New Yorkers have been complaining about gentrification forever, but the pace of change during the past several years in downtown, especially on the West Side, has been startling… well, to be honest, it’s almost deplorable. The saddest thing to see is the way the meatpacking district has changed in the past few years. It’s easier to spot celebrities than a rat these days, and it’s been a while since we have lost sight of transsexual hookers on Washington Street.
My best friend T used to say “You got to have germs to make art.” The city, like underdeveloped countries, is still filled with all kinds of infectious germs, but the species that T used to mention, the kinds that nourished art, are almost extinct. I miss the days when artists, hookers and drug dealers were all under the same roof. It was thrilling, and art was much more powerful back then.
It’s ironic to think something positive about this change when it’s making me feel like a fish trapped in a drying pond, but if there is one good thing that has come out of this horrendous gentrification, it is that the city has become a nice place for kids to grow up in. My biggest dilemma these days … I want germs for myself, but not for my kids. Having a family is not simple.
(Here is another irony. T, who was homeless and couldn’t tell the difference between a shooting gallery and an art gallery when we used to hang out together, is now a professor at one of the ivys, and his two kids go to one of the best private schools in the city.)