“When I was in my early twenties I was a suffering insomniac, late nights found me on train rides into the Lower East Side off Bowery to catch a gem still glowing in the dark till daylight. But by now CBGB’s was already a mainstay of the DIY ethos, and in a few years they’d shutter those scribbled gates and fade away into all but memories and memorabilia. But like all jungles, life intermingles with the forces of nature; in concrete jungles, when something becomes fertile man intervenes. Cheap political points have often driven “clean ups” or so called “sweeps,” it doesn’t matter where you look, from Hiphop to Folk. I think of the singer songwriter circles in Washington Square park for instance, the water cooler for the Pete Seeger’s, the Woody Guthrie’s, the Odetta’s, political poets and minds like Ginsberg that were told one day by NYPD that they “weren’t allowed to sing in Washington Square park.” Boy did that go over well telling a bunch of young folk singers to stop singing at the height of political unrest. Peaceful protests began and everyone began singing the greatest folk song in America: The Star-Spangled Banner! With each decade since the 1960’s, (as hard as it may be to believe) we have been on a long steady move towards becoming a liberal nation, even with isolated cases or failed era’s of movements touting repressive conservative crap otherwise. During a Regan America, New York City was nearly in bankruptcy. The tax breaks for the rich never quite trickled down to the majority I suppose. So slum after slum, pushed only the battle hardened to brave the disarray of crumbling infrastructures and drug related petty crimes often found across the LES in the 80’s–locals like Hilly Kristal, the founder of CBGB’s, who with all his human flaws and lack of business acumen had a simple penchant for knowing when he saw something different. Thusly giving the community a safe space to express the music they liked, the music that was outside of the commercial world, and unwittingly became a place that incubated the talents I need not mention, for the rest was history. Look around the LES today. People call that the normal process of Gentrification. No, sorry, the gap between the rich and the poor is at a historic high through lobbying, recklessness and illegal activity on Wall Street, and tax havens that show us that the wealth America has built no longer cares about the American people. It’s lead to what is more accurately known as a sort of Super-Gentrification: where the sector of what we know as middle class, our “collective safe space” has been infiltrated by affluence, driving out and displacing the people that live and work there and making it nearly impossible for them to maintain their level of normal. I believe it was Erykah Badu who once said “The (music) business is motivated by money. Music is motivated by energy and feelings.” So perhaps it’s an echo of the same, and history repeating itself, this time in Brooklyn. I’m raising no eyebrows by saying we’ve seen many of our safe spaces shut down from Glasslands to Cameo and everything in between within the last 6-7 years. It goes without saying all safe spaces for communities have been under siege, but i’m going to focus on art and music communities here, and if you’d like insight and information listen to the amplification of these issues by the following institutions: Real Affordability For New York, Before It’s Gone Take It Back.
Many studies show that nationally crime has been decreasing overall. But the tactics remain persistent, a community and their tenants live by their means, a fungi like growth of music scenes develop, and pave the way for someone else’s marketing campaign, using said “danger,” and worse tying by the ankles the various diverse cultures of said neighborhood in “cool” and “sexy” terms to entice affluence or those culturally starved. Sometimes both as the data has shown: in successful numbers. But would a mass migration have moved to Brooklyn if marketing campaigns never came? It wasn’t going to be done by the artists who fled there to find safe spaces or the artists from there who’d be working against the very nature of what they were seeking, and it sure as hell wasn’t done by working class families. Personally I hate it when people say “culturally rich” and “crime ridden” in the same sentence, it’s very fetishizing. You’d think i’m only putting some Realestate agency’s feet to the fire when it’s these “culture” blogs and magazines doing it to greater harm. Real communities know being “hip” (or probably more accurately) “hyped,” comes with a price, and for that reason, we’re not interested in that, we’re interested in inclusivity, safety, and longevity for all. Who really gives a shit what your loft looks like? How it’s dressed to the tee with things many of us cannot afford, do us all a favor and stop blogging about us like we’re all in your zoo. (This crime you speak of teared the fabric of our communities when the drug cartels and CIA helped drugs enter the streets, because drugs lead to crime. Republicans *start a “War On Drugs,” communities of color get mass incarcerated despite the same level of drug use in affluent–mostly white communities. The facts, data, and research exists.) Today while the criminals have seemed to have moved from petty crimes on the streets to multi-billion dollar crimes on Wallstreet, only one arrest has been made! You may not have to worry about getting shot in broad daylight nearly as much as you once did, (i’ve noticed I haven’t been held up since the 90’s) but you’re still getting fucked by a level of wealth so sky high, so corrupting, that every minutia of the quality of our lives is infiltrated. The tie between money and power can have wide reaching affects. It can be dauntingly intimidating to even begin the thought of course of action, (which is a whole other topic I’ll save for another article at another time) but to complain about noise level in 2016 from a music venue in your neighborhood? It’s just weak. That’s what is happening right now to Eric Sosa owner/operator of Bed-stuy venue C’mon Everybody who put out a public Go Fund Me campaign today explaining their predicament. Let’s Do The Right Thing and help a venue out who have been curating artists that are invested in the spring board of sounds that expand the sonic palate of our discourse–seemingly while being tethered to the roots that hold so dear to NYC. This idea, that all can have a place to express oneself free from the dictations of money or the abuse of power. This fight against homogeny and conformity has never gone away and will never go away with the youth, we’re all just passing a torch here, illuminating one another.
I understand as the times are such, so are the inescapable market rates and migrations patterns of that time as a result. The Nationwide crashes and resulting inflations have teared at the fabric of affordability and livelihood for virtually 90% of citizens. And if I told you to follow the money trail, and how important this election is, and why it’s important to see who is funding who, this would become a heavily political article when i’m trying my best to show in one part how these things affect New York and the economics of music venue ownership that have become a major difficulty for this very reason. While that makes me angry and sad that the CBGB’s and Glassland’s of tomorrow; where lower middle class and poor can have the opportunity to work to make a little light in the dark, may very well be an impossibility, I think it’s important to show the influx of new residents the values of our culture. Those who may not know how our heritage has been built and to make peace with one another by this invitation. (It raises awareness and fosters empathy) I also think it’s pivotal to get involved in the political process too and if there’s any fight to make the top of the list it’s against rates that are a call for survival after all, how can anyone afford to run a business paying sky high rent? In the interim, i’m asking and calling on people to do what you can and help Eric Sosa and C’mon Everybody by helping to raise funds for further soundproofing of the venue, I know most of our readership have or will. You can control the volume but you can’t control who’s listening after all, right now soundproofing is the most sensible move for them and we hope you contribute to the cause and help ensure our institutions serve us for the length of time they deserve.”