Monday, June 27, 2011

Eagle Under Siege

This weekend, on the night when gay marriage was passed in New York State, the Eagle bar was raided by the NYPD. Was it homophobia or something else?

Inside the Eagle

The city's classic gay leather bar, the Eagle moved to desolate West 28th Street in 2001, after the original Eagle closed further downtown, where it had survived since 1970 in a former longshoreman's pub until the neighborhood went upscale.

As the Times reported on this weekend's raid, the police turned on the lights, shined flashlights in patrons' faces, and forced people to empty their pockets. Patrons report being harassed and intimidated. An NYPD spokesperson said the raid had nothing to do with the bar's clientele, "it has to do with complaints." Said the Times, establishments targeted for this type of inspection are "selected because they are the subjects of 'chronic complaints' from community members" for problems like excessive noise.

How many noise complaints has the Eagle had in the past year? According to the 311 Service Request Map, there have been zero complaints of any kind. Am I missing something here? Most of the complaints in this largely unpopulated area are about construction noise.

The Eagle is a red rectangle, complaints are yellow circles

What's really going on? Was the Eagle raided because it was Pride Weekend? Or because gay marriage just passed in New York? No. It was raided because the city wants to shut it down--because this block is changing fast and the Eagle boys are not what the Bloombergians want here.

Not only has the extended High Line just opened on this block, but AvalonBay is building their massive Avalon West Chelsea directly across the street from the Eagle, taking 60,000 square feet of space to put in a 700-unit residential development with "provisions for restaurants" and a "parking garage for over 140 cars located in the building." To do so, they have already bulldozed a cluster of industrial businesses long located here.

In this shot from the new High Line, you can see the digging machines next to the Folsom East celebration (just a week before the raid). That is a vast empty lot about to be filled. And what will the finished product look like?

Here is the rendering of the complex to come--it looks a lot like Avalon's giant glass boxes on the Bowery and includes their wish for a Whole Foods along with "restaurants, galleries, fashion." If they did it to the Bowery, they can do it to West 28th.


What many of those south-facing windows look out on is the roof deck of the Eagle, where men in leather chaps and harnesses cavort. "Don't miss your chance to be a part of the High Line," says Avalon's ad copy. I don't think this is what they mean. Do the High Line huggers really want their view to include sweaty, furry leathermen?

The Eagle

The timing of this raid has nothing to do with Pride or gay marriage, and everything to do with the High Line's recent arrival on 28th Street and every glittering thing it brings in its wake. Mark my words, the Pride Weekend raid on the Eagle is Phase One of the city's plan to push this historic bar out of its home and put the kibosh on the Folsom Street East fair in the process.

This isn't your garden variety homophobia at work. It's Manifest Destiny. It matters to everyone who cares about the preservation of New York's soul because this is part of Bloomberg's plan to turn all of Manhattan into a luxury product. And the dress code does not permit leather and Levi's.

Further Reading:
Folsom Under High Line
Eagle's Nest
Pleasure Chest 1972
Men in Leather
Lenny & Leather


Mykola ( Mick) Dementiuk said...

My response would be to publicly jerk off on Blumberg but I know he's going to win and it's over for the Village crowd. Very sad.

JM said...

The next election isn't until 2013, if I have it correctly. All we can do until then, I'm afraid, is wring our hands and say goodbye to the New York that used to be, not so long ago.

The future looks very drab. It will take a good economic washout to halt and then reverse this insanity.

You do realize that people like us are dinosaurs? The direction the city is taking is actually right in line with the younger generation's (not all of them, but too many) conception of New York. This is the city they've come to, the city they think is great.

Our time has come and gone, and we won't be hanging on to much of it. As Bette Davis said, getting old is not for sissies. (No gay reference meant...and congratulations to everyone for living in a state that is finally refusing to discriminate against sexual orientation re marriage based on stupidity, prejudice, and millenia of religious superstition.)

Anonymous said...

As a young person I came to this city because of what it was. Unlike the majority of frat boys and sorostitutes from Florida that move here because their friends and Carrie Bradshaw told them to. Unfortunately it was mostly gone when I showed up.

Anonymous said...

Once I saw some interviews, people reflecting on the Stonewall riots. In one, a detective commented that the riots were precipitated by the non-payment of graft. Could that also have been a contributing factor here?

NYC has become the magic kingdom.

Marty Wombacher said...

That's clearly police harassment and it's fucked up. I hope they fight back, but sadly it's a fight that's probably impossible to win.

JAZ said...

In Mike B's Disneyland, there is absolutely no room for gay bars - that space is reserved for Starbucks, Gap, Chase, Citibank, Bank of America, Jamba Juice, and artisinal cupcake collectives.

mike o said...

John M - I politely disagree in that I don't think this is age/generational. I mean, the term yuppie was coined in the eighties about NYC douchebags and norms living here at the time.

There's always been a struggle between the fringe and the mainstream, and between big money interests/owners and the poor/renters. If anything, now may be better because we have websites like this one, and other places for like minded people to band together and communicate with each other. It's a little pollyanna but also true.

Caleo said...

Agree with John M, 90% of the young folks I've met who have recently moved here WANT the luxury product formerly known as Manhattan.
When I moved here $2000 covered my first 3 months of rent plus the deposit.And I still had funds left over for food.
Now it barely covers one month, not including the deposit and the rider that mommy and daddy have to sign to make sure you get in the building.
Only young people who have money (or their parent's money) can afford this town.
Bloomie is a very busy little man, and although he only has 2 years left, we all know how much more our beloved island will change in those 2 years.
We are the dinosaur's, and as Jeremiah has noted in the past...this is our MASS EXTINCTION EVENT.

Lux Living said...

It's getting to the point where I don't even want to live here anymore but I refuse to give up NYC. All of my favorite clubs, restaurants and bars have either been closed or taken over by transplants. Naively I was just saying to my boyfriend we should go to The Eagle more often because it's less likely to be invaded by goofy straight girls looking for a gay night out. But the cops beat them to the invading.

Bloomberg is going to go down in history for scrubbing out the very things that make this city so diverse and fun. More so than Rudy. It's really an attack on our culture.

Unknown said...

Bloomberg wants the entire city to look like his apartment building on the Upper East Side. He's trying to turn the entire city into Westchester. Bike paths with no bikes on them, closing off the street to cars, turning 42nd Street into Disneyland, no smoking outdoors anymore. That was just the beginning. He's making it harder and harder for new nightclubs to get cabaret licenses, raiding existing ones for the most ridiculous things. He has no idea why New York is what it is and why people come here. Plus, he sounds like an old Jewish woman. I wish a bike would run him over and kill him.

Jeremiah Moss said...

this is the dilemma, Lux. stay or go? it's getting less bearable to live here, but is anyplace else going to be better?

i keep hearing things about Berlin.

Robert Pinter said...

It is still homophobia on the part of Mayor Bloomberg, the NYPD and the monied real estate interests that pull the strings. To them, the leather community is an embarrassment that is in the way and expendable, just as the gay and bisexual men falsely arrested for prostitution around Manhattan adult video stores in 2008 were expendable as illegitimate evidence gathered in an effort to close those video stores.

Anonymous said...

Hi. Been reading your blog for over a year, but only brought myself to write today because I am just so aggravated and can't take what's happening in NYC anymore. I live in Boston- - in the heart of the city, and the SAME thing is happening here. As a rule I try to spend a long weekend or so in NYC about 3 times a year. I get a nice, affordable, clean room at the West Side YMCA in the UWS. But who knows - maybe as we speak that Y could be closed-down. What I have to tell you is that I don't really like NYC anymore. Every time I go, a few more of my favorite watering holes or mom & pop businesses are gone - only to be replaced by some crowded, scenester sports bar or something jammed with howling, high-fiving, every-other word BRO or DUDE "frat-boy-turned-investment-banker" and their S.A.T.C. over-dressed, overly made-up, silly, vapid, white, puking white girls. I don't know where to go anywhere to sit and have a cheap cocktail, listen to juke box music, have relaxed conversation with a stranger or just sit and watch the world go by. When I was in Junior High I remember driving down 95 to NYC from R.I. to bring my sister to college. There were sights, situations, landscapes, that I had never experienced in my entire life. It was thrilling. Getting off Amtrak at Penn Station in 1974 took my breath away because there was this pulse and energy and all sorts of characters. I remember engaging in conversation at Penn Sta with some dude who was trying to sell me something - until my mom yanked my arm and pulled me away! And now this whole thing about The Eagle really sucks. What about all those Hellish, hedonistic,, trendy, WOO-HOO hollering at 3 AM so-called "hot spots" that are plaguing the LES and so many other neighborhoods aren't targeted by the police for shut-down? Tell me which is more offensive at 3AM........The Eagle, or a bunch of blasted, entitled, screeching, fighting, puking rich kids? In Boston the "Yunnies" are trying to shut-down a 90 year-old drag bar because of noise and "riff raff." Well, I did some research and the found that 96% of police complaints were a result of out-of-control Bachelorette parties who discovered the place and decided to go there so they could proclaim to their friends that they are "edgy" and "cool." I am sick over this. We can't win. Money talks

Jeremiah Moss said...

thanks, Boston Anon, for that comment, and i'm sorry to hear it's happening there too. seems like i get a lot of comments and emails from around the country, and the world, saying, "it's happening here too." the same descriptions of the same people doing the same things.

so Bloomberg is part of something much bigger, something national and throughout the Western world.

when i think, "where can i go if i leave New York," there don't seem to be many options.

p.s. what drag bar do they want to shut down?

Anonymous said...

Hi Jeremiah. Thanks for the reply. I only posted anonymous because I never did this before. My name is Sam. The bar the soccer mom's are fighting SO hard to close In Boston is in the Bay Village section of downtown. It's call "Jaques. Trust me, on any given night it is SO meek and mild-mannered there -- but then the Yunnie bachelorette girls come in and screw everything up on Saturday nights...pissing off the neighbors at 3AM with what I call, "White Girl Howl," I feel like I am up against a wall sometimes -especially when I try to have a conversation about such issues with anyone under 35. They all have the same LAME comment, "Ewwww, why would you prefer the dirt and crime of years ago?' Although unpopular, my response is, "Some element of crime in the air is good because with crime comes fear. And with fear comes respect. And with respect comes folks with thick skins who understand the laws of the big city and have street-smarts and understand not to leave their laptop, Ipad or whatever, bike un-locked.... unlike all the suburban pussies who are seemingly and unfortunately, driving the dominant culture in NYC. (and maybe across America).

Jeremiah Moss said...

i remember Jacques. now they have this notice on their website: "please remember to keep the noise level down, and to be courteous and respectful to our neighbors upon arrival to and departure from the establishment."

and there's this:

the screaming bachelorettes took over drag bar Lucky Cheng's in the East Village, too.

and here's what someone wrote about Jacques on Yelp: "This place is a sad reminder of what Boston once was - a city that had diverse nightlife instead of what we have now (yuppie martini lounges that are clones of the superior New York boites; bogus Mcirish bars that cater to the A & F college elites; even more bogus bridge/tunnel bars that attract commuter-rail ticketholders that enjoy a gin and tonic at 6 o'clock)"

sounds familiar. argh. well, if i was writing about Boston, i'd write about this.

Anonymous said...

Yes, Jaques has always tried SO FRIGGIN' HARD to be a good neighbor during the Yunnie invasion. First, they closed at 2, then they were forced to close at midnight - and now the Yunnies are trying to get them to close even
earlier or simply close altogether. I think part of what pisses me off so much, Jeremiah, is that these days the wretched frat boys and girls have SO MANY CHOICES of where to go in our cities. Life today caters to them. Why would they even bother to seek-out an old drag bar?

mrpeenee said...

Speaking as someone who has lived in both, I can say New Orleans and San Francisco are facing the same forces of being converted into some processed food replica of their former selves.

Is this just evolution? Did the dinosaurs turn to each other and grouse "I liked it better before the stupid comet."? Maybe. Still sucks.

Rob from Jersey City said...

I think Folsom went a step too far this year. I am no prude, and I love Folsom as much as the next and in years past, on a nice warm night, when it wasn't Folsom, have stripped off all my clothes and walked that block back and forth for the kink of it, so that's who I am. I think the porn guys mocked the tourists and the surprise inspection was retaliation for that. The message was "behave yourselves this weekend", because the weekend was Pride.

I agree they're trying to push us out, but it's economics, not homophobia. Look at Jersey City, it was all gay and LOADED with dungeons to play in. Now it's loaded with kids.

If the Eagle is pushed out, maybe it can find a home on the other side of 11th on 30th or 29th. Then another building will go up and it'll move again.

Look, bodegas are being destroyed by Whole Foods taking their corner, is that Hispanic Discrimination?

NYC of the 70s has long been dead, but there's still nooks and cranny's to play in.

Tony Adams said...

The Eagle is in for a hell of a fight. It's all about money. The developers are the culprits more than Bloomberg. They will use any means available to oust their unmarketable neighbor. The Eagle will need to fight back with close scrutiny/photos of every minute detail of what the developers do across the street. There will be all the usual inevitable infractions and lack of permits. The Eagle must bring these to the city until the developer will see that it is better to strike a deal with the Eagle.

Anonymous said...

Sad post. Manhattan is such a bore now. Even the suburbs of NJ and Long Island have more of an electric feel and nighttime excitement (even danger) that Manhattan doesn't. Manhattan is just for executives and doctors to live close to the office and school trips to museums.

Tom Irizarry said...

Christine Quinn the current Speaker of the New York City Council, which is among the most powerful positions in city government after the Mayor. The Eagle falls within her District 3. We should seek her support.

Peter said...

10 days after the raid at The Eagle, the owner of the club cancelled the popular independently produced FootMenNYC parties which had been happening at the club first on Mondays, and then Tuesday nights.

The FootMenNYC parties, which consistently brought in between 100-130 guys on an otherwise slow night.

It is clear that The Eagle is under siege by the Bloombergs, and is in for the fight of it's life. It will be interesting to see what happens to The Eagle and the other 'pleasure' businesses on that block.

Anonymous said...

I thought NYC was the most open minded city in the life is not allowed according to the dirtiest mayor ever...but it is ok to cheat on wives left and right and have corruption....typical double standard...

Liza said...

I have been dismayed and disgusted by the direction the city has been moving for a long time. The Disney-fication of Times Square was enough for me.
Truthfully, I am surprised the Eagle has survived in that white-washed environment for as long as it has.

I have been thinking for a while that it is time for the Leather scene to go back underground. If for no other reason than to get rid of the fashion show people.

As a New Yorker, born and bred, I hate to see how the city is going, but I guess time rolls on and things change. :(

John said...

If you think this is bad, just look at what has happened to the annual Gay Prode Pareade in the past four years. Kicked off of Christopher Street, and later kicked out of the West Side riverfront, and later kicked out of the Greenwich Street Avenue, and now transplanted to a small two block area at Hudson Street that nobody even wants to attend, the gay community has to find a way of uniting and taking a stand.

Unknown said...

Someone above mentioned that NY has become the Magic Kingdom. Close: Manhattan is become the Tragic Kingdom. Let's call it like it is: The NY f>ing Times is no longer on or even off Times Square. Who's the biggest tenant? Disney! It's Disney Square -- that's really more accurate, anyway. The intriguing thing about Manhattan is that in many respects its becoming increasingly homogenized, suburbanized, and Upper Eastside-ified. And, while some of these trends have permeated Brookly, the Bronx, and Queens (Staten Island was never not suburbia), there are still large swaths of Bx, Bkn, and Qns where you can still be as poor, crazy, ethnic, artsy, as you want and have wild crazy sex. SO, while relatively less convenient, THEY are the most likely future of edgy culture of any kind, including gay and sex culture. Manhattan will be for Wall Streeters, corporatistas, professionals of the upper class of any ethnicity and sexuality (monogamish, uxorious, 2.1 kids, etc) and the edge has moved east (and we'll see about north to the Bx). SO, now we can see, things have simply shifted: Bridge and Tunnel will refer to those coming from NJ, CT, Staten Island, Long Island - AND MANHATTAN!

Joey said...

FootStud : I agree with you greatly. Manhattan will just be the big dull vanilla business headquarters. However, I think "Bridge & Tunnel people" (though I think that was a snooty attitude to begin with)will refer only to Manhattan people. Staten Island, NJ, Conn. and Long Island (not just Brooklyn and Queens) can be genuinely edgy too, and we'll see more leaving Manhattan on Saturday nights to go party in those places. -Joe (born, bred in NYC)

Joey said...

P.S. Footstud : In my opinion, gays themselves are the culprits here too though. Where NYC used to attract gay men like Hart Crane (writing brilliant poetry but also coming home with black eyes after pursuing dockworkers and writing "How I am stalked by lust these dog days.."), Cole Porter, Jasper Johns, it now attracts cookie-cutter gays who wear rainbow T-shirts and have never had one original thought in their heads, except that they think they're somehow more glamorous now because they moved to Manhattan. They are in love with the idea of that more than anything, the idea of being a "NYC gay" more than really loving the city or ever being able to understand it. Which goes for a lot of the types who ruined Manhattan (like no real artists anymore, only people who like to fantasize that "now I'm a NYC artist")

NatveNYr said...

For the first time in my life, it has been building up and I no longer love NYC. I am packing up and getting my place ready to sell. The West Village has completely lost it's charm. No more Mad Monk, Game Show. Now the St. Vincent's fiasco. Gay bashings! So SO SAD!

lsr said...

i remember NYC from 50 yrs ago etc. since i was born there way before that. ALWAYs the tourists & weekenders would go to the village to look around. west 8th street changed around early 60s, mac dougal/bleeker area after mid 60s. because instant media like internet, places get tourists faster. would would take 20 yrs, now could be 4 yrs. get it??? nothings changed except the speed. development has always been around. trends change. long island was developed first. at one time this was beautiful country. then malls highways housing etc. now the trend is to live in a city, now thats being "developed". & women are in the work force so they need to be in the manhattan/boston, also being single is now a lifestyle. in additional morals/attitudes have changed via media. this took 40 yrs! "gay" is cool what ever. "black" is cool what ever.... so now its all OK & entertaining, before these things were a no no. these cultures were un known even in my neigborhood in brooklyn. SO, the faster the media is, the faster things are "chased". everyone now loves a peep show. dont forget cheap air fares!! i paid the same fare for europe in 1967 as you do in 2011. people who took greyhound to NYC now can fly. also there are less boundaries than there were in the 1950s/1960s/70s. again its cultural shifts plus the internet, global corporate take over, off shore $$ being poured into NYC etc, now you have what you have. bloomburg is a small player. dont be stupid & think its about a TV show.

Anonymous said...

It's happening on the LES too. "anonymous" complained that it wasn't. on weekend nights we have road blocks, random car stops, klieg lights turned on at 2 am, police harassment, and just last week a police initiated brawl outside a bar resulting in 30 lawsuits against the city. oh, and it was all black people who got beat down with nightsticks in that melee. the police are trying to close the existing bars because all the hotels moving in need their liquor licenses. the police are working for the property developers and actively pushing out established businesses, resulting in lost tax revenue, and people put out of work. neighborhoods are losing their long time residential and business base and replaced with transient people and stores. soon, there will be no there there. at the same time that some bars are incessantly targeted and harassed, other nearby bars go unscathed. who is choosing who gets to stay and who gets to go? why is the comm board silent? why does the police capt say he wants to work with the bars, but takes every action, legal or not to ticket them, decrease revenue, and harass patrons and passersby? this is the dark side of democracy. after all, who you gonna believe in court? it's the cops word against the business owner. what will the long term effect be for the city? will it still remain a cultural capital? or more a real estate capital? with the choices the powers that be make, other things are excluded. perhaps this is the life span of great cities. i moved here when it was bankrupt, cheap, dangerous, and fun. now things are different, an upswing has been going on for quite some time now. too bad that means kicking people to the gutter, instead of benefits for all. you could call it competition, except for the fact that these bars are easy targets because they are licensed, and vulnerable to attack by forces that use these vulnerabilities to their advantage. can't fight city hall. or can you?

Anonymous said...

OOOOH! Fancy new building/neighbors for lucky rich gay men to enjoy both the building the the short walk to The Eagle.

laura said...

let me address the issue of straight girls "invading" gay bars. (i dont mean going w/a gay friend, you know like the occassional fag hag). women fought to get into all male bars. (straight bars). they won, i think the decision was UNconstitutional. as each private business has a right to cater to their clientele. (female, male, mixed, lesbian, homosexual, families w/children, or all mixed together). choice w/options is what "made" (past tense) american great. lets move on to fringe groups who want "in". like transgenders in dorm bathrooms, being openly gay while teaching public school. you can thank radical feminists, gay rights extremists, for all the new laws. what goes around comes around. be careful what you wish for, it will come back & bite you. yes indeed it has. soon the girls will be right there w/you in the "backroom". someday all of us will have to go underground to have some privacy. hmmm........