Sunday, October 28, 2007

Requiem for a city

Real estate is king in the new New York. Too many immigrants can't afford to come in. Too many longtime residents are driven out. We are losing our sky to a hideous skyline and our streets to a generic wash of prefab apartments, banks and storefronts.

City neighborhoods losing character to condos, chain stores

As Manhattan is squeezed, so suffer the outer boroughs. The Italians and Poles of Williamsburg and Greenpoint, Brooklyn, are dislocated by hipsters whose creative lives are emphatically commercial. Every possible place is built on, or up. The Atlantic Yards project in Brooklyn promises the same on a massive scale.

We've lost our shopkeepers, barbers, cobblers, diners, record stores, our butchers and bakers. We've lost the vibrant mix that made the city unique, the spontaneity that gave New York its edge.

Then there's Vanishing New York:

Those who contend that an unprecedented influx of money, combined with rapid development, is causing the city to lose its soul need look no further for evidence than Mr. Moss’s blog. It reads like an obituary to a disappearing city, with Astor Place as the “epicenter of evil.”

Witness to What Was, Skeptic of What’s New

Pictured: A mural in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, where residents are fighting to save their neighborhood.


Anonymous said...

This is a comment on the complete collapse of the preservation movement.

The giants of the 60s have been replaced by small minds hell bent on getting their deck chair on the Titanic as it goes down.

We need to start over. We need to find new leadership who is willing to push the old out of the way.

Unknown said...

The Italians and the Poles of Williamsburgh left for Long Island long before the hipsters showed up and they turned into absentee landlords renting to whomever would complain the least about the shoddy upkeep of the buildings. Then when the hipsters who got priced out of the East Village started migrating one stop away to Bedford Ave they found what they considered an oasis and what Long Island Italians considered a slum. The Italians sold so fast you couldnt say tax shelter. Then after the hipsters moved in and made a beachead the yuppies followed pushing out whatver was left of the Italians and Poles and hipsters themselves for that matter.
Now the Yuppies are in Williamsburgh, the hipsters are in Bushwick (see East Williamsburgh) The Polish are in Ridgewood and the Italians are americanized and giving birth to hipsters and yuppies themselves.
You wanna blame someone, look in the mirror.

Anonymous said...

I don't see how someone can simultaneously complain about (1) people priced out of a neighborhood, and (2) new development.

Prices increase when demand rises faster than supply. That's obviously been happening in NYC for a long time -- more and more people want to live in NYC and while supply is increasing, it is not increasing at a rate commensurate with demand. So prices increase -- dramatically.

In the aggregate, new higher-density development exerts downward pressure on prices. In NYC, we have in fact much too little development, not too much. Areas in Brooklyn could remain affordable to the middle class if zoning rules were relaxed. Its very simple when you think about it. Approximately 160,000 people live in the community district that encompasses Greenpoint and Williamsburg. Say demand is such that about 40,000 more people want to move in to the district. With that kind of demand, the price for apartments will be bid up to a level that only the more affluent can afford them. However, if accommodations are made for those additional 40,000 people by allowing higher densities, then prices will stabilize, or even decline.

Sure, the neighborhood will change dramatically. It will not be the neighborhood of 19th century rowhouses, but a neighborhood of tall buildings. But this is what happened to large parts of Manhattan that remain extremely desirable to many people. And given the trade-off between helping the less affluent, and aesthetics, which would you choose? Which is more important? I think the answer is clear.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous #2 obviously isn't from around here. While your theory makes perfect economic sense, many of us do not wish to live in a community of highrises, that is why we live in the outer Boroughs, all cities have a district for highrises and the rest is low scale, the problem is that our greedy real estate barons in manhattan have priced most out leaving the outer Boroughs to deal with the mess. Furthermore it is the developers and the mediums through which they advertise that makes a neigborhood desireable, there is an enormous discrepancy in prices when comparing neigborhoods which are and are not "hip." Ultimately, the developers are creating the initial demand and fixing the prices thereafter. Also, we DO NOT support the gross upzoning of our communities, if there is such demand then let them move to New Jersey which is also across the river from Manhattan, and it is less expensive.

Unknown said...

anonymous# 2, I was not complaining about people beng priced out of the neighborhood or new development. I was simply responding to the post made by QueensCrap.
When I originally started following this blog I thought that it's intentions were to showcase the developers and their buildings that were below standard in quality, out of place in a neighborhood demographic and just plain ugly from an architectural viewpoint.
Instead what I have found is that half the blogs are very informative and on track with a good spirit and community sense of mind and the other half are just isolationist people who have somewhere along the line forgot that they live in one of the biggest cities in the world and progress and development are just natural, not to be feared. The key is just to make sure that devolpment is respectful and progressive to the neighborhood, not just a money maker for some greedy developer.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous # 2 confidently provides population statistics as though anyone has ever been able to count the vast number of illegal aliens who constitute so much of the demand in this and other cities.

Nevertheless, a serious complaint is the unimaginative, cookie-cutter building of homes, apartments, stores and office buildings not just in New York, but all over.

On a recent trip through eastern Pennsylvania, in what had been beautiful countryside - wooded and farmland, with all sorts of structures, from old stone homes to red barns - is now all lookalike homes and businesses.

The freakish fear of imaginative non-conformity has pervaded everything.

It's as though anyone who looks or acts different is a reprimand to all the frightened rabbits who never experience and original thought. The Chinese have a saying something like: "The loose nail will be hammered back down."

All must conform. Or else.

We weren't always such terrified followers.

Anonymous said...

We need to band together across the city and fight the developers.

Not bogus groups like the 4 borros made up of the same 2nd stringers that got us in this mess.

But real creative grassroots types.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

"We need to band together across the city and fight the developers.
Not bogus groups like the 4 boros made up of the same 2nd stringers that got us in this mess. But real creative grassroots types."

We hear you and we sure are glad you posted our mural! We are as grassroots as it gets and boy are we creative. Let's band together yes! Mr. Bloomberg needs to hear more "feedback" about how his PLAN NYC 2030 is actually playing out on the real streets where the real people live (not millions of new New Yorkers (the human statistics they invented to shove all this gigantic development down our throats.) Please see the CORD BLOG
and see the petition for an immediate interim building moratorium in Carroll Gardens. It's maybe never been done before but our tack is: LET'S BE BOLD! LET US BE THE FIRST! The moratorium is not a new idea and has been successful all over New York State so why NOT? NYC? Are the developers so powerful here the people have lost their voices completely?
BTW The TV was here in CG today and this story about overdevelopment reaking havoc in neighborhoods is GROWING a little bigger each day....

Carol said...

Michael – I liked your comments. We are all quick to blame others for the homogenizing and overdevelopment of our beloved neighborhoods. We do not usually see our own handiwork in the changing New York landscape.

And to Anonymous who asks:

"Are the developers so powerful here the people have lost their voices completely?"


I believe the developers have support from various corrupt New York politicians, AND a great deal of help from our equally corrupt Building Department and enforcement officers.

But I signed your petition - it's a great model too for those of us who empathize as well as sympathize with your plight.

I will pass along the link to people I know too. Good luck.

Anonymous said...

the other half are just isolationist people who have somewhere along the line forgot that they live in one of the biggest cities in the world and progress and development are just natural, not to be feared

Well, death is 'natural' too and I do not see too many laying back with their hands clasped behind their heads awaiting it.

BTW, go out to eastern queens and let them know that development is a natural thing - as a matter of fact, remove landmark designation and downzoning to let things take their 'natural' course.

And as for the 'isolationist' dig, mister, as we have said many many times, we are of immigrant stock ourselves. There is nothing about the immigrant experience we don't know. And if someone throws garbage on the ground, takes away jobs, loiters on street corners looking for work, or makes noise at all hours of the night I do not care where the hell they came from - they are a pain in the ass. Kabish?

Queens will no longer be defined by Archie Bunker.

Unknown said...

Yes, development is natural, so to reiterate - as long as it is respectful and progressive to the neighborhood. Or do you not understand what that means?
As for the "isolationist" dig as you put it. Where in any of my posts found above did I mention immigration?
Let me tell you something, YOU and the people like YOU are EXACTLY why Queens is defined by Archie Bunker.