Thursday, May 12, 2011

Ideas for the Ideas Fest

*This post and all of its comments were lost by Google's Blogger. This is a recreation of it.*

With over 50 comments, we’ve had a lively exchange in the discussion thread on the post about the Ideas for a New City Festival. To recap:

A few people noted that aspects of the fair made them want to vomit, but many agreed it wasn’t “all bad” and expressed an appreciation of the basic values: sustainability, healthy food, and the anti-corporate stance. Still, overall, commenters think the hyper-gentrification of the city is getting out of hand.

Koolhaas preaches destruction at the Fest. Read here.

Lots of people critiqued the artisanalization, Portlandization, suburbanization, “WTFification” of the city. Bowery Boogie said the fest seemed like a “Brooklyn takeover.” And Erika pleaded, “Stop trying to turn NYC into Portland, please. I enjoy escaping into the countryside from NYC sometimes, but I like the clear boundaries.” One transplanted Portland (PDX) resident said they came to New York because “i wanted to be in an interesting city that i was not going to colonize. i don't understand how this pdx'ing of this city is happening. i moved away from there to get away from it.”

Joe from NYCArts disagreed with these sentiments, saying, "What could possibly be wrong with adding a little of the 'college life in the Pacific Northwest'?" He stated that the ideas at the fest are "the only type of thinking that will save us from nasty, scary things like Fox News, suicide bombers and international chaos."

What's the artisanalization really about? Read here.

Several commenters called attention to the economic inequity in many of the festival ideas. City of Strangers said, "This artisanal thing...what's remarkable is how most make almost no attempt to cater to the non-gentrifying class." Said esquared, "some of the ideas at the festival were great, but unless they are affordable to the most nyers…they'll remain just an idea.” Anonymous pointed out that the hipster artisan business is a “purposively design-intensive, customized-ingredient businesses...obviously. To be profitable, they have to charge premium prices. Their customer base necessarily consists, at least in great part, of the monied bobos who follow in their train."

At least one Anonymous pointed out the racial inequity, saying, "New York has been so over-developed that it’s turned from brown (and I mean all shades of that) to green.”

Bryan wanted to know which is the lesser of two evils, asking, “Artisanal foodies vs hedgefund managers--which would you rather have move into your building?” In response, Teri said she’s ready to plant seeds with the foodies and LSR quipped, "whether its some $40 pilates class, $80 ‘spa’ pedicures, $20 soaps, made in the rain forest by indigenous tribal oppressed- please...... if its ‘that’ OR a burger king, i will take ‘that.’ but those limited options kill NYC."

The local chicken you're about to enjoy--watch the parody here.

As for solutions and alternative ideas, commenters had a few suggestions. EV Grieve hopes “the city of the future includes a decent place for take-out Chinese on my block. And a laundromat." Ken Mac agreed, adding to the list “a locksmith, bookstore, and someone who sharpens knives.” JAZ would like to see newcomers to the city assimilate into the existing culture, instead of using “NYC as a coffee table conversation piece.” Bryan suggested, “Why not offer 50% discounts at Whole Foods and the Greenmarkets to people in section 8 housing? And bring back Guss's Pickles?” Anonymous said, “if everyone got on board with csas, community gardening, local production, the costs could be much lower and it could truly be a sustainable model.”

Bryan also offered a compromise: “I'd like to see the return-to-earthers who want to take up traditional trades as a means of personal or spiritual fulfillment do so by apprenticing with old-timers--the old-school barbers, butchers, cobblers, repair shops that still exist. Is it possible to convince the entrepreneurial hipsters that neighborhoods already have existing social structures worth protecting, rather than replicating in boutique form?”

Jill kind of summed it up, saying, “If this represents the present/future, then maybe what we saw at that festival, all in one place, is a new definition of ‘urban.’” She asks, "has NY truly entered a phase where all problems are solved, so we can now waste our time and money on very expensive micro-greens and fancy ass pickles and other things that define the new white urban culture crave?"

So, more questions than answers. Based on what we’re seeing today, what will the future city be like? What does urban mean today? Are all the problems really solved? What kind of future city do you want to live in? In the Morton's Fork dilemma of "hipster artisan or hedgefunder," can we imagine any other choices?


Steve said...

For a different sort of festival of ideas, come to the Wall Street area today, May 12, at 4pm. Teach-ins about housing, peace, education, transportation, etc.

Rustin H. Wright said...

Speaking as a one-time fourth generation Manhattanite (over 35 years in NYC) who now lives in Portland, folks, some of us were backing NON-gentrification forms of this right in New York's poorer neighborhoods back in the freaking SEVENTIES. So would you please stop, catch your breath, and accept that urbanism, density, and "edge" are in no way contrary to "green" ideas, sustainability, or inexpensive craft/DIY business.

The Gaia Institute was doing rooftop plantings in Morningside Heights in the 80's. A few blocks from the pioneer greenmarket on Amsterdam and 103rd. Which wasn't too far from the "rooftop beekeeper" whose honey was being sold locally well before any such ventures got going on the left coast. Local chickens from known sources? We always had those. Local eggs, too. My mother always bought both at a place in Harlem. Though she had them kill and butcher the bird, unlike many of the other customers, who having grown up in places like Jamaica and Puerto Rico, wouldn't even consider buying a dead bird, let alone one chopped up and wrapped in plastic.

All, mind you, surrounded by community gardens, locally run, low cost theater and micropublishing, and "world fusion" cuisine. I could find all of this near my apartment at 97th and Amsterdam while Carter was president so, if anything, I was sad to see it fade away. And moved west mostly to be part of the next round. I still miss the smell and vibration of the printing plants of the west 20's and east 50's where I used to work and where many New Yorkers had their short-run printing done cheap and fast. And the "artisan" midtown leather shops like the one my uncle Abe worked in. And the "scratchbuilders" I used to hang out with at Polk's on 31st. And later at the machine shops and supply shops on Lafayette and Fulton and Canal who were always so helpful to us young, self-taught prototypers and craftspeople.

If denigrating these trends by calling them "too Portland" gives y'all such joy then, hey, have a day. I'm sitting here in a $500 a month, 800 square foot, 12' ceiling loft space and somehow enduring the pain of all this "Portlandness" even if I do have to tolerate "nice" people, clean sidewalks, and visible sky. And I can see how that offends you. But I'll keep thinking of these trends as things I first saw and became part of on the 70's Upper West Side and wonder just when you out-of-towners evidently new to the city will buy yourselves some clue.

EV Grieve said...

I really liked Jill's response.

JAZ said...


Thank you for your very interesting comments. It is a great post.

It is true that these "green" ideas, etc. have been in practice in some form or fashion for many years in NYC. I think the difference is that now it has turned into a vehicle for attention seekers who are in it for the cache of latching onto an identity. It is like they have taken something originally pure and well meaning, and have created a faux lifestyle around it - it's almost like there is a new 'class' to belong to. It also seems to be heading more and more into pricing lower income people out, as apposed to in the 70's and 80's where it is more likely that this 'movement' was about lower income inclusion and benefit.

Anyway, just my .02.

Jill said...

@Rustin - I think several people made that same comment that being green and urban can go together. What we are seeing is the ultimate result of the gentrification process that really took root in the mid-90's.

I think what's different from what you describe is the customer. While there was a report in this month's Atlantic that farmers markets have, in some cases, proven to be cheaper than supermarkets, I personally need more proof of that in NY.

30 years ago community gardens and fresh killed chickens (bringing back memories of my grandmother pulling out chicken pin feathers in her Queens kitchen) were ways to bring fresh food to the urban poor. Now, what this festival was portraying, was a way to bring these same foods and ideas to the urban rich. It's a real sea change in who the consumer is.

One other thing I've been thinking about a lot is that we are experiencing the seeds that we have sowed. This wave has a direct correlation to the growing up of the children of the baby boomers, -- the culmination of the boomer generation's ideals and legacy.

What has happened in NY, via Bloomburg and Giuliani, was to remove the urban poor and replace them with a new moneyed class (and their student children via the expansion of NYU) that is ripe for selling fancy things to. We are left without diversity in our urban culture.

The mono-culture of the suburbs that is pushing in is, apparently, what the children of the boomers want their world to be for themselves and their children. It is how they grew up and what they know. It's comforting to them, the way pre-1990's urban culture is comforting to me.

Is it bad? Who knows. But one thing is certain - it is very, very, very different from the city we grew up in.

ShatteredMonocle said...

I'm sitting here in a $500 a month, 800 square foot, 12' ceiling loft space and somehow enduring the pain of all this "Portlandness"...

But I doubt you have all the trappings of a real city, such as boutique hotels, faux speakeasies, a place to get some decent breast milk cheese. Do you even have a Shake Shack? Thought not.

Goggla said...

@JAZ - I think you've nailed exactly what bothers me - "the cache of latching onto an identity."

Zane Curtis-Olsen said...

Fantastic discussion. I just wanted to add that "New York is a Friendly Town" is actually a reference to a Weegee photograph from 1939.

Though it is likely being repurposed with 100% less irony.

Bob Arihood said...

Events such as this are a waste of time ,light and air ...and Koolhaas has his head up his ass too.

Jeremiah Moss said...

thanks Zane--great reference! agreed, the irony is clear next to Weegee's many corpses.

JAZ and Rustin, agreed, these green ideas have been in place for decades. i think of Adam Purple's Garden of Eden, which was very democratic:

the difference is that this is now packaged and sold along with the attitude of the wine connoisseur, ie, it's not for everyone, but for those in the know and with the money to obtain it. at least, that's the message--not for all of it, but much of it. and then many people are building community gardens and teaching healthy food culture to people all over the city. but that's not what's being critiqued here.

the other piece is that immigration to (mostly lower) Manhattan is coming from within the US, creating scenarios like Little Wisconsin instead of Little Italy. it isn't poor Europeans, it's affluent Americans, bringing their culture and recreating the city in that image.

Marty Wombacher said...

"the cache of latching onto an identity."

I agree with JAZ and Goggla. Too many people jumping onto bandwagons because they're afraid to be who they are, so they turn into the latest color of the day. Personally I'll continue to support and write about the places in New York I love, places without breastfeeding tables and bicycles that produce smoothies. To me the last festival that produced anything great was Spinal Tap at the Isle of Lucy. #marsbar #bleeckerbobs #etc.

Jeremiah Moss said...

and Jill, you really lay it all out nicely. ditto what you said. and definitely the Boomer influence is here--repurposing a former hippie trend into a yuppie trend. (though we know yuppie is not the right word for what we see today.)

Grand St. said...

A supermarket like Gristedes truly gouges on all sorts of items and, depending on the item/season, you can often find produce at more reasonable prices at the Union Sq. market. Also, and without waving the Whole Foods banner, WF comes in way cheaper than Gristedes on staple items like Tropicana OJ and organic eggs and milk.

Of course, these options are not available to or convenient for many NYers, so the big G has no shortage of customers.

...and what kind of future city would I like to live in?
One with 1970s levels of tourism. Seems like 75% of people on the streets are carrying maps these days.