Tuesday, December 30, 2008

New York Is Dead

Coming back to NY is always nostalgic, but as the city continues to get more expensive, and only cater to the wealthy, more and more of old NY disappears. In once affordable, interesting, artsy neighborhoods like Soho, Greenwich Village and The East Village the assortment of artists and countercultural misfits have been replaced with hipster yuppies that dress like Weezer and the teacup poodle set.

Great places like 99X (where I bought my first pair of Doc Martens), The New Music Distribution Service, and Rocks In Your Head already closed over a decade ago, but each time we return to NY the list of iconic NYC places that are still open gets shorter. Religious Sex already closed a few years ago, as did Second Coming Records (where I bought about 40-50% of my entire 80s and early 90s record collection). Accidental CDs Records and Tapes is now gone as well. And while CBGB's demise and the troubled decline of the Limelight have been well chronicled by many, the death of a slew of smaller clubs and bars haven't been, such as the excellent experimental music venue Tonic and the wonderful Avenue A dive, The Korova Milk Bar. On this trip the death list continues to grow: Love Saves The Day (which will keep it's New Hope, PA store open) is closing in January and Pongsri Restaurant is gone without a trace. Urban Outfitters has become so much a clone of The Gap that its previous existence as a quirky NY venue is pretty much moot. So many small art galleries and music venues died when Soho became an upscale shopping mall, I can't even remember most of their names -- and the larger, wealthier galleries wiped-out most of the remains of the Meat Packing District club scene. Meanwhile, entire working class neighborhoods like Hell's Kitchen no longer exist.

A few survivors still hanging on: Exit Art, The Kitchen, Bleecker Bob's, Trash & Vaudville, The Strand, St. Mark's Sounds, and Forbidden Planet, Katz's Deli, East Village Books, and St. Mark's Bookstore. If you're in New York, help keep these places open by giving them your business. There might be no way to make NY affordable for working class people, artists, writers and musicians again, and bring back its cultural vitality, but maybe a few vestiges can be kept intact.

UPDATES: Mondo Kim's is also closing, leaving only a video sales shop on 7th. Their entire rental collection will be given to any NY film school or rental shop that agrees to continue to allow Kim's customers to rent from them.
And yes, by New York I mean Manhattan. In fact, I basically mean Soho, East Village/Lower East Side/Bowery, Greenwich Village/Chelsea/Meat Packing District, and environs. Even though I lived in Brooklyn for a few years, and Williamsburg / Greenpoint seems to be thriving -- that's all new stuff as far as I'm concerned. And while I'm all for new stuff that's interesting (i.e. not corporate cookie-cutter crap), I miss the old New York.


Doctor Memory said...

At the risk of sounding a little cranky, this post is only marginally accurate if by "New York" you mean "Manhattan".