Luxury [boring] City

At Chelsea Now I often feel like I’m writing a subtler version of one of those blogs chronicling the loss of old New York in the crush of New York’s new development, like Lost City or Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York. Roughly a quarter of my stories feature efforts to Save something, whether it’s Save the Garment Center, Save [Historic] Chelsea, or — this week — Save Saint Vincent de Paul, a historic church that served former slaves among its congregants back in the pre-Civil War Gangs of New York days.

All of them fear the future envisioned by Mayor Bloomberg and his aspiring-Robert-Moses deputy, Daniel Doctoroff, which was illumined beautifully by my J-school classmate David Freedlander in Thursday’s AM New York. David ended his article with a quote from urban scholar Fred Siegel; “”You can sum up the Bloomberg legacy in two words: luxury city.”

I found myself quoting Siegel, and by extension David, on Friday to some folks in Philadelphia, the city I’ve always thought of as a second or third home. For a journalist, I speculated, their town might offer much more interesting terrain than the latest $2-million condo or yet another elegy for a historic church/concert hall/bookstore. It was enough, I added, to make like John Cusack in this movie, telling his editors from a wild and woolly Savannah, Georgia: “New York is boring!”

Of course, I may just not be taking the long view; there’s no doubt that at least some of the new building is Ozymandian. Brooks at Lost City warns:

I still think the big wake-up call is yet to come, long after Bloomberg has left office and taken up his new job in Albany, when the City wakes up and realizes it has no working class, no artistic class, no small-business culture, no middle class to speak of, no younger generation that didn’t come out of law school or business school, or clings to a trust fund.

But by the time that happens, I’ll be collecting Social Security. And I wonder if I will be in New York or some other, more little-engine-that-could town.


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