Finally caught up with my pal Jay McInerney’s obit for the Upper East Side and he got it half-right. But I think the real story’s not the death of the UES; it’s the plague of roaches newly nesting Downtown.
Just before my wife and I sold our place off Washington Square and moved to a landmark artistic enclave near Central Park this summer, a ticky-tacky cell-block-like condo on our corner was selling out before the windows were in at prices that boggled the mind. That played a big part in our decision to list: and lucky for us, we managed to cash out before the bubble burst. But what really drove us out were the uptown arrivistes.
We’d both moved to the Village back in the day, when living there still seemed to mean something. When we bought our co-op, our neighbors were a ballet dancer, a photographer, a film editor and an architect. We didn’t like them all, but they were like us, from the city’s creative class; they contributed something to the culture, or at least tried to. Then, real estate prices started their crazy rise. At first what followed seemed innocuous: the lines of Sex and the City sheep baaa-baaa-ing around Magnolia Bakery. The designer boutiques on Bleecker Street. The arrival of tourists like Princess Michael and Nicole Kidman. But then, we smelled something more noxious.
Entitlement and its sibling, rage, now run amok in the former truckin’-ground of blissed-out Bohemianism. Once-quiet streets are filled with idling black town cars waiting for uptown walk-on-water types — legal thugs and hedge fund hogs, barking bankers and corporate flacks — the only people who can afford to move to the “new” Village. Their fur-clad stroller-Nazi wives, nannies and trustafarian brats flood the aisles at
Balduccis Citarella. The neighborhood’s spirit isn’t dead, but it’s fled as surely as the wondrous Eighth Street Book Shop was replaced by a shoe store.
Sure, there are still hipsters, punks and freaks on the streets, but they go to NYU and their parents pay $45,000-plus a year for the privilege. Sure, the cube still sits on Astor Place, but Charles Gwathmey’s green-glass monstrosity(also dubbed a “sculpture”) — the Rental Formerly Known As A Condo — casts a giant shadow over it.
Long live the countingculture, bro!
When I sent out a change of address, I got an e-mail back from McInerney. “You are going against the flow,” he wrote. “Not to mention common sense.” Well, some of us live to buck the tide — and stay a step ahead of service magazines.