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  • Ernest Butler


In order for modern art to exist it must tear down the aged structure of the past. If you hold this to be true then you saw the “new” New York City coming for a long time. From “East Bushwick” to Adam Clayton Boulevard, there isn’t much recognizable structure left.

As a native New Yorker, the child of native New Yorkers, I bit my teeth on the hand me downs of New York culture before I was able to speak. Sure there will always be staples like Nathan’s, Katz’s & Woh Hop, right? Who will share dim sum Saturday afternoons in China Town, weekday beef patty & coco bread lunches in Crown Heights? Bouncing from the Korean grocery to the Dominican supermarket with mom for Sunday dinner has been replaced with Whole Foods & long lines at Trader Joe’s.

“The only constant in this world is change,” my father always said. As I look across the landscape of the New NYC I realize I’m not prepared for that inevitability. Growing up, going to school, hospitals and living in hundred year old buildings, New York was always this beautiful old city that everything else had to adapt to in order to survive. Now it’s struggling to resemble itself and we’ve erected so many beautiful new things that no one realizes the soul of this city never really recovered from September 11th, 2001. In any era, a new metropolis is always on the horizon. But at what cost? I wonder what the artist of the Bowery would say of this NYC, the punks who molded a good chunk of themselves in spaces that now house Starbucks and reservation-only Michelin Star restaurants. Would it still inspire them? Cradle them in its darkness? Keep them sharp against its concrete? If only they could landmark the culture and heart of a whole city.

As we watch staple after staple close its doors and thank its patrons with final dinners with old friends they’ve probably spoken to but haven’t seen in years, we say goodbye to what this city meant to each of us. I guess things remained unchanged for so long perhaps we felt it never would change. The gift of this generation is that we’ve seen the birth of so much that has become a part of our lives today in technology. The curse is that we have to watch everything that raised us fade away.

#essay #newyorkcity #culture #timeshavechanged #nycgentrification

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