Sunday, December 5, 2010

East Village R.I.P.

More fodder for the relentless conversation about how New York has changed. I liked this article because it assured me that my moaning about the transformation of the East Village from a neighborhood of immigrants, artists, poor people, old leftists, Polish coffee shops (and, yes, bars) into a frat party is not just the nostalgia of an old man. Cities change, New York especially, but what has happened to the East Village and Lower East Side (and, then, Williamsburg, for that matter) is unique and very ugly.

A big part of my feeling good about being back in New York has been an almost-conscious decision to let go of my love for the East Village, which was my home for many years and which has been nearly completely obliterated by the sale of large sections of it to NYU for dorms and by its status, starting in the 80s, as one of the hippest neighborhoods in the world. The global East Village.

I knew -- we all knew and had a pretty clear idea of the importance of that declaration ("I live in the East Village") in marking who we were -- that I lived at the epicenter of cool. But it's sort of like, now, no neighborhood can ever have that status again because as soon as you say a place is the hippest it no longer is. I don't think this is true just because I'm older now -- I think it's because news travels too fast and faster and faster all the time. You used to have to wait for the New York Times article saying something was hip before you knew it wasn't any more. Now twitter can have the same de-hipping effect in a day or two. It's not hip if everybody knows about it, and everybody knows about everything immediately now.

I don't have anything against nightlife. Nightlife is one of the things that makes New York great. But the East Village is completely insane. If you know what 6th Street in Austin is like at night -- it's like that. Except that it's a neighborhood where people live. People live there. Y'know?

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