Wednesday, November 7, 2007

How SATC Killed NYC


Huffington Post: Bloomie in Pink

Yesterday, SI Live broke the news that Mayor Bloomberg will have a cameo appearance in the Sex and the City movie. How perfect that the billionaire mayor who is burying New York should have a role in the franchise that helped strangle it to death.


SATC fans pinking it up on tour

I know a lot of people just adore this show, but I believe that Sex and the City lifted New York's once-fledgling, minority yunnie culture to its current position of near-total dominance. And, right or wrong, I blame SATC (at least in part) for the demise of this city. Let's take a look at how it all began...


bratz: SATC spawn in condo sidewalk tunnel

1994:
In November, Bowery Bar opens on the site of an old gas station and the yunnies strike their first major blow against everything good about the Lower East Side, much to the chagrin of the neighbors. I remember a handmade, red flashing sign in the window of an apartment next door that said, "Cooper Union, how could you do this to us?" with an arrow pointing straight at Bowery Bar’s entrance.

The opening of “BBar” sets off a firestorm of opposition: "The NoHo Neighborhood Association and some members of Community Board 2 argue that the bar, and others they believe would open in its wake, will erode the character of the area by changing it from a haven for light industry and artists into a trendy night spot." Of course, that prediction was correct.

Shortly after the opening of Bowery Bar, Candace Bushnell’s “Sex and the City” column premieres in The Observer. In her first story, she describes a dinner she attended for Karl Lagerfeld at BBar.



1995:
In February, after a brief fight, Bowery Bar’s opponents settle with the owners and the bar is allowed to operate without a special zoning permit, thereby opening up the area for future development.

In the same year, Bushnell meets Beverly Hills 90210/Melrose Place TV producer Darren Star for the first time at -- you guessed it -- the Bowery Bar. He will later approach her with the idea to turn "Sex and the City" into a television show.

Unlike Community Board 2, the NoHo Neighborhood Association, and the SoHo Alliance, the person who made that flashing red sign didn't settle. It kept flashing its angry, plaintive message for years and would no doubt have been beaming right in the faces of Star and Bushnell when they entered BBar and East met West -- over cosmos. It was the beginning of the end. The Californication of New York City had officially begun.


Avalon Bowery gigantic condo/apt complex

Today:
I usually avoid that block, but I happened to walk by recently. The lone iconoclast who made that beseeching, blinking sign is long gone. The tenement building he or she lived in now looks like a luxury townhouse. Sex and the City the movie is filming all over town. Its fashion designs have turned “every woman into a clone of Carrie-fucking-Bradshaw." And the mayor eats it up with a silver spoon.

As for the Bowery, well, the Bowery gasps and trembles from the tremors of its own agonizing death rattle. Just like the rest of New York, it has become a world dominated by gossip girls and boys -- "and what an ugly, boring world it is."

Also see: How the Cupcake Crumbled

29 comments:

Anonymous said...

To add salt to the wound, the townhouse next door to BBar is now an expensive bed and breakfast owned by, I believe, by the former or current owners of BBar.

Jeremiah Moss said...

is that what it is? i wondered why it looked so swank. i guess the people who lived there were booted? if anyone knows the person who made the blinking sign, or if you have a photo of the sign, please send it in.

Anonymous said...

I officially no longer feel guilty about shoplifting from Patricia Field's 8th street store in high school...

emanon said...

Stumbled upon your blog linked to another site. I thought, "Have I been sleepblogging?"These are things me and my fellow New Yorkers have lamented about for years. Giuliani is really the midwife to this current spawn of carpetbaggers that populate our formerly filthy yet very interesting and unpredictable streets. I remember this couple that used to live in the doorway of the now renovated carriage house across the street from BBar. Everyone one who lived in that neighborhood knew THEIR names. Now most of the people who flock to these places like BLVD, The Bowery Hotel(?)etc, don't even know what their OWN identity is, until how they dress, where they eat, what bands they see, and what cocktails they consume are consecrated by some 21 year old pr intern who just came into town 8 months ago. Cheers to you for writing this blog.

Rambler said...

Great post. I lived in LA when SATC came on and even from there I hated the New York it showcased.

Damn, sometimes I miss LA. I know, but there are some pretty cool parts to it.

Have my own thoughts on the glass buildings and what it says about our society (see close the blinds). Yes, I'm plugging my own post here.

iloveupstate.com said...

Are you eavesdropping? I said SATC killed NYC much in the same way that Ally McBeal killed Boston to my fiance a few days ago.

Sam said...

i can not possibly agree with this post more. i am glad to see i am not the only person bitching about this endlessly.

Jeremiah Moss said...

there are indeed cool parts to LA -- and they should stay in LA. i feel compelled to confess here that i have been a fan of beverly hills 90210 and the O.C., but what i like about those shows is that they take place 3,000 miles away from NYC. when their creators brought their shallow schlock to NYC via satc and gossip girl, well, let's just say i don't like those particular boundaries being crossed.

Goggla said...

When I first came to NYC, I was 'between homes' for a while and found myself on the Bowery. I was turned away from the White House on Bowery & Great Jones because I could not produce non-NY/NJ ID. How much lower could one go?

That enlightening time spent on the Bowery really affected me and my heart is forever tied to that piece of culture that is being lost (goodbye Sunshine Hotel, hello doggie boutique).

Is it wrong for me to miss the destitution? I can't even afford to live on the street where once only the most desperate took refuge.

Katherine said...

What is perhaps the most insidious part of SATC's participation in gentrification is the way that it absorbed queer identities. The show transformed queer radical politics into fashion accessories. The physical gentrification of the city was matched by cultural colonialism. I wrote my senior thesis on this topic! Cindy Patton has a really interesting article on how Madonna did the same thing when she stole voguing from black and latino queer culture.

Anonymous said...

Great blog.. It is said that these things happen in waves. I'm hoping one day the wave will go back to the TRUE NYers. I almost welcome a new crime wave back in NY!At least, we'd still have authentic/caring/community driven residents!
joeygrins@yahoo.com

Jeremiah Moss said...

thanks everyone for supporting me in my hatred of satc...

katherine, you wrote your thesis on satc? god, i love you cultural studies people. feel free to share a juicy tidbit or two.

goggla, the last line of your comment is truly heartbreaking.

Anonymous said...

Katherine - I really want to hear about that too!

SATC and the Meat Packing district: I remember going to the Clit Club and seeing dykes smoking crack in the hallways. You'd walk down the street with your boots getting sticky from the animal blood. The Hellfire Club was around the corner - men would offer me coke and a foot massage. Topless trannies would run around on the cobblestones scaring off (or attracting) the bridge and tunnel crowd (remember when the bridge and tunnel crowd was distinguishable from Manhattanites?) and there was a feeling of risk, real sex and sexuality, and of being alive.

I don't watch SATC much - once in awhile I dip my toe into a rerun but I always get scalded. Speaking of Madonna and stealing queer culture - I remember an episode of SATC in the Meat Packing district where the girls are having rooftop BBQ, and Carrie has a voguing show down with one of the tranny girls.

Who won? Carrie, of course.

Anonymous said...

I'm 36 and lived in Seattle from 1996 to 2001, the “boom” years when the tech economy was really taking off. I moved there at 24 from Louisiana, just to do something different. Over the five years that I was there, I witnessed the "Californification" of Seattle. After the housing bust in California in the late 80s & early 90s, a lot of Californians moved north in search of cheaper locations and seemed to bring their own brand of “whatever looks good must be good” ethic with them.
Reading your blog today makes me realize that what you’re describing happening in New York City today follows very closely what I saw in Seattle. However, Seattle hasn't been around all that long (it was first settled in the mid 1850s), so they didn't seem to mind as one artifact of their past was either destroyed or altered while I was there. Generally speaking, the West coast doesn’t seem to have much attachment to their architectural history and can’t seem to understand people that do.
Until I read your blog about Sex and the City helping in the ruin of NYC, I never associated that show with the Californication of NYC because I haven’t been to NYC as an adult. However, because of my time in Seattle, I can spot the signs of gentrification 20 miles away by the billboards and advertising that appeals to them (the same type of condo billboards that you’ve posted on this site).
I moved to New Orleans after leaving Seattle and it was wonderful to be back in a place that had 100 year old bars and restaurants where people would fight to the death before giving them up to a wrecking ball. New Orleans has a whole mess of problems way deeper than what Hurricane Katrina wrought upon it. The gentrification developers were just beginning to descend upon it slowly when Katrina hit. I don’t know how far the developers will ever get down there since the poverty rate is so high and now Katrina has piled up the problems. So you might visit there sometime to get some true authenticity after NYC’s is eaten up, if that’s any consolation to you.
I left New Orleans after Katrina because I had little faith from my previous experiences with city and state government that there would be any real progress made in rebuilding. Now I’m living in a city in Tennessee that is experiencing its own gentrification and it feels like déjà vu all over again with my Seattle experience in terms of the seeing the same billboards and ads offering “hot new condos” and “live urban!”
I think you’re right when you say that this “Yunnie ethic” or “Yunnie worldview” (probably not the exact right term since one could argue that a narcissist has no true worldview other than his or her own naval) is a viral phenomenon. I guess all my writing above is to say that what’s happening there is not limited to NYC. It’s just taken longer to get there, but it’s everywhere.
I know NYC is sacred to you because it’s your home. Coming from south Louisiana, which has a very strong sense of place and culture, I can only say that the way to survive an onslaught like the Yunnies is to invite them in and show them what they’re missing.
I believe one reason Seattle just accepted all the changes to their city by outsiders was because they haven’t been there long enough to have a very strong culture. They don’t even have an agreed upon way to traditionally prepare salmon other than what the native Americans gave them. That’s absolute heresy to someone from Cajun country, where there is a step by step process for making the best gumbo, the best etouffee, the best pralines, etc.
South Louisiana’s greatest strength (and its greatest weakness) is that it just refuses to change. If you move to the state, you will be schooled in all ways of making gumbo, eating crawfish, etc. You will be taught how to live and eat like a native. You will be exposed to their music, their festivals, and their joie de vivre. If you’re exposed to all of that, you can’t help but become one of them in some small way and when you’re away from it, you miss is.
I imagine that NYC has plenty of heart and soul. You might just have to find a way to show it to the Yunnies so that they can feel safe enough to come down from their mirrored towers and join you. Even if it is sacrilegious to say so. ;-)
But I suppose the reality of it is, they’re not going anywhere and you’re not going anywhere, so what else are you going to do?

Rob said...

I live in San Francisco. I think you've misnamed the phenomenon. I think what you're really talking about is the recent era of the "in city." SF and NYC shared the spotlight in the 70's. NYC and LA in the 80's. In the early 1990's it was Seattle. In the late 90's it was San Francisco. Ironically 9/11 made NYC the next fashionable city.

In both San Francisco and Seattle being the center of the young and cool universe destroyed the very culture that brought it national attention as a cool place to be. Years later both cities are still trying to recapture that thing they once had before the locusts arrived.

NYC is coming up on the end of it's time in the lime light though. Soon the wealthy fashionistas well grow out of it or run to the next "It city." My money is on Chicago... It still feels authentic, which is really what people are chasing. It's too bad they can't become part of the culture without destroying it.

Anonymous said...

Quote from the AM NY article:

Michael Patrick King, writer and director of the film, said fans should keep in mind that the series and film don't exactly reflect reality. They should, in a sense, watch with a shaded view -- even if those shades are Gucci.

"I think the movie reflects your life but with a really big budget," King said. "It is a fantastical reflection of the lives of women around the world."

-- I am sorry, Mr. King but what women from which part of the world? Surely not the ones in Burma or Africa or Iraq? I think it's wishful thinking to say that being able to afford high fashion equals empowerment...

And I am also sorry; if the people nowadays read more books than watched telly, they could at least grasp that SATC is not real. Unfortunately, MTV doesn't teach that...

anon. said...

Since the SATC movie is coming out, I guess it's ok to resurrect my hatred to the SATC and these Carrie wannabes. And thank g_d I came upon this blog and see that I'm not alone in my abhorrence to that show and all these Carrie wannabes. I'd love to read that thesis by Katherine. I was part of the publicity team that published that book; I wasn't fond of the book then, and surely was never a fan of the show. Who would've thought that NYC will be transformed by this?

eddo said...

hey man, i love your blog. i actually linked to this post in my blog (which is nowhere near as thorough as yours, and is pretty much just me rambling).

http://herrachinky.blogspot.com/2008/05/vanishing-cities.html

Thanks!!

Anonymous said...

Hi!
You lot are sad pathetic people with no lives!
SATC is a great show that has done nothing but bring wealth and prosperity to NYC. It has made NYC such a great place, and its pure jelousy that has made you people go against it. Jelous of the fun, happy, good-looking people of NYC. So go back to your 40" waist's and grow up!!!

Anonymous said...

Thank you, May 26 (latest)anonymous. Although I may have to disagree with you that SATC is a great show, nonetheless, the show was responsible for bringing in the beautiful people in New York, no matter how vapid, shallow, and materialistic they maybe. These people (in this blog) need to go to Florida and retire; they're just bitter because their education had gotten them nowhere. They are as insecure as the SATC wannabe girls that they despised. But instead of over consumption of shoes/Mark Jacobs/Varvatos etc., they use words and fancy vocabulary to mask their insecurities. Their ages are also the size of their waists. They're stuck in the 90's and don't want to move forward and grow-up; they're regressing to their childhood and infantile years. They need a good spanking. And these new influx of people to their neighborhoods are giving it to them, and they don't like one bit of it--they're pouting, of, course--much like a child.

Joshua said...

Huh? Sorry to ask this, Anon#9, but you're a little vague. Are you being ironic or actually attacking us? Please confirm.

db said...

Reading back over these comments makes me feel like the wall street apocalypse might be a necessary cleansing phase for nyc. Maybe we can build an ark and load up non-yunnies two by two, then come back in 40 days to cheap apartments, dive bars, and artists who don't have trust funds.

Jeremiah Moss said...

db, a dream come true, if only it would take just 40 days...

Linda said...

Are you guys kidding me with this preposterous stuff? You're complaining about the influx of newcomers to NYC who are changing the face of the city? Please tell me of on episode in history where immigrants did not change the place they chose to inhabit? Is that not the story of this country? You complain that formerly deprived areas wretched in poverty are now home to apartments you can't afford? Well, then why not loathe gentrification entirely and wish to go back to the Manhattan before it was sold by Native American for a few $? Isn't this your logic? To put a hold on time so nothing changes? SATC is a cultural phenomenon and Carrie personifies the woman living in an increasingly modern world and trying to make her place in it. It's a basic human tale positioned in a contemporary setting. And that woman happens to be successful and can afford her Prada and Manolos ... wouldn't you wish the same thing? Your bitter and acrimonious comments are nothing but a manifestation of fear and insecurity as expressed by college vocabulary. DB and Jeremiah, you would prefer a place with cheap apartments and artists without trust funds? I would prefer prosperity and art!!!! But, that's your dream you say, your dream. You, who have come here from a generation of people whose dream it was to leave that poverty and lack of trust funds and you would like to go back to it? Please do not speak of of NYC, one of the greatest cities in the world, the emblem of industrialization and earned wealth - yes, I said that word which you must despise: wealth! You must not appreciate what it took to get the city here! But worry not! You will not be the ones whose opinion will matter in the course of advancement. You are just lucky enough to enjoy what progress has to offer and nag about it. Leave that advancement to the Darren Stars and Candace Bushnells .. And to the two people: thank you! Thank you for the best show! It is not just about Patricia Fields' amazing talent (an artist with a trust fund! Good for you!), and about successful intelligent women, and the search for power, love, identity. No, like I said it is an ineffable phenomenon! Oh, and the Guccis and Pradas, and MJacobs and the rest which I'm sick and tired of hearing mentioned in the worst of connotations ... they're Fashion!Art!They're a brand! The success of a flourishing and thriving brand! They're part of the source of the wealth NYC has to offer! But that is business .. business has prosperity as its motive power and yes, a trust fund. Oh, and then there's the guy who wishes for a crime wave back! I need not say more to those with at least a double digit IQ... Finally and in SATC's continuing defense, if the other blogger chose to write a final thesis on SATC, she did so in the simultaneity of acknowledging its pivotally positive effects!

Anonymous said...

narcissists--put a sock in it--all others--let's buggy

rebecca said...

"Your bitter and acrimonious comments are nothing but a manifestation of fear and insecurity as expressed by college vocabulary."

Classic! The poor thesaurus that had to suffer her frantic flipping.

Anonymous said...

WOW, I am a bit shocked that people think SATC killed NYC. I would think it has brought a ton of wealth by those visitors who have come to get a bit of the city life. I am a fan of SATC...no I am not a Carrie-wanna-be..I think she is quite pathetic and her style is well not great to me but it is a good show that showed us how cool NYC is. I visited last September and am returning for my 40th birthday in April and I am exicted. I am NOT going on a SATC tour to see the sites but I am experiencing the city based on things I am interested in. Museums, shows, music, bars, restaurants, etc...I would think that people who love their city would be thankful that tourists who want to spend money in their beloved city are coming to enjoy it because they were intrigued by the views of the city watching SATC. I agree that maybe this ranting is out of jealousy for a life you won't have...but that's just it...none of us "normal" people will ever be able to afford a SATC lifestyle but it's fun window shopping!!! I guess since the crime has dropped you have to complain about something...

Erika said...

I am amused by the Anon who speaks only in questions.

SATC is a sexist, homophobic, racist pile of trash and I certainly DO judge people who watch that show. Wholeheartedly.

lauran said...

katherine, i loved sex in the city. it is not supposed to be about ladies in burma. what are you thinking? if i want a doc on the 3rd world i will watch PBS. you do it, you make a doc on burma. otherwise dont complain. SATC did reach millions of modern women world wide. i identified w/much of it, love the HBO seris. & FYI, gay men have always been a fashion accessory in new york. you are too young too narrow minded to see anything but your college campus. i could be your grandma. dont tell me about (mens) gay culture, i can run rings round you. as for gay radical politics, much of it i do NOT support. & neither do my gay friends. as for the people who want crime & filth, yes they ARE negative. i didnt get along w/them a zillion years ago & i certainly dont like them as old folks. i am old enough to be THEIR parents. i am a fan of this blog & have a good internet relationship w/JN. you & those like you cant separate the flowers from the trees. & when was the last time you had fun?