Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Hard Times in New York Town

NYC Bread Line

A bread line in 1932 at 42nd Street and 6th Avenue

"Just a little glimpse of a story I'll tell
Bout an East Coast city that you all know well.
It's hard times in the city,
Livin' down in New York town."

- Bob Dylan

One of the major themes that I will discuss here at the blog is the future of New York City, the city I live in and love. The city has always held a mythical place for me, as you can see at my other blog, where I constantly talk about the days of disco and no wave and downtown jazz and post-punk and that period in the late 70s and early 80s when the city was being abandoned and burned. It's ironic that I moved here at a time of peak decadence, when the city was flush with money and the bankers and lawyers ran the daylife and nightlife here.

Well, times are a-changing fast, as this recent report by New York State Comptroller Thomas Napoli clearly shows. The city and state could lose up to 225,000 Wall Street jobs and 6.8 billion in tax revenue, staggering figures that will change the face of this city in the next few years. These fears were validated today, as Bank of America announced it would be cutting 10,000 investment banking jobs. All of the clubs and restaurants and condos that have taken over Manhattan (and parts of Brooklyn and Queens) were fueled by the bonuses of these workers. All of the development that has boomed over the past decade would not have been possible without this booming Wall Street. I can't help but think that we are now at the end of this most recent Gilded Age, as those obscene bonuses go along with thousands of jobs, and are heading into an unknown period here that will alter the city and its outlook. It's frightening, as many of the people who need the city just to get by are going to be hurt the worst.

The silver lining is chance for a reevaluation of what the city should look like and who it should look out for. What will things look like? What should they look like? I don't know, but I plan to use this space to figure those questions out. Hopefully, anyone reading will chime in with their predictions, hopes and fears.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Street Ballet


Let's go!

I've had this blog in mind for what seems like years now. I didn't want to start it until I felt like I could do it right, hopefully I have given it the right amount of time to bloom. Street Ballet is a blog about cities, about how they are designed, how they work, how great they are, their histories, their rhythms, their peoples. It's me thinking aloud, or perhaps to reflect the photo, my tags and scribblings on the city surface. For those who knew me through Pound for Pound, hopefully you will give this a chance too, as I am even more passionate about these subjects than I am with disco and dance and house.

The title comes from a term coined by one of my heroes and inspirations for this blog, Jane Jacobs. This site is dedicated to her memory and her writings, which have had the most profound influence on me. It's also dedicated to all of the other people who have thought and written about cities and urban life - Walter Benjamin, Henri Lefevbre, David Harvey, Luc Sante, Lewis Mumford, Michael Sorkin, Mitchell Duneier, Dalton Conley, Mike Davis, Edward Soja, Rebecca Solnit and many others. To the artists and filmakers and novelists as well - John Dos Passos, Richard Price, Jules Dassin, David Goodis, Raymond Chandler, Martin Scorcese and many more.

It's dedicated to anyone and everyone who currently lives in a city, whether it's Philadelphia, New York, San Fran, Sao Paolo, Budapest or Bombay, who loves their city and strives to make those places a little better each day. It's dedicated to the people who didn't run in the 60s and 70s, who stayed and survived and kept our US cities alive. Most of all, it's dedicated to my parents, who gave me the greatest gift by raising me in Philadelphia and making me a city kid.