The New New York
People who have lived in New York City for ten or more years have probably spent the last 6 or so wondering what the hell is going on. I can’t say exactly what event we could use as a cultural milestone for the New New York. There are probably many. Maybe it would be the first groundbreaking on one of the many glass-box Avalon rental properties that now choke the East Village and Lower East Side. Maybe it was when Hell’s Kitchen officially became known as Clinton. Maybe it was when rents for apartments on Ave. C (remember the ABCD mnemonic about the relative danger of walking further east along the lettered avenues? A, you’re asking for it; B, you’re batshit; C is for crazy, D is for dead) topped $3200 for a two bedroom apartment. Maybe it was when the Village Voice got bought by New Times and one of NYC’s most venerable independent newspapers wasn’t even owned by New Yorkers anymore.
Whenever that defining moment came, it was definitely after CBGBs closed its doors. By the time CBs moshed its last pit, Avalon Christy was already leasing space to Whole Foods and from the dark, dingy, graffitoed counter at Mars Bar, a shiny, McDonald’s-colored WaMu bank was already staring back at me across the street.
Sometimes it feels like New York was stolen in the middle of the night, like a big bad grinch came while we Who’s were dreaming our Who dreams. He took everything, and when we woke up from our sleep, we looked around to find glass boxes and clean streets and suits and a lot of blond hair extensions and Starbucks and celebrity style and sameness. It looked the same. When we walked around, the streets had the same names and the subways ran the same way, but something was different. When we went to a club for a party, we had to buy a bottle of expensive vodka at 800% markup or we couldn’t sit down. Our favorite old diner was replaced by another bank branch, and so the magazine shop next to it and the little boutique down the street, soon they went too because now no one came to hang out on the block anymore, they just stopped at the ATM before getting in a taxi to go to a destination restaurant in a neighborhood where no one can live because the rent is too high. No one except the hedge fund managers who helped make money for the people who buy the buildings who kick out the low rent-paying diner for the big bank or Gap store.
Time has definitely moved on. I can’t pinpoint the exact moment the New New York began to reach critical mass, but it’s definitely here, and there’s probably no better symbol for it than a highend menswear boutique in the space that used to be a cultural symbol of resistance, individuality, DIY spirit, and outside the mainstream pride.