Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Condo-pocalypse Is Coming


after the condo-pocalypse...

I love a New York City apocalypse fantasy and these images by photographer Lori Nix are right up there. They're from an article in this week's New York Magazine in which they enumerate the ways in which our exuberant economy might be tanking. To the catastrophists, they say, "it sure smells like the seventies all over again."



My dream? To see these luxury condos fall vacant then fill up again, but this time with working class families, artists, small business owners, novelists, filmmakers, teachers, nurses, PhD students, a few trust-funders trying to make it on their own, poets just bussed in from small American towns, the bus drivers, too, and blind piano players, crazy cat ladies, neo-burlesque dancers, retired vaudevillians, feeders of pigeons and wearers of tinfoil hats, drag queens and kings, taxi drivers, butchers, bakers.

In short, New Yorkers, the people who live here -- whether born here or drawn here -- not because they want to live in a shopping mall, but because, of all the places on this planet, New York is the only place where they can truly feel at home.

18 comments:

rexlic said...

Wow, the condo thing is really getting to you these days. Sounds likes what the city needs right about now is some condo abstinence--but that probably works as well for developers putting up phallic skyscrapers as it does in the sexual arena. I think what's needed is "Condoms For Condos," a wrap put over a new building by an anti-Christo, who will emerge as prophesied to bring about the "condo-pocalypse." (I'd like to take this further, evoking Gog and Magog and A-Rod, but all I learned about it was from one of those weird little Chick Publishing comic books I found on the street as a kid.)

Barbara said...

You made me cry; I miss my city so much.

John said...

Those images remind me alot of the book "The World Without Us" which I think I indirectly heard about from the now-famous Jeremiah Moss =).

There's a saying I think of when I feel overwhelmed by the shit going on in NY and abroad (ie: the globalization of an insanely unbalanced capitalism that reduces everything and everyone to homogeneous, efficient producers of numeric value, nature, decency, or humanity be damned):

"If you want something to contract, first let it expand."

Eventually the fickle rich's house of cards built upon speculation upon speculation will fall out from under them and they will flee to suburbs, south america and gated communities in connecticut (protected by Blackwater), and diverse life will again flourish in NYC. Hopefully the transition wont be too painful or violent, so we should build the networks and values that will get us through those rough times with body and soul intact.

"We Make the Road by Walking"...a good idea and another great book!

Keep up the great work JM! Your baby is growing before our eyes!!

Anonymous said...

I have the exact same fantasy - that eventually the rich people will drive out all the people that make this city interesting. Then they will wonder, wait, why are we living here again? They will return to their manicured lawns and the city will be ours again.

NYC Roads said...

"In 1990 the city was edgy but not terrifying."

And I suppose you wish for a return to 2,200 murders a year like we had in the peak murder year of 1990. What could be more terrifying than that?

Anonymous said...

In the early 90s people like you got the gentrification ball rolling. You're a proto-Yunnie.

john said...

Heyyyy! I just read that NYer article he linked to. How about this quote?!


"While so far only a few Merrill Lynch bigwigs have been shown the door, it’s almost certain that a chunk of the company’s rank and file will soon follow. All told, New York–based financial companies had already announced more than 42,000 layoffs as of October, according to one study, and the pace could pick up through the end of the year. That’s people who won’t be bidding up new apartments, who won’t be going out to dinner five times a week, who won’t be testing the outer limits of their credit cards at Barneys. The downstream effects of this could be even more severe, as every Wall Street job is estimated to account for another 1.3 to 2 jobs, meaning that additional job losses could push 100,000."

A cause to celebrate! And take your banks and starfucks with you!!! Everything moves in cycles towards equilibrium. The more out of balance things get, the more drastic the readjustment (for good & bad).

For now, a round of NYC tap water on me!

Jeremiah Moss said...

Proto-yunnie? Definitely not. I don't have narcissistic personality disorder.

Gentrifier? I am open to that argument, though I do not fit the definition (especially when I first arrived) of "gentry," landed or otherwise.

But ultimately there is a world of difference between moving into a neighborhood and wanting to live with it, as it is, without forcing massive irrevocable change upon it, and moving into a neighborhood with the wish and wherewithal to rip it to shreds and turn it into your own personal monoculture.

Anonymous said...

I think the rigidity of your argument and your inability to see the good in a lot of the developments you bash is narcissistic. Whole Foods: sure is a huge store, but they're also offering health benefits and bringing more attention to food policy than almost anyone else. The New Museum: sure its modern, but it's an incredible building and offers exposure to young artists. The kind of rhetoric you use makes it difficult to have an intelligent conversation about the changes going on in New York. And don't get me started about you listing girls feeling safe in a neighborhood being a sign of loss of New York's soul.

Josh said...

To the anonymous poster and NYC Roads: I'm not sure where you got the idea that Jeremiah supports murder and young-girl intimidation. Can't a historical era be evocative in spite of its blood-splattered tabloid headlines? Just as crime proliferated in 1990, ubiquity threatens to spoil the city today. This genericness is obvious in the proliferation of chain stores heretofore limited to the suburbs (and the uprooting of treasured local haunts, which Jeremiah notes here as "vanished.")

But the homogenization of the city is also going on behind the doors of New York's apartments--and between the ears of New Yorkers. The emerging blandness New York's choices in restaurants, shopping, and personal services (most shocking former crime hot-spots, such as Times Square and the Lower East Side) reflects a blandness in the taste of customers. Jeremiah blames narcissism. I think his argument is strong. Who would prefer an Olive Garden to a local spaghetti house, or a $5 latte to a corner pushcart, or a glass-and-steel condo to a cozy brick loft?

Here's who: Someone who doesn't trust a chef without a corporate label on his apron; someone who needs every specific preference acknowledged, right down to the choice between three brands of fake sugar; and someone who can be fooled into paying millions for a home with a gym (with TVs at every station!), at-your-door dry-cleaning, and other trappings of "luxury."

They are otherwise known as assholes.

rexlic said...

Anonymous' reference to Whole Foods was the tipoff to his kneejerk pro-development stance. To cite a store which has only shown up in the priciest buildings--their second location was the Time/Warner center, probably the most expensive retail setting in NYC--and then admire its take on health benefits misses the point. Yes, I think sometimes Mr. Moss may take the nostalgia thing too far, but he consistently focuses on the real issue: it is the people of NYC who are getting displaced, along with its landmarks, big and small. The signature effect of globalism, of being colonized, is to make the stranger with the bulging pursestrings welcome and to shove aside those who have made a true home of a place. That such a system is cruel, short-sighted and always causes unnecessary hardship is borne out through history. And those who "make it" here congratulate themselves on the new order, having simply outsourced the problems, not solved them.

john said...

amen rexlic...im reading brave new world now and it's amazing how the book could have been written in NYC circa now. people conditioned into thinking having every need met is happiness, scurrying "happily" in their preassigned roles, responding negatively to questioning of the order...

"Actual happiness looks pretty squalid in comparison with the overcompensations for misery."

Anonymous said...

I experienced a troubling foreshadowing of the condopocalypse last night, as I visited a friend in my old neighborhood at w. 129th and Lenox. As people were moving into the new Lenox condo, police were stationed in front of the moving truck. There was no other reason for them to be there; the sickening motive was clear. Previously, as the condo was being built, I remember watching with a mix of wonder and horror as the police "SkyWatch" hovered over it for months. And now the police presence for the move-in. Our city taxes at work...

Anonymous said...

That's funny, because basing Whole Foods is always a signal to me that someone is being a bit reactionary. Whole Foods is a perfect example of a flawed, but not generically evil corporation. I'm not pro-development but I do recognize that things change (totally granted that the current change is out of control). All I'm saying is that the nostalgia and finger-pointing goes a bit to far on this blog. And the authors inability to see beyond his own nostalgia renders his view point a bit narcissistic. I think it's alienating for a large portion of the population that agrees with what he's saying, but is turned off by the us/them mentality that so often dominates debates on the issue of development. I also read that NY mag article, by the way, hoping that the economy would crash and I'd be able to continue to afford to live here, because I'm about to be priced out.

Angelissima said...

Whole Foods is to grocery what Starbucks is to coffee.

ruination.

rexlic said...

anonymous (if the same anonymous each time): And yet your tepid defense of Whole Foods doesn't address my take on them: that they only open up in extremely well-off locations, areas that happen to be where the indigenous population is being chased out. New York, yes even Manhattan, is a type of eco-system, and if you remove some part of its diversity, the balance will be thrown off. What I think this blog so consistently, and heartbreakingly, chronicles, is the terrible effect upon the body of NYC this process is wreaking. And, inevitably, how the first things swept away are those things which most readily defined the city up 'til now. New York for the past century has been a city unafraid to reach for the sky, but its true pulse could always be found at street level. And that's just where the its vitality has ebbed, as each block becomes identical in retail and residential appearance, and the people ignoring everything about their physical environment stumble cluelessly sbout in their electronically-induced separation. Every one else is somewhere in purgatory.

john said...

whole foods is a symbol: of the colonization of yet another space, of comfort and "wellness" available to some, of the self-congratulatory "aint we enlightened" yoga-going types that are so self-absorbed and ignorant of others they dont realize how self absorbed and ignorant they are.

The us/them dynamic is how society/mentality currently works. The people resisting are just pointing it out. But like the poster who saw police protecting the goods of a wealthy mover-in, there certainly is an us/them, with the typical roses and thistles.

Eventually the conversation has to move to capitalism, what ends our social system is/should serve, and building a coherent vision for the future. People use to talk about those things down in Union Square didnt they (before such talk was labeled "dangerous" by those benefiting from status quo and before the blue boards surrounded it)?

Anonymous said...

If you look at the stock market, the residential housing market / mortgage market, we see a trend. When the prices reach their very upper limits, and seem to reaching into the sky, the whole thing falls down quite violently. NYC real estate is at its last legs, the rents and condo/coop prices will soon be too high for even the higher income types, and with the economy going in recession this is accentuated even further. Look for the "sell signals", I'm talking about a recent purchase for $150 Million, thats the sign that the house of cards is about to fall. The only problem is that this fall may be even worse, because NYC has always been buffered by it's family driven street level economy, and heavy low consumption, high production immigrant groups. When this falls off, watch for this city to become a ghost town for a while....The city will come alive again, just wait, the downturn is just around the corner, and yes tons of those real estate companies will go down, quite violently they might implode. The market's way too hot, too too hot....