Monday, November 23, 2009

London Times

The London Times asked me some questions about whether or not New York has "lost its edge." (Article accessed by subscription only.)

Here's what they put together from what I told them:


Among artists and writers there is a general sense of loss. Jeremiah Moss, who runs a blog called Vanishing New York, believes that the city has become not only sanitised but a sort of parody of what it once was. “I think the idea that New York is an edgy place has vanished almost entirely,” he says. “It used to be immune to the tastes and sensibilities of middle-brow America. Now that has taken over completely. It’s a nice town — safe and clean — for tourists and investment bankers. You used to come to New York to get away from Middle America, but now you show up here and there it is.

“Is New York still the centre of the Earth? Well, if your definition of the centre of the Earth is McDonald’s and Starbucks, then yes it is.”

New Yorkers such as Moss are particularly dismayed by some of the new architecture in the city. They don’t like what has happened to Times Square, and the prevalence of “this very cold, sleek look made of glass with no exterior walls.”

Many citizens are appalled by plans to rid the city of its newspaper vendors, one of its hallmarks. The newspaper shacks are to be replaced by glass and chrome pods, half owned by the Spanish corporation who will build them. The dividends from the commercials that will appear on the side of these pods will be divided between the city and the company.

Moss also points out “a weird trend in New York for making a simulacrum of the original.” As an example he mentions the cult punk bar CBGB, once the “home of underground rock”, where Patti Smith, Blondie, Talking Heads and The Ramones have all performed. The venue closed in 2006 and was eventually bought by the high-end men’s fashion designer, John Varvatos, who turned it into a boutique.

“He’s kept a lot of the original interior, so you feel like you’re walking into a rock ’n’ roll space,” Moss says. “But actually you’re walking into a super high-end boutique that sells $700 Ramones T-shirts.”

It was eventually announced that the alley behind the club would be converted into a pedestrian mall, a step that provoked Cheetah Chrome of the Dead Boys to tell the New York Post that “all of Manhattan has lost its soul to money lords”.

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