Sometimes you know that there are some events you shouldn’t cover. This was the case of the Festival of Ideas which took place a few weekends ago in the East Village and Lower East Side.
Had I actually attended and not sent my minions and waited for reports from others, I could see myself imitating Jesus, except less holy, older, fatter and drunker; overturning the tables, screaming they are blaspheming the urban temple that is New York.
The organizing group’s website called the festival, a “major new collaborative initiative in New York involving scores of Downtown organizations working together to harness the power of the creative community to imagine the future city and explore ideas that will shape it. “
What these people envision is a chamber of horrors. As Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York described it, “the city of tomorrow looks a lot like college life in the Pacific Northwest.”
The ideas he described were foul and unfathomable. Artisanal this, artisanal that; turning NYC into a giant campground where people could camp in Central Park. Turning the subways into green markets with aromatherapy, massage chairs and breast feeding stations.
These are the inheritors of our New York. If there ever was proof that this new generation were philistines and wanted to turn NYC into suburbia, this was it. Many of us are accused being nostalgists. Well, we very well know that New York changes. It’s the only constant thing about it. But, as I have written time and time again, it always changed in the context of itself. That was not what that festival envisioned. They envisioned a white, hippie suburban ethos devoid of diversity.
Why did these people come here? If country and suburban living is their vision,what are they doing in an urban center, especially an urban center like New York?
Again, why are these people here? What is it that attracted them to this city? Obviously it’s not the New York that drew millions in the past, like moths to a flame. (Credit to Al Kooper)
I think I know. Bloomberg and Janette Sadik-Genghis Khan, the transportation commisioner, have encouraged this vision. I know that Bloomberg came from Brookline, not Brooklyn. Where Khan came from I have no clue. I do know, from a NY Times piece that her M.O. is, “I-know-best style and a reluctance to compromise. Reminder you of anyone… cough… Bloomberg?
Back in 1948, E.B. White wrote this about New York, “The city is uncomfortable and inconvenient; but New Yorkers temperamentally do not crave comfort and convenience — if they did they would live elsewhere.”
Postcript: Please visit Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York. He does a great job of chronicling the demise of The City.