Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Vanishing City

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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18 comments:

Ken Mac said...

condostrosities on Varrick, SUllivan and Sixth, Bleecker....I thought the collapse would neuter these bastards

david said...

I think I have reached a point where emotional fatigue has set in and I can only take so much more of this way of looking at things here in NYC. It is just too depressing. I have never experienced such a love/hate relationship with a blog before - loving what you are doing and yet despairing over it's content. It just gets so wearing. I'm not saying I will now ignore what has been happening to our city over the last decade - rather I think it would be beneficial to celebrate whet is left, and the new things that are interesting and worthwhile. Perhaps my recent relocation to the edge of Chinatown/LES near the East Broadway stop, a place that I have found has no shortage of diversity,strangeness,mystery,etc has improved my outlook on things. That is not to say that I am not ultra aware of the jump in doucheness once I cross Delancey and hit Rivington,etc. but it's pretty easy to avoid most of it. I dunno, I think I have just hit a wall here. I think the solution, if there is one, is for everyone who cares, to vote with their wallets. Support places that you think are worth it and avoid those that are not (I never thought I would see the day where people in NYC go apeshit over big box grocery stores but the lines outside Trader Joes speak for themselves). I honestly think things might be improving, but the real opponent is the fact that people in their 20's for a large part are part of a generation of narcissism,greed, the internet and all of it's impersonal lifestyle traits,etc and simply think nothing of glass condos replacing historic tenements, displacement,etc...but when they are older they may, who knows? Sorry for the ramble.

Arden Reece said...

GREAT idea and lovely writing! Change the world through your words!

Jeremiah Moss said...

david, i also have a love-hate relationship with this blog. so i'm right with you on that one.

Anonymous said...

Great article - good idea for an event. The only way to stop or slow the development is to get involved and support the people fighting it and raising public consciousness. Sitting around and crying about it doesn't do any good.

STR said...

Good luck in your quest to save Old New York. Really I think generations in the future will shake their heads in disbelief at the destruction of heritage in the USA's premier city in terms of history and culture.

For my part I did a little bit of unearthing New York a year ago in researching the saloons of the city from 1845-1895: http://www.historicaleye.com/Newyorksaloons.html

Anyway, keep plugging away!

KnicksBasketballNY said...

Generation Y/ GEN Y is the worst thing to ever happen to New York City.

^ Both the transplants and natives combined are ruining what once WAS a great great great great great city.

hot floshy said...

i live in san francisco. i am condoschmertzing at this very moment. ugh.

Jeremiah Moss said...

so does that mean it's not safe to move to SF?

bonnie said...

Yes it is safe to move to San Francisco. I have, after 15 years in New York, where I also lived for a few years in the 80s. Yes, there is some condo action in this city, but nowhere near the scale of what's been going on in NY over the last 5 years. I found my heart was breaking every time I left the house in NY, cranes on every corner, buildings ripped down by the block-load. In my own neighborhood, the strip of Eighth Avenue between 14th and 23rd Streets transformed so quickly it made my head spin, with local laundries and stationers and hardware stores and florists and diners all replaced by banks or retail and fast-food chains. Go to another neighborhood, same things is happening. The whole city has become one big Midtown. My friends in SF like to say, when I describe this, that it's happening here too, but the fact is, they have no idea. I feel such a sense of relief to be out of NYC, to no longer be forced to watch the city I have loved for most of my adult life disappear before my eyes, to be haunted by the ghosts of what it once was and will never be again. I am no longer angry and frustrated every single day. Yes, Jeremiah, San Francisco is safe. And thank you for your wonderful blog.

Jeremiah Moss said...

thanks bonnie--i may also one day grow too weary of this heartbreaking. glad to know some cities are still alive.

New York Universities said...

Great article.Its great to know that there is some one who is trying to increase the consciousness in the New York's public.
Thank you for posting!

Anonymous said...

San Francisco has had its soul ripped out too. Bonnie has no idea what that town was like before the tech boom. SFO is a yuppie pit...just like Manhattan.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I grew up in sf, and live in New York now. San Francisco is unrecognizable, full of people who don't seem to work.

Poutalicious said...

I enjoy your blog very much and follow it regularly. I love NY. I come out to visit as often as possible. My son lives in Astoria and teaches high school in a public city school. Do you feel like they wripped off your title, or do you feel honored that they put in their collective subconscious and conveniently retrieved it for the film? At least it's for a great cause.

Jeremiah Moss said...

thanks poutalicious. collective unconscious for sure.

esquared said...

Hey JM, don't know if you already know this, but you were quoted in today's AMNY about Bloomberg planning to turn the city into Europe. Didn't know where to post this. Congrats, nonetheless. If only Bloomberg and Burden were to read your blog, then maybe the'yll think twice on their actions.

Jeremiah Moss said...

thanks esquared--i did not see that. very cool.