Saturday, July 21, 2018

Targeting the East Village

Jane Jacobs is rolling in her grave today. The Target chain has opened a store on 14th Street and Avenue A, and for their grand celebration they have committed what might be the most deplorable commodification of local neighborhood culture I’ve ever witnessed.



Along the first floor of Extell’s luxury monster, known as EVGB for the Trumpian claim of “East Village’s Greatest Building,” Target has constructed a simulacrum of the hyper-local New York street--the sort of street that is being wiped out by corporations and developers--and it comes complete with all the signifiers.

The façade is draped in vinyl sheets printed with images of tenements, the same sort of buildings that get demolished to make room for such developments. Here they sit, hollow movie-set shells, below the shiny windows of the high-end rentals. They are the dead risen from the grave, zombies enlisted to work for the corporation.



A red newspaper kiosk announces the opening of the store with a fake newspaper (decorated with a bull’s-eyed water tower, as if hunters have it in their sights), and it brings to mind the lost kiosks of the vanished Village Voice.

There’s even a fake fire hydrant and red-painted park benches.

In front of an Alphabet City bull’s-eye mural, you can pose for pictures with props—a guitar, a record album, a slice of pizza printed on foamcore--the stuff of the once iconoclastic East Village.



Who are the people in your neighborhood?

There’s a storefront gypsy telling fortunes with Target-branded Tarot cards.

And on a pseudo stoop is a hip-hop dancer, his leg encircled with a Target-branded bandanna. At his feet are red buckets, marked with the Target logo, maybe for someone to later play with drumsticks in the style popularized by bucket drummer Larry Wright.



But worst of all, there’s a simulated CBGB, the celebrated punk club shuttered by a rent hike in 2006, replaced by the luxury John Varvatos store, and replicated in the Newark Airport as a theme restaurant for tourists.

This one boasts the famous awning, but it's printed with TRGT -- in the club’s iconic typeface, the western-style lettering created by owner Hilly Kristal’s ex-wife. (Restaurateur Daniel Boulud tried this in 2007 with DBGB on the Bowery, and the CBGB estate’s lawyer sent a cease-and-desist letter.)

Inside, TRGT is printed on t-shirts, but you can't buy those. You can only get free "bands."



However, it's not rock music bands they’re giving out, it’s hair bands, Band-Aids, and resistance bands.

I asked, “What kind of resistance?” thinking of the political climate at the moment, and the woman answered, “They’re resistance bands for doing exercise.”



This Potemkin Village from Hell is guarded by three private security guards, all dressed in black suits with Secret Service-style earpieces, and one officer from the NYPD. All the workers are relentlessly sunny, like actors at Disneyland.

And people are streaming in for the free stuff—who doesn’t want free stuff?—happy to adorn themselves with the red sunglasses and branded bandannas as they rush into the store, where the commodification continues.

An East Village-themed mural provides a backdrop for the cash registers, decorated with street signs and hot dogs, more tenements, "NYC Nuyoricans," Theatre 80 St. Marks, and a book with the words “Poets Café.”

To see the artifacts of my own life, my cultural and spiritual awakening, my home, displayed above the cash registers in a Target store is to be cast into a state of confusion and dystopic dysphoria. What am I seeing? Who are these people? What happened to the world?





Meanwhile, down the block, EVGB has spray-painted the sidewalk with ads promoting their amenities and their worldview with the slogans:

GREATEST BUILDING
GROUP BONDING
GORGEOUS BATHROOMS

GET BUFF
GET BUSY
GO BIG



They’ve constructed a bright arc of balloons and they're giving out free cotton candy with "snappy toppings" like Pop Rocks, Sparkle, and Mango Pixie Dust.

Many of the people in line can't afford the apartments here, which start at $3,695 per month for a studio. They are neighborhood residents who've lost a number of affordable local businesses to this development, places like the Stuyvesant Grocery, a laundromat, a hair salon, the Rainbow discount store, Bargain Express, and the Blarney Cove.

But today there is a bright and shiny simulation of the real and the local. There is cotton candy and free trinkets. Bread and circuses that appease--and even win over. And everyone is having a terrific time.

As Margaret Thatcher said, "Economics are the method; the object is to change the heart and soul."




51 comments:

marty said...

I'm so glad I moved out of the city, this would be too much to witness in person. And it's minutes away from where I used to live. I am so grateful I got to live in NYC when I did. I miss places like the Blarney Cove and Mars Bar, but at least I got to experience them and write and document them. Thanks for the memories NYC, you die a little more each time I come back to visit.

ps273 said...

Thanks for posting so many photos (and smart commentary) of Target's East 14th St travesty. It's especially galling to me because my NYC roots were planted on this very spot. Through research, I attempted to recreate the block as it looked in the 1900s.
https://twitter.com/StephRomeo9/status/1020699449197322245/photo/1

Keep up the great and important work!
Steph

Michael Paul said...

Today was very surreal. Seeing reminders of what places gentrification destroyed repurposed to make Target cool.

newyorkette said...

I just feel like crying.

Unknown said...

"Your culture is now a theme park."

Dad said...

A part of my died reading that.

Unknown said...

Sad and depressing. The city I came of age in during the 1980's has become frighteningly unrecognizable. A phony, plastic replica...

Karen Flaherty said...

And who do we thank for this monstosity? Were we asleep at the wheel while our Mayor Bloomberg sold the city to real estate developers? God help us. Where will we all go? Those with authentic memories and experiences?

Ms. said...

Speechless.

Ruki444 said...

Perhaps we could start up a fund to pay junkies to hang out in front and shoot up.

Chogsie said...

"I asked, “What kind of resistance?” thinking of the political climate at the moment, and the woman answered, “They’re resistance bands for doing exercise.”

Jesus H. Christ!

mark garkusha said...

Stop visiting! You’re killing the place!

DarkOmen said...

Target sells cheap junk! Boycott them.

Mesilla said...

Criminal.
My heart is so heavy right now.

Manhattan Guy said...

Change is part of life.

Best wishes to Target in that it adds new jobs to the neighborhood and cleans up that area of the Lower East Side.

A previous comment I read made a joke about putting junkies in front of Target . Comments like that are disgusting reminders because there are too many people who are sick with drug addiction hanging out in Tompkins Square Park and all over the Lower East Side.

I'm a native New Yorker and invite the change that Target is bringing to the neighborhood.

CrankyGerd said...

Part of the blame for this monstrosity, and how it came to NYC, must go to the consumers. Imagine if they held this shitshow and nobody came? But no, citizens and tourists (of commodities and culture) want free stuff, cheap stuff, and this slice of today's America. So it goes. This whole affair is galling, depressing, and infuriating. Can we start a protest march with coy signs and memes for this?

John Dempsey said...

This reminds me of when the bully held you down on the playground and hit you with your own hand while yelling "Stop hitting yourself!"

aspicco said...

Target did not ruin the East Village. I think they may have been trying to honor the past but were kind of ham-fisted about it.

James said...

What's next? East New York Land? Motthaven Heaven? Of course, we've long forgotten Five Points and Skid Row along the Bowery. We believe fervently that New York means the New York we saw on our first day in the city. Spare us your tales of the Stork Club and Café Society. WHAT Sixth Avenue Deli? Nedicks? We are, therefore, nostalgic, aside from being appropriately outraged. Imagine seeing East Harlem disappearing into a sea of hideous apartment projects, or "the Jungles" becoming the fascistic-looking Lincoln Center of which we are now dearly fond. I remember reading about Stieglitz noting all the new skyscrapers ridding New York of its traditional scale. The problem is that even twice or three times as many towers as that is now our idea of New York's traditional scale.
And what of the corporate insincerity and greed behind all this? It's worth fighting, as this is no ideology at play. It's simple lust and a need to dominate, like Robert Moses and his highways, only somehow nastier in execution - greater in deception. There really should be Disneyesque costumed mascots posing as hippies and druggies. Mickey and Goofy with tats. We're all thinking the same thing. Yes - it is not unlike the beeches of Normandy and new cafes serving invasion salads and gunnery burgers. There's a new cocktail - the flame thrower; you've got to try it.
What I've felt reading this index of loss over time is simply that history (not just character and color) is lost, and that translates to people themselves being erased from the slate. This above all is counter to our enlightenment and our need to keep piecing it all together - whether art, architecture, or the corner store. What developers here have done is basically a continuation of its carpet bombing followed by a celebration of the vanquished. It was like shooting fish in a barrel only not so fair.

Russian Space Station said...

Wow New York City is changing! And sometimes not for the better! Cry me a fucking river.

Elle Smith said...

"What kind of resistance?"
The resistance we never put up when we voted for those who support predatory and exclusionary capitalism over these last 35 years.

b/eve/rly said...

As a former East Vllage resident and activist artist who fought gentrification, this is the worst outcome I could imagine. Resisting corporate colonization is not easy, and may require strategies that we have not yet thought of. If we don't find ways to subvert simulacra culture, we will suffocate within it. I left NYC in 1985, seeing the writing on the wall as my rent kept doubling. Now each time I visit, I cry inside...

Here's info and images of the NOT FOR SALE exhibit that we created. http://www.sholetteseminars.com/home/the-lower-east-side-is-not-for-sale-with-greg-sholette/

Ronnie said...

as a resident of the EV for over 30 years this just confirms why i moved out a year ago... i leave it to the newly arrived nyu kids from ohio to play in their disneyfied "punkland" all clean, shiny and souvenirs for purchase on 14th st

Lee Thatcher said...

If it makes anyone feel a tiny bit better....Folks in the community were a few blocks away protesting PS 64. keeping up the fight to turn it back into a community center. Alphabet City sure has changed in 17 years.

Yitshok Reisman said...

THE beauty of new york in the 40=50s is gone now I used to love just walking around the different neighborhoods and seeing the wondrous things in the shop windows.

martin said...

Resistance bands - what a joke.

Joannecollierny@earthlink.net said...

Its like the joke's on us.

John S said...

Just as upsetting as the loss of all of our beloved landmarks is the fabrication of a phony simulacrum of New York, glossy, grotesque, and devoid of what made our town so special. This strip is a perfect distillation of that forgery.

NYer wannabes, playing a charade they believe matches some movie-derived image of a lost city. We would sound like cynical old fogies if it wasn't actually true...

Donnie Moder said...

They should show realistic depictions of the foreign factories that make the products sold in the store, along with descriptions of what their workers get paid per hour and how much of a carbon footprint it has created due to the transportation around the globe and lax environmental controls.

Gloria Sukenick said...

Portrait of a neighborhood being destroyed by real estate greed

margot v s burns said...

Jane Jacobs would have been neutral. However ham-handed the Target opening appears, it is not laying waste to a dozen blocks or cutting an expressway through the EV or Alphabet Town. Target's decorations at least pay homage to the neighborhood, even if they paint it in a warmer glow than 14th & A deserves.

Admin said...

Funny to hear all the preservationist progressives. times they are a changing

Amy Berkov said...

Hire junkies to mug yuppies.

Downtowner said...

There are no words, other than the phrase, 'there are no words.'

Jane & Pat said...

You are missing the fact that the target was a vacant lot due to the building that had burned down a few years ago. What's worse?

Unknown said...

And now some good news. I've discovered a place with no Targets, no Starbucks, plenty of abandoned warehouses and still some gang crime. Similar to the EV and Brooklyn before gentrification. It is a 3 hour bus ride from nyc. The place is Reading PA.

John M said...

Yeah, Marty, you got out just in time. This is pretty ugly.

traceyjackson@mac.com said...

I can't take all this. It's just heartbreaking.

HeidiKellner said...

My boycott of Target begins right now.

Allen Bourne said...

Sad. Foreign money is a huge culprit. Thankfully I got in a number of visits there back around 1980 when my sister lived there. Lower East Side had quite a texture to it. The city will regret what has happened when finally no one who opens doors, drives cabs, cooks or serves food, etc can live there. What will the rich inhabitants do?

Thelma Blitz Knitz said...

Are there robot bands playing fake blues? Is this where I send tourists when they ask me, "Where's Greenwich Village?'

Barbara Singer said...

No one loves New York's history (recent and past) more than me, but the truth about a lot of the tenement buildings is that they were built cheaply, they were never meant to last. Many aren't safe or worth saving. I moved to the Lower East Side about 14 years ago. It had already started changing, but I was shocked at how fast it transformed, how Stanton Street near me had become a restaurant row so quickly. Yes, it's sad about CBGB, it's part of my youth too. However, time does move on, we can't really expect it to stay as we would like, we can't stop progress in the name of nostalgia. I don't think anyone would like to see Tompkins Square Park return to the state it was in during the 80's. That being said, I am all for saving what we can, what is beautiful, and what is practical to save.

Darren Drevik said...

I weep for New York /
Fled in '13 after battle lost /
Non-ironic parody has won

Jeff said...

For some reason, real estate loves to destroy labdmarks and then memorialize them in the names of their property.

Dan Thome said...

Got your attention, didn't they. That was the idea.

Mikema Reape said...

All of these "pop up" Targets in the city are not going to last.

William P said...

Just more sadness and it's unfortunately just what the many new people who inhabit these luxury goods once known as neighborhoods want. In Astoria we now have Ample Hills Creamery, Brand Brooklyn's favorite 'artisinal' ice cream shop opening up - yes they have a Disney outlet apparently. They sell 'Crack' flavored ice cream, using a drug that once devastated low income people of color neighborhoods to market ice cream to white wealthy hipsters that have gentrified those same neighborhoods. And everyone laughs and thinks it's so funny, but just like Target's CBGB's it's tasteless and vulgar. And unfortunately people line up for it.

Natasha Brenner said...

Very intelligent and valid comment. Time marches on whether we like it or not.

Tal Hartsfeld said...

Target has been around for quite some time. I remember their stores from the Denver area and around Indianapolis back in the late '70s, before finally branching out into other states and regions.

They're based out of Minneapolis.
While, on the one hand, it's good to see any company with any kind of longevity, it's also sad when one has to note said company as being among the "stormtrooper" megacorps partaking in this quasi-monopolization of "merchant America".

Charleston Tell said...

I frequented the Blarney Cove and other East Village dives whose names have vanished into the mists of bourbon and Ballantines over the years during regular visits to NYC. Those joints had a lot of character, and characters, but they weren't exactly the Lion's Club. A bunch of dudes sitting at a bar smoking and day drinking their lives away, and at night young groovers getting blackout drunk. That was the business those places were in. I got lit in the Cove a couple of times, and met some interesting barflys, and I'm glad I did, but everything has its time.

Nutty_Flavor said...

One point that hasn't been made: maybe the current local residents *want* a Target. They sell a wide selection of inexpensive goods and groceries, which is a useful amenity in itself for low-income New Yorkers.

I lived in the East Village for many years myself and loved the colorful local shops, but I'm also not trying to feed a family while living in, say, the Riis Houses.

The Target in Spanish Harlem opened a decade ago and has been very popular with local residents. I believe that they make a point of hiring people from the neighborhood, as well.