streets and one off corner stors. Thus the trend repeats itself, leaving in it’s wake a………………………………………………………………….

In my mind that was fine and seemed only natural. The thing is, I had no context (and to some degree still dont as it is al second hand hearsay) to qualify what exactly this presumably natural progresion meant to the city and it’s milluions of long time inhabitants. You see, coming from Orlando Florida, where I lived for five years preciously, I was used to being in a place populated by a transient society and thought I had a handl;e on New York too. Boy was I mistaken, although it is true, NYC has it’s fair share, maybe even a disproportionate share, of transient inhabitants temporarily shadowing it’s streets, subways and housing stock, The City also has an extremely rich native, second and third generation folks as well as those who’s familys come too long ago for me to even understand. These people have a rich history that cannot be hidden, it is left bare on the streets for all to see, or anyone that is interested enough to look past the new sparkly thing that may be there now. There is a deep seated sence of cultural pride, every area and neighborhood has it’s own history of struggle, triumphs and defeats.

while I could see signs of this

 

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