Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Urban Lament?

"Inevitably, behind cries of decline is a conception, conscious or not, of a time and situation that was better--when the city had a soul."

Benjamin Schwartz, "Gentrification and Its Discontents: Manhattan Never Was What We Think It Was," The Atlantic, June 2010.

Schwartz reviews two laments about New York's "loss of soul," Sharon Zukin's Naked City and Michael Sorkin's Twenty Minutes in Manhattan. The Village circa 1960 of small craftspeople, diverse retail, and rich street life was really a transition/emergent moment at the end of the working-class and the break through of the global consumption/services/ finance city. How can we protect that which is inherently impermanent?

I took my first walk down the old/new Maxwell Street of Chicago last week after years of boycotting its total makeover by the University of Illinois. Renamed University City. A long line of 3-4 story apartments and lots of upscale retail. Even a Barbara's Bookstore, harking back to the backbone of Old Town. No sock peddlers, pork chop sandwiches, fortune tellers, hubcap sellers. Just the malaise of homogeneity and newness. A few building facades salvaged on Maxwell. No grit, dirt, stink. Forgettable, but you could buy an ice cream.

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