Tuesday, January 29, 2008

475 Kent

So I haven't been posting very much, just started a new job, after traveling for almost a month and after moving.....I had friends who lived at 475 Kent, the building that just got evicted in Williamsburg. Tonight was the first night I really sat down and read all the press and buzz in the blogosphere about the evictions and I am shocked at the vile, hateful, comments and reporting.

New York is not always the easiest place to make it, we all do what we have to and one of the things I have always loved about New Yorkers is their homes. Rich, poor, artist, wall street broker, we all live on top of each other. Space is the biggest premium. I have been in places where people pay thousands of dollars per month and spent millions decorating and they still lack much of the luxury I grew up in because they lack space. I have also been in tiny studios, broken down tenements, illegal squats (in the days before they cleared them all out of alphabet city and turned it into a hip neighborhood), upper-west side pre-war classics. People make their homes here, rent or own, they find their corner and they claim it. When I go home to Kentucky no one ever understands why I would spend money on a rental, paint it, love it, stay for years....to understand you have to understand New York.

Part of me watches the rise of the condo with interest, the designer in me (though most of this is a lot of poorly built, poorly designed shit with a veneer of trendy modernism that attracts me in spite of myself) wants to see what happens, but then I know that what is really interesting to me lays not in destruction and reconstruction, but true development, which I believe should embrace the community. Otherwise we are just building some homogeneous over-developed monolith where everybody has the same Design Within Reach "licensed" reproduction Mies sofa, at the expense of our communities and our individuality.

I read a thread of comments accusing the parents who lived at 475 Kent of being irresponsible for raising their children in such a building...what the fuck???? What right do we have to judge each other. I believe that good design should be design that doesn't make our children sick....should I judge you for buying a condo in a brand new building where I know that the glue they used to lay-down your new hardwood floors, and the sealer they used on them all produce toxic gas that can give your child asthma? I just moved into an old Victorian and my child (though I hate to say this) is in more danger from fire because of the nature of the wood frame construction and old wiring than any child at 475 Kent, a concrete warehouse building, ever was or could be. Do you want to judge me for putting my child in danger?

475 Kent was an amazing community, to say people broke the law and got what they deserved is so nonconstructive. New York is a lawless place in many ways, and the laws about buildings, codes, residential, commercial are a myriad maze of both the arcane and the necessary, which have waxed and waned based on developers greed for almost two centuries now. It's New York, we find our corner and we claim it, we make our homes. No one, especially not rent-paying, tax-paying, members of our community deserve to be thrown out of their homes in the middle of a cold night. Regardless of where you fall on the political side of this issue, as members of a community we should all be there for each other as humans, as fellow New Yorkers, as fellow Brooklynites, to give at least a few words of sympathy to our neighbors.

I'm sorry if this is a bit rambling and disjointed, but I was really upset by a lot of the ignorance and cruelty I just read.