When I named this blog, I didn’t know there would be another “Vanishing New York” in the world. There’s also a film by the same name—because there’s plenty of vanishing to go around—and on January 24 there will be "The Vanishing City," a town hall discussion at Dixon Place, launched by Kirby at Colonnade Row.
The Dixon Place event will feature a screening of Twilight Becomes Night by Virginie-Alvine Perrette, who I interviewed here in 12/07, and a preview of Vanishing New York by Jen Senko and Fiore DeRosa, who I interviewed this past summer and now publish here for the first time.
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Inspired to film by the closing of many neighborhood businesses and the simultaneous rising of “huge steel and glass buildings,” Jen Senko and Fiore DeRosa have watched the city undergo a seismic shift. Said Jen, “My neighbors have been changing rapidly as richer people move into my building. One kind of good thing is there are now great things in the garbage that they throw out." On the other hand, "there are now no more supermarkets in my Soho neighborhood.”
Exploring what happens when a city is renovated for the uber-affluent, one story Jen and Fiore follow in the film is the plight of 47 East 3rd Street, the subject of a protest by the Slacktivists. Bought by the Ekonomakis family for conversion into a private mansion, the tenement was the home of several rent-regulated tenants. The few holdouts settled this past November.
“It is really preposterous,” said Jen, “The building itself is not structurally designed for such a thing. The real reason for the evictions, we believe is quite evident. When you clear the building of rent controlled and stabilized tenants the building is worth 10 million, as opposed to the 1 million they paid for it. They would probably sit on it for the required three years and then put it on the market for a clean 9 million profit. The fact that they put a group of mostly older people--many of who have been there for most of their adult lives--on the street is meaningless to them."
Said Fiore, “So greed is the driving force in this city now. Greed is fragmenting our communities and stealing the life out of our city. We keep hearing the mantra 'It’s the Market,' as if that excuses everything. We don’t believe that maximizing profits is an excuse for being inhumane. There is just no rationale for this. How much money do people really need to make?”
Like many of us, the filmmakers worry that New York is losing its soul. “New York used to be a place where those who felt ‘different’ could come and could ‘fit in’ or find a community," they say, asking, "What will happen to those people...all those misplaced ‘misfits’ (like ourselves)?”
Finally, I had to ask them how they chose such a brilliant title for their film. They told me, "Vanishing New York had a certain simple sexiness. Then a few months into the film we came across your brilliant blog. I guess it was in the collective consciousness!"
Sexy. I like it...
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