Do we want a Homogenized NYC?
Say it ain’t so! Gentrification has reared its ugly head once again taking over the New York City’s unique culture and has put a damper on symbolic traditions throughout our neighborhoods. What was once been considered the melting pot of the world has become more and more homogenized. The fabric of our city is constantly changing and undergoing modern construction projects, and no one cares to talk to the community to see how this effects them. Do we really want to be labeled as a “Giant Shopping Mall” with large commercial corporations like Starbucks and Duane Reade’s on every corner? It’s a sad reality that our city is losing its unique flavor.
Recently DNAinfo.com reported on Jim “Mosaic Man” Power, the mastermind behind the beautiful colorful lamppost mosaics around Astor Place and The East Village. He started designing the mosaics in 1987 and in a form of protest, he would rather tear down his own artwork than to see it destroyed by a $16 Million redesign of Astor Place. When times were bad, the mosaic acted as a symbol of hope to light the way. There were even mosaics to commemorate history and influential public figures like Susan B Anthony and President Bill Clinton. Everyone was familiar with Power’s work. He was a local celebrity. Power’s Mosaic, and other creative artistic works, are the fabric of what makes NYC so unique.
If all neighborhoods start looking and feeling the same our city will be boring! With nothing to differentiate one neighborhood from the rest, individuality will be erased. There won’t be any unique characteristics defining a neighborhood as the East Village compared to the West Village. I had an opportunity to speak with Jimmy Webb, manager at Trash and Vaudeville, a Rock & Roll, Punk Rock inspired clothing Store on St. Marks that has been in business since 1975. He says the same spirit lies in the walls of the store, but the neighborhood has drastically changed over the years. “I don’t see any more diversity. It used to be so colorful. Now it’s all the same,” he told me. “I miss music stores, the records, the people, and the different types of food. Everything has become modernized.” He chocked up a little when we spoke of the mosaics being torn down. “Why is the city taking this all away? There is no authenticity of the spirit on NYC any more. It’s just not cool.”
As a native NYer, who has lived and breathed NYC over the past decade, I have witnessed this city transform into something completely unoriginal. It used to have so much flavor. I agree that we need to clean up the city, but never imagined that the mayor and the city would go to such extremes as to remove the very beginnings of what made the East Village the hippest neighborhood in the city.
It’s the same thing with erasing 5 Pointz in Queens. I was there the week before it was painted white. I was blown away by what I saw and the talent that was portrayed in these walls were incomprehensible. Each mural told a story and each story told the tale of the importance and value of our artistic culture. It was torn down, in the same way the East Village history has been wiped away, leaving a trail of history to fade into the background.
Why would they want to take away the beauty that makes NYC so special? What is the vision for New York City? Is this for the better or for worse? At the end of the day the mom and pop shops are being squeezed out all over the city because they cannot afford the rents and all the neighborhoods will eventually look and feel the same and the old traditions will just be a shadow of the past. We need to work together as a community and support the smaller shops.
We are ONE!