Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Appropriating the Neighborhood

Today I published over at the Village Voice, writing about Target, neighborhood appropriation, and hyper-gentrification.


What the colonizers desire and replicate is gritty New York without the grit. Punk and jazz and poetry without the enlivening shock of unpredictability. It’s a neat trick that works in part because we are starving for reality and a connection to history. Homesick for our lost city, we can be easily seduced by imitations of life.

At Target’s grand-opening event, it wasn’t the pseudo-CBGB that really got to me. I keep thinking about that fake stoop. The stoop, so utterly urban, normally brings the inside out; facing the street, it engages residents with the sidewalk ballet. But in today’s homogenized city, the new developments turn away from the street, like suburban developments often do, shielding their residents inside controlled private spaces that reject the communality and chaos of city life. Target’s fake stoop haunts me as a ghost of the unreal, an empty representation recalling a reality that is slipping away. As urbanist M. Christine Boyer has written, in her essay “Cities for Sale,” “these tableaux are the true nonplaces, hollowed out urban remnants, without connection to the rest of the city or the past, waiting to be filled with contemporary fantasies, colonized by wishful projections, and turned into spectacles of consumption.”

A haunted feeling is part of the package in today’s commodified cities. Hyper-gentrification is a horror movie mash-up. An invasion of the body snatchers, it zombifies what went before. It kills and then reanimates its victims, sanitized and tamed, to sell itself and expand into further territory, all while working to convince us that it has the best intentions and means no harm. It just wants to be part of the community. Part of the family. One of us, one of us. Like a vampire at the door it asks, with a seductive smile: Won’t we please let it in?

Read the whole article at the Voice


Tal Hartsfeld said...

I guess if rock and roll can incrementally and ultimately become a cheap imitation and gaudy replica of its former self why not anything else in the world?
Why not the whole world itself, in fact? Starting with its towns and cities and all within.

Sharon G. said...

Last week I overheard a realtor on my block reassuring a hipster in a Misfits t-shirt (!) that the subway on the corner here in Greenpoint is "safe". Told in a way that implied that you can't always assume so. I moved to this neighborhood 30 years ago because the rent was cheap and I thought the sewage treatment plant, the waste transfer stations and the radioactive waste facility would keep the "safe" types away. Sadly I was wrong.

Brian said...

I could never put it so elequently but realize how many colleges. and University students are jammed into Lower Manhattan, Pace, Parsons, New School, F.I.Y, NYU, School Of Visual Arts, Baruch, Yeshiva, Berkeley, BMCC, NYLaw, Fordham in Midtown, John Jay in Midtown, Marymount Manhattan dorms in East Village, Cooper Union, NY Institute of Tech, Pace. They come in during the fall and load up at Target and Bed,Bath & Beyond. That is where they get big spending consumers go to load up. It is not condusive to a sustained whole community. At the end of the few month semester, the crap they buy is thrown away to fill landfills for eternity.

Tal Hartsfeld said...

Coming soon to your neighborhood:
Fancy high-rent clean and fancy upper echelon condominiums and apartments
...atop of a row of familiar commercial merchants and chain restaurants.
On every corner ...
Right where you're now living

...that's right!!! Where you are presently dwelling
As in: Sooner or later we will also invade your neck of the woods like a band of stormtroopers, tearing down the old dilapidated building that currently houses your residential unit, and replace it with one of these fancy multi-stories that mark what passes for "progressive real estate" in today's social/corporate/political climate.

SadEnding said...

I wish ONE person would admit that the reason they hate change (gentrification) is that it is not what they grew up with, that it is so very different from their romantic ideals of their childhood or puberty, and NOT for any other reason. Thank God for Rudy Giuliani.

Having lived through the 60's 70's through to today in the East Village, I will happily take these changes over the drug, crime and filth of those earlier decades, thanks.

Unknown said...

And to make Target even more pathetic. There no cashiers. They are using "do it yourself" cashier machines. I mean come on, screw the workers as well. Boycott.