Wednesday, January 9, 2013

On the Death of Cities, Part 2

It’s been a bad week for New Yorkers of a certain age. On Monday, Big Apple Meat Market, a Hell’s Kitchen institution for 20 years and one of the last grocery stores in New York City that isn’t part of a chain, closed its doors. On Tuesday, Mxyplyzyk, a home design store in the Village for 20 years, shuttered. And today, Suzie’s Chinese Restaurant called it quits after 39 years on Bleecker Street.
In his invaluable blog, Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York (, Jeremiah Moss has been chronicling the creeping gentrification and homogenization of New York City (and Manhattan in particular). Every day, it seems, brings news of another mom and pop business forced to close by rising rents brought upon by the dominance of national chains. Slowly but surely, New York is losing the very quality that attracted people here in the first place. If you want to see the quirky characters and unique businesses that used to populate the countless cultural depictions of New York City, whether on Seinfeld on TV, in Neil Simon’s plays or Martin Scorcese’s movies, you have to go elsewhere.
Mayor Bloomberg bought the last election and used it to remake New York in his image: greedy, rapacious, and indifferent towards the needs of others.
As the owner of Mxyplyzyk put it in Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York, “It is quite clear the current city administration prefers chain stores over the 'mom and pops' with their tax abatements. This island is destined to have a very boring retail landscape.”
I’ve been talking about the disappearance of mom and pop stores in my comedy act for a while now and last night in my comedy class I made the remark that New York is now as boring as Cleveland but 10 times more expensive. My teacher pointed out—correctly, perhaps—that Cleveland is now actually more interesting than New York. And, I imagine, less expensive.
Many of my artistic friends have already fled the city and many more, including native New Yorkers like myself, are thinking of doing so.
Perhaps our mayor should have thought about that before he handed the keys of the city over to Starbucks, Duane Reade and the banks that now occupy the ground floor of every new building.
Gentrification is like global warming. Once the damage has been done, there’s no turning back. And the damage has already been done.

No comments: