Last week I posted about the East Village's guerrilla response to Icon Realty's habit of pushing out our beloved small businesses. Locals have vandalized Icon's signs around the neighborhood with graffiti and stickers telling the real estate developer where to get off.
Most recently, someone spray-painted the sidewalk outside the evicted and empty Stage Restaurant, telling the East Village to boycott the incoming business--which, at this writing, will be another outpost of Kati Roll.
Immediately, the day after I published the post, a team of workers were on the scene. They furiously power-washed the sidewalk in front of the Stage and completely gutted the interior, ripping out the counter, the swivel stools, everything.
Now the spot has been wrapped in plywood, the sign ripped down and vanished.
The Stage was here since 1980. It was locally owned and operated, and it was always busy. Every day, the counter was full of working-class joes, cops and construction workers and garbage collectors, along with college kids, old people, and oddballs, writers and artists, sometimes Helen Mirren, and everyone in between.
After the Second Avenue gas explosion, Icon evicted the Stage, claiming they were illegally siphoning gas. Owner Roman Diakun denied it and resolved the case, but the legal fees and the loss of money over months of sitting closed was too much for the little restaurant and they were forced to shutter.
Angry New Yorkers responded immediately, decorating the empty storefront with notices that read "Closed by Order of a Money Grubbing Landlord and Real Estate Scam" and GILF's "Gentrification in Progress" tape.
A #SaveNYC sign also hung in the window.
Real estate developers often cover up a site of dissent, burying the body to make us stop our angry grieving. To make us forget.
In today's city, where the power brokers want us to forget, to remember is an act of rebellion. They need to wipe from our memory The Stage and Cafe Edison, CBGB's and Roseland, our bookstores and record shops, our greasy spoons and scruffy meeting places.
Henry Giroux calls this “the violence of organized forgetting,” a concept borrowed from Milan Kundera, who wrote, “The first step in liquidating a people is to erase its memory. Destroy its books, its culture, its history. Then have someone write new books, manufacture a new culture, invent a new history.” Is it possible to cross such a “desert of organized forgetting”? Yes, it is possible. But it requires a radical remembering.
“We have forgotten what a city was,” Luc Sante has written. We all must dare to remember.