Friday, May 30, 2008

The Joneses Are Here

I've been puzzling as to why yunnies hate mom-and-pops so very, very much. I was reading this post by EV Grieve in which he quotes an online review of an Irish pub that came down to make way for a new luxury tower. The reviewer writes:

"I hope places like this close down soon: We are all working on building a better downtown. I bought a 1.5 million dollar condo around the block from this place. I stopped in one weekday during lunch (i was off.) The place had 3 patrons at the bar, all of which looked worse then the other. The decor is lacking, the floors dirty, and the food was just ok. This place may be decent for someone who does not like finer things..."

And I wondered, as I have many times when reading similar commentary, what is this about? Why do yunnies feel such intense hatred of harmless, dumpy old places? The hatred seems deeply personal and expresses itself in a wish to destroy. It's one thing to say, "I don't like this place so I won't go there," yet another to say, "I hope it is eradicated." We hear this sentiment again and again in blog commentary and online reviews. It feels a lot like hysteria.

Then I realized (with thanks to Mr. Grieve): It's all about property values.

The yunnies are like suburban home owners, the Joneses who mow their lawns every Sunday and keep their porches freshly painted. Trimming hedges and weeding gardens, they want their neighbors to do the same--to not damage their property values. When a neighbor chooses to let their lawn grow, display chainsaw stump art in the yard, leave a car up on blocks in the driveway, or allow their paint to peel, oh how Mr. and Mrs. Jones go wild! "We are all working to build a better downtown," they say, "Why aren't you one of us, one of us, one of us?"

It is hysteria. "Burn it down! Run them out of town! A scourge on Elm Street!" the Joneses cry. Terrified by the specter of falling property values, they drag their neighbors into court, ordering them to keep up, keep up, keep up with us Joneses! And if you don't keep up...well, here comes good old blight, good old eminent domain, and didn't we need a new park anyway? Maybe something with cannons and faux piles of cannon balls, symbols of our terror of dirty, smelly natives who don't care about the finer things.

I have nothing against cleanliness. I like to see my elderly, immigrant neighbors sweep their stoops in the morning. This is Old World tidiness, not the same as New New York sterility. A little dirt is good for you--keeps the immune system strong. Today we're besieged by germaphobes. Their fearful suburban parents taught them to slather themselves and everything around them with antibacterial agents. Vongerichtification is their way of cleaning up the city.

The children of suburban Boomers have come back to reclaim the cities their grandparents fled years ago. They bring with them fear and hatred of anything urban. They bring suburban values that don't mesh with the city--and this is different from other, non-yunnie transplants to the city, who yearned to leave suburbia behind. The yunnies refuse to be city people. Dirt, rats, ugly signage? Clean it up, clean it up, clean it up! they say. Or else.


Anonymous said...

Being proud of moving to the city and thinking they are cool for doing so when in reality all of the people who actually made the city cool have mostly left and are now gone is sort of like being proud and thinking one is cool by winning an NCAA basketball championship when in reality, most of the best college age basketball players bypass college and turn pro right out of high school.

Anonymous said...

your best post ever, bravo mr moss. i felt rage, sadness and joy at reading so my and many others' thoughts articulated with such poignant words and visuals. long island is not a model to be emulated anywhere, especially not in cities. this is what Dylan was talking about in "Hey Woody Guthrie" when he talked about a new world that's just been born and already feels like its dying. suburbs = change controlled = living death

treshold75 said...

I used to love neighborhoods like Soho and the West Village over Times Square (who wouldn't?) but couldn't understand why, over the years, I have begun to shudder at the mere thought of walking pass it to get somewhere. I was ready to dismiss it as a by-product of age but after reading this blog, I now know why.

The original allure of these places are no longer there and as you so well put it, Jeremiah, been replaced by something new. This something new is antiseptic, devoid of character or if it has character, is something only accessible to the rich.

Unknown said... much as I have been infuriated by all this, I honestly have never thought about it that way...great post.

Anonymous said...

This is a great post. I think anyone who has seen the fabric of their city erased:
or been shouldered off a slim city street by a monster SUV can identify with this. Is there any recourse beyond fist shaking? I wonder...

Anonymous said...

Brilliant post! As I write, cable news reports ANOTHER crane crash. B'berg spoke; testy, testy, a short man OOC. Worker admitted name of game was money, so speed, lack of quality, etc. prevailed. Towers will soon look like dirty glasses from yesteryear's picnic. Yunnies, let go of your suburban fantasies. You object to an old bar but accept hedgefunder shit in your condo lobby. I know, you say it doesn't stink.

L'Emmerdeur said...

A brilliant post, indeed. Many have felt these things you write, but this is the first instance someone has been able to express the concept so succinctly and thoroughly.

Anonymous said...

Brilliant post, Jeremiah. I can only hold out hope that the tide turns on these suburbanite fascists some time soon and makes them flee our city like their forebears. The one thing we have going for us is that these folks have awfully thin skin (hence their obsession with turning New York into a sterilized gated community). When things hit the skids they'll leave. In the not-too-distant future us real New Yorkers - those of us with an iota of gumption and nerve - will gaze in wonder at the abandoned glass towers and shuttered-up Duane Reades as the decaying ruins of a twisted, evil, dark period in New York's history that was bound to collapse in on itself from day one. Our time will come again, friends. Patience is a virtue.

Anonymous said...

Jeremiah, I usually try to post something thoughtful that will perhaps expand a little bit on what you said, but this time I'm gobsmacked. You nailed exactly what and why these SATC chicks and yunnies are doing to destroy New York. I wish I could wake up tomorrow and see no Blue, no Ludlow ("Live like a Rockefeller, party like a rockstar"), and have my neighborhood back for a single day. (If I get to choose, a day that Gertel's is open, please. I really need some onion kichel.)

JakeGould said...

Well, on the semi-bright side the whole mortgage mess doesn't seem like it's clearing up any quicker.

so_chic_darling said...

And at night in their condos more of them hatch from sticky pods.

Anonymous said...

great post!!!!!
keep up the good work!

i'm a fan of your site!


Nick said...

I've been pondering this a lot lately as well - with energy costs skyrocketing and the Age of Oil getting ready to wind down, what will happen to New York (and all our cities, for that matter)? Will the stream of suburban refugees succeed in changing the city into something that's not quite the diverse hustle and bustle that we love or the privatized, sterility they love, and in the end leave no one satisfied?

I'm actually a bit more optimistic here (yeah, it's frowned on around here - so sue me ;) ) in that if you consider the cultural shifts of the first generation born to immigrants in this country, they become much more adapted to their new environment and culture. I think (I hope, anyway...) that the children of the suburban immigrants that are only bound to increase as time goes on will see the beauty of the city as we see it.

(That is assuming that what we find beautiful and natural about urban life still exists by then...)

Jeremiah Moss said...

thanks everyone! i appreciate the kind words.

sometimes i think about moving to the suburbs, which are what they are, to get away from this city, which is becoming what it's not meant to be.

but it has its grip on me.

Anonymous said...

Here's an excerpt from a Craig's List roommate ad (info on the person or persons renting, since my landlord is hiking up the rent.

"Interests: Diet Coke, the biz-each, people with boats, people with
plasma TVs, magnolia cupcakes, Sex And the City, Wii fit, air-conditioned movie theater multiplex, sheeps meadow,
popcorn, Project Runway, hot boys, hot boys with money, roof deck parties, trampolines, happy hour, and
Brad Pitt's third leg, if you don't know where it is, you need not

Dislikes: old ladies, rats on the subway platform, people
who don't wash their dishes, people who don't like Sex and the City or Gossip Girl, warm cheap beer, burnt hot dogs, drinking orange juice after
brushing your teeth, water parks, and halitosis"

"sometimes i think about moving to the suburbs, which are what they are, to get away from this city, which is becoming what it's not meant to be." -- couldn't have articulated this better.

Excellent, excellent post.

Anonymous said...

I respectfully disagree with your optimistic forecast about the children of suburbanites, Nick. The only thing the children of these suburbanite invaders have in common with foreign-born immigrants is their birth beyond the borders of New York City. Real immigrants are hard-working people with character who left their nations of birth to make a better life for themselves here in New York. They teach their children to have respect for the customs and culture of the natives and while keeping some semblance of their old ways more or less want their children to assimilate and embrace the culture of their adopted homeland. This as always been a city of immigrants and while we've all added a little cultural and ethnic spice to the melting pot we have come to embrace our identity as New Yorkers regardless of race, creed, or ethnicity because we've all had to endure the same trials and tribulations that being a real New Yorker entails.

The suburbanites are different. Foreign-born immigrants come here to better themselves and the last thing they want is to see their adopted homeland become identical to the place they left in the first place. Not so with these yunnie invaders. On the contrary, their one driving desire is to transform this city into precisely what it was they left - to promulgate their deranged and soulless suburbanite existence so that it devours urban centers they deem unsavory. These aren't humble immigrants coming off the boat to eke out a living. These are affluent people of means with a sense of entitlement. They don't walk the streets of New York hoping to be a part of it, they walk the streets assuming they own it already. This is why I refer to them as fascists. They aren't content with suburban living existing only in the suburbs. They need more and more Lebensraum, if you will, and their ravenous appetite will never be satiated until ever square inch of this and every other city resembles a gated community. These parasites need to be driven from this city before we can ever hope to reclaim it. Their bastard spawn will not embrace New York or its real inhabitants because they're conditioned from day one to believe they're too good for it and for us.

Jeremiah Moss said...

10.39, is that CL ad for real? whether it is or not, it's a work of art.

Jeremiah Moss said...

ok, it's a real craiglist ad, but they've since changed some key items:

btw, it's a 6-bedroom sharing 1 bathroom. ugh.

Nick said...

You may very well be right, bob; I suppose only time will tell.

(Honestly, at 23 I'm in the demographic most derided on this site - not that I mind, by the way, as most of my fellow Millennials are quite vapidly obnoxious. I just hope that some of the city that I longed to be a part of in my younger days does not vanish right as I'm hitting the age where I can truly appreciate it)

Anonymous said...

I'm right there with you, Nick - I'm 22 and share the same exact sentiments. I envy my elders because I'd much rather hit my prime in any decade besides this blighted one.

Anonymous said...

Nick, I’ll have to disagree with you too, for the same reasons as Bob. After all, if the trends of displacement continue unabated, ordinary working people won’t have a significant presence in the urban centers by the time the yunnies’ kids grow up, and they can't assimilate to us if we’re nowhere to be found.
Still, I too have entertained some hope for the children of these yunnie kids, though not for the same reasons. I myself hope that the culture of total conformity in which they’re bing raised is hopefully setting them up for a dramatic coming-of-age rebellion when they realize the world is not entirely made up of skinny people with valley-girl accents like their parents. Due to the ultra-conservative nature of their parent’s outlook, their rebellion would hopefully be liberal in character, which naturally would make them more amenable to issues of affordability.
Of course, I know this is all wishful thinking, and I think it would be best not to base our own self-interests on the attitudes of the wealthy. One can hope for the best, but let’s face it–-the whole group hasn’t shown itself to be very sympathetic to our problems these past few years, and I don’t think it would be wise to count on their kids being any different. It would be nice, but I don't think they should be relied on one way or the other.
Hopefully the whole globalized debt-speculation pyramid that sustains yunnie society will collapse before we have to deal with the kids (the parents are enough for me).

Oh Jerry, I nearly forgot. Though I understand the feeling, moving to the suburbs won’t solve anything. After all, gentrification is not merely an urban problem; developments of planned townships of “McMansions” are swallowing up the rural areas and poorer suburbs of this nation with just as much speed as the urban super-development. The problem is not one of location–-daddy’s VISA makes the yunnie extremely mobile–-and as long as they consider gentrification profitable they will actively rove for new locations to make superhip. I’m sorry to say that nothing will be solved by simply moving elsewhere; the danger will still be present.

Oh, also, that Craigs List ad should be framed and kept as evidence. Geeze, those yunnie pricks are obnoxious.

Anonymous said...

From a comment (I'm sure there'll be more like this) on Gothamist's version of EV Grieve's posting of the New York magazine's 1984 article on gentrification "I wasn't even born in 1987...
At least the lack of trains in Alphabet City slows down gentrification.
The East Village still strikes fear in some people. I was sitting in Tompkins Square Park with a friend last week. He got freaked out by the bums and said he never wanted to come back to Alphabet City. "

Anonymous said...

All immigrants to NYC try to re-create their original home there. The difference is that most immigrants add to the city by doing so, because they come from places with actual cultures. Thus we have Jewish immigrants giving us bagels and bookish neuroticism, Italian immigrants giving us pizza, black people from down South giving us jazz, etc. The difference is that suburbanites have no culture. Also, they're rich, so they drive out the people who do.

Anonymous said...

"The difference is that suburbanites have no culture." Hits the nail on the head.