One person's development is another person's destruction.
I took this photo of the skyline at Pier 84 in Hell's Kitchen in September 2018. I sat on it. Because I'm highly conflicted, even angry, about it. The image has earmarks of pics folk like to consume on social media: a golden hour shot of a glinty, pretty, and majestic New York City. A postcard city. But that is not the city I see, live in, or interact with.
What I see when I look at my image is disparity. I see displacement.
I see atrocious glass and steel buildings replacing affordable residential housing, small businesses, and warehouses that could be usefully re-purposed.
I see five cranes constructing those buildings not meant for me nor for the other long-term residents of Hell's Kitchen.
I see pieds-à-terre of foreign investors who purchase property but, by law, won't pay a dime of tax to the city. Even though they may also make a profit from renting said property through Airbnb.
I see the cost of rent and food escalating as a result.
I see empty storefronts because the rent is too high and/or the landlord is holding the space for more money. That landlord receives a tax break regardless.
I see homeless people sleeping in front of those empty storefronts that are "for rent."
You might see pretty in my intro pic. I see disparity. I see displacement.
I don't live in a postcard. I live in a world where choices affect actual human lives. And so I ask you to consider your choices. What will they be?
Park jams, then and now, are an opportunity for us to gather, lay down our differences, and discover our similarities. All while having fun. We could use more of that these days.
The life of New York City streets is unique, both above and below ground.
Not to say that life is always fun or pleasant. I think of those who stop atop subway stairs to check their phones, or walk three across on the sidewalk, or don't know enough to step to the right.
Always, always step to the right.
But the life of NYC streets is vibrant. And it is ours. For now. So let's cultivate that life. Like a garden. Get our heads out of our phones and pull those earbuds out. Notice what's going on around us. Take even a few seconds to be present and let it soak in.
I write this to remind myself. A while back - in my rush to get from here to there - I blew past the Afrikumba Utibé Drummers performing in Union Square Station. Then I had an internal fight about practicing what I preach. I returned. And for a few minutes, I focused on the cool music mixed with the hubbub of the subway and of humans racing to get from here to there. I attended to the life of street I was on. I relaxed. I remembered who I am.
I am part of the City. And the City is part of me. Not simply a backdrop, the City is both the material and the context out of which my life is made. I count myself blessed.
This is what I know: I will never reach the life I'm rushing toward if I can't acknowledge the life I'm presently in. Time to chill.
Enjoy below the Afrikumba Utibé Drummers and a bit of what I witnessed by taking a time-out. And the next time you're thanking the MTA for the train that never comes? Look up at the life around you.
After 26 years serving Hell's Kitchen, on January 11, 2018 the Chong family closed the doors and shuttered the gate for the last time at Empire Tailors & Cleaners.
You don't want to miss Vernacular this Thursday, September 7th 2017 at the Bronx Music Heritage Center.
A night of spoken word, storytelling, dialogue, and music presented by the insanely talented multidisciplinary artist Bocafloja and Quilomboarte.
Live performances by Bocafloja, Josefina Baez, Fabian Villegas, and music by DJ Boo promise smart, savvy, multi-lingual mergings of art and politics. The objective is to engage a communal conversation about colonially, social imaginaries, and political participation beyond resistance. A good time for it. Always a good time for it. I’m in.
Here’s a sneak peak at some of the awesome going down Thursday:
You'll know Ms. Le Loka as the original Rafiki in Broadway's the Lion King - for which she was nominated for a Tony - and the voice behind 'Circle of Life.' Not only an extraordinary singer, she is also a full-service entertainer: vibrant, engaging, humorous. She's backed up by equally talented singers and musicians. When you get a chance, you must see this show. You'll not be disappointed.
A little video to help you ease back into work after the long weekend. Sean McCaul, vibraphonist, bringing peaceful vibes to the stress of the F train.
E. B. Gallardo