Tuesday, February 19, 2008

EXCELSIOR. Margaret points me to Jeremiah's Vanishing New York, a melancholy chronicle of hypergentrification in the old town. One of Jeremiah's finds is a New York Observer portrait of an East Village developer named Ben Shaoul who says things like "I think what we try to do is try to maintain the streetscape and do what we can to maintain the grittiness of it. Although we put in marble, we try to maintain exposed brick floors and wide-plank floors."

The commenters to the article include some locals who have witnessed Shaoul's strongarm tactics (including "bang[ing] on resident’s doors in the middle of the night demanding that they get out of 'his' building"), and Shaoul defenders ("Clearly 'Anonymous' is unemployed... who else would have the time to author such a rant? If you spent as much time contributing to society [i.e. paying taxes] perhaps we would live in a better place").

The discussion is barely worth having. The luxury market is resistant to the national housing downturn, and in desirable New York neighborhoods that's where the action is. Most of Manhattan is becoming a theme park for the rich. They're even building condos in my own cruddy Brooklyn neighborhood. None of this will change until the general economic collapse, which I will pray for before I go to bed tonight. If you don't live here, or if you do but make a lot of money, you probably won't understand.

I took this photo on Bedford Avenue in the heart of upscale Williamsburg, where I lived once upon a time. It shows the promotional facade of a new real estate interest, announcing its humanity to the natives. The little stickers, which have been up for weeks, bear inscriptions that my cell-phone camera couldn't pick up. They say things like "We pretend to care about you," "We own fashionable little dogs," and "We are a nightmare."

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