Thursday, November 29, 2007

New York Lost

As our city continues to vanish, more and more people are asking the question, “Has New York lost its soul?” And discovering the answer is yes, they are working to preserve whatever is left – through writing, photography, filmmaking, painting, etc. Documentary filmmaker Reed Fulton Korach is one of these people and his short film, New York Lost, is his attempt to hold on to our city.

In Little Italy: "I expected something like Goodfellas’s more like You’ve Got Mail."

In the film, Korach interviews everyday New Yorkers on the street, small-business owners, as well as public figures such as Sion Misrahi, the developer who is transforming the Lower East Side into a luxury locale. Through it all runs the question, “Has New York lost some of the magic and verve it once had?”

The answers are mixed, depending on who’s doing the talking. Misrahi seems to disagree, envisioning a future filled with “air and light” and “tall buildings.” I guess people who live in his tall buildings will have air and light, but what about the rest of us? Mike Rizzuto, a Fulton Fish Market worker, misses his air and light. The new market at Hunts Point, he says, “is basically a prison. We lost a lot in that fish market.”

"I invested 35 yrs down in that fish market and it became a part of me."

Korach was inspired to make this film after the old Fulton Fish Market closed down and he realized that the city of his birth was slipping away. His mission, he told me “is to make people aware of what's going on in a visual way, and let them decide for themselves whether or not the change is good.”

Guardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa, responding to the corporate homogenization of the city, says, "Maybe the trendoids, jetsetters, and freakazoids of Manhattan...can dig on that, but if you're a borough just take umbrage to this."

Mike Gallagher of Gallagher’s Gallery and Archive on East 12th is firmly in the “not good” camp, as he says, “It’s like they’re raping the landscape… It’s a lost, lost, lost place.”

"The Village is not the Village anymore."

It's always comforting to hear my own sentiments echoed by others, but I like the fact that Korach doesn’t just speak to the nostalgists, he also interviews people who believe these devastating changes are for the better. I find it fascinating to hear from these people and I’d like to see someone make an entire film that investigates their thinking and behavior.

One guy on the Lower East Side, for example, really wants the city to be “nice.” He says, “I think it’s great to have a lot of restaurants. It makes things convenient and nice... It would definitely be very nice if the city and developers were to take an active role in making everything nicer.”

"Everybody likes Whole Foods down here, I’m sure, except for a few renegades."

It's true that there are only a few renegades left around here. And if a renegade is someone who hates to see New York turning into Cloneville, then Reed Korach is one. He told me, “Change can be good, and I am all for change, but when change means replicating every block to look the same and wiping out family-owned businesses and raising the rents so high only the super wealthy can live here, this is not the kind of change that is for the better.”


L'Emmerdeur said...

"Everybody likes Whole Foods down here, I’m sure, except for a few renegades."

Hey, frat boy, why not enjoy everything on offer in one of the other 49 states? Cockroach.

Anonymous said...

It breaks my heart that I'll never buy another ham at that polish butcher on 1st avenue. Even Martha Stewart profiled it - her people! I have to admit, I like whole foods. There's some things that I can get there that I can't get anywhere else. But I also like the model of "marketing" where I can buy locally from butchers, green grocers, nut shops, cheese mongers, etc. and unfortunately it seems the ripple effect of a chain is that the little guy goes. Question: is that one on the Bowery really going to stay in business? There are so few people in there I can't imagine they can even keep all their prepared food fresh. Or do they anticipate the new museums are going to somehow drive a lot of business into it?

Anonymous said...

did I actually say I like to shop at a "cheese monger"???!!! I did that for effect.

Rambler said...

I stand corrected, I see on the site he did post some stats, which is good. I think I would've opened the movie with that rather than with interviews...

Still, this is an issue in every city, which is why you don't see the outrage from new residents of NY. This all happened in the places they came from years ago so to them it is natural. they don't know of another world. Should we put a big fence around the city and say "can't live here if you were never here before 1995?"

Anyway, sorry for the rants, one of those days.

Eugene Markow said...

The devastation and gentrification of the neighborhood I grew up, "The East Village", is terrible and heartbreaking. I lived in a three story building on 215 East 3rd street (between and B & C) from 1964 (birth) to 1971, on the second floor. Back then, the building was owned by a Hungarian family, who had a butcher shop on the ground floor called "Lesko's", not to be confused with the "Leshko's" eatery which was located near Tompkins Square Park. My mother was an immigrant from Poland, and my father's parents were immigrants from Ukraine. Our neighbors on the third floor were also from Ukraine. Today, unfortunately, none of these families live in that building today, and it has become a high priced place to live, exclusively for the wealthy. Not surprising, is it?

My mother, grandparents, and other families, came to settle in this area when they arrived from Central and Eastern Europe. The neighborhood atmosphere was ethnic and enjoyable during those years. Although, it was starting to become dangerous in "Alpahabet City", where I lived. (After my parents and I moved to Staten Island, NY from the East Village, the owner of the butcher shop "Lesko's" was murdered, stabbed to death) a year later. Nevertheless, I will always have fond memories of my life there. The many Polish and Ukrainian restaurants, butcher shops, the churches of St. George and St. Stanislaus (both still on East 7th Street), Katz's Deli and the 2nd Avenue Deli, The Pitt Street public swimming pool (was on Houston Street) where I used to go swimming with my brothers and sister, and the friends that I grew up with, most of whose parents were immigrants as well. When my grandparents immigrated to NYC's East Village, they initially resided on St. Marks Place, later on East 5th Street (building demolished 15 years ago), then my parents eventually on East 3rd street. The rents were extremely low that time, allowing the chance for a new immigrant to start a new life in America, to make the dream come true.

When I think back of those times, it often seemed as though if the crime element was artificially welcomed by some of the large real estate investors to chase out the original locals and immigrants by use of the fear factor, so they, the big investors, can quickly move in and pick up the pieces for a low price. Fortunes made made, for sure. In many cases, this is indeed what has happened, to devastating circumstances. Now rents have skyrocketed, real estate as well, the neighborhood quickly lost it's ethnic flavor, local shops and small eateries folding up, and the good basic hard working people that were part of it are mostly gone. East Village, R.I.P. You are missed. Keep up the good work and memories Jeremiah.

Anonymous said...

Change is good. The city was so dangerous and was decaying at a rate that almost killed it completely. Manhattan used to be one of the worst places to live, thats why everyone left for the suburbs...Now they're coming back, and the city is groaning and heaving from the changes taking place, a rebirth. Crime has declined almost 85%, even Harlem is now safe for the families there. Its about time...

Anonymous said...

Amazing how often the weakass arguments for the positive aspects of Manhattan's transformation are put up anonymously. I think I've got this argument straight, finally: the city was too rough, so all the white people had to flee. When it was made safe again by throwing enough of the populace into upstate jails--where they provide the major source of industry, and count as local population so those representatives can continue to dominate NYC politically--then everyone could come back.

Of course, this means that everyone who was in the Villages and Harlem and Morningside Heights and elsewhere can just leave. "Even Harlem is safe for the families there"--too bad they all have to be deported, through the agency of the "free market," which means PILOTS and eminent domain and other benign interventions on behalf of the well-off. Just as long as someone who would never have considered living here can come, make money in the three-card monte real estate racket, and then move without offering anything back to the place the rest of us call home: it's a good thing.

Anonymous said...

Bravo, KoC!

"The weak-hearted/become Babylon's puppets./Makin it hard for real hustlers."