Sunday, May 07, 2006

Death of a City

Like many New Yorkers who grew up in the city, I am pretty sad about many of the changes that have taken place since Giuliani became mayor. A lot of outsiders who came to NYC since then find it hard to understand why- New York now is glitzy, rich, safe and shiny, if still crowded and more expensive than ever. Who would want to live in a city as crime-ridden, dirty and dangerous as the old NYC?
What the old NYC had and what the new one doesn't is a soul. The old NYC had a feeling of mystery and danger. Living in a neighborhood like SoHo wasn't a sign of fashionable pretensiousness and wealth the way it is now. It was an act of rebellion and a sign of independence. Electricity and water wasn't paid for, and even the very act of living there was often illegal. The streets were pitch black and empty at night. People had to make lofts livable on their own- you had to build walls and install appropriate plumbing yourself, and if you needed appliaces or materials you would simply go to one of the dozens of hardware stores that lined Broadway and Canal St. Remnants of the old factories remained in the form of equipment shoved behind radiators, and nails the would occassionally stick out of the floor. The neighborhood was only lightly populated, so you would get to know neighbors pretty well.
I could go on, but I have a point to make. Recently I found out that a friend of my cousin, who works for an architectural firm in New York, is working on remodeling a building that had housed one of the last factories in SoHo. The building itself was not significant, but one side of it, facing Wooster St., is one of the last remnants of the old days. Most people would probably be happy to learn that such a dirty and vandalized building was going to be cleaned up, and while it doesn't have any great examples of graffiti, it does remind me of the old days when graffiti, often of a very high quality, was everywhere. These are a few pictures of the building and some street art that has recently been affixed to it.

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