Festival Prompts New Gentrification Debate
At a news conference last week announcing the schedule for the inaugural Festival of Ideas, New Museum Director Lisa Phillips said, “three years ago, when we moved to the Bowery we witnessed a dramatic transformation of this neighborhood.” The festival (May 4-8), she added, is an opportunity to engage the community in a conversation about its future. It seems s conversation has already started, reigniting an old debate — about the New Museum’s role in accelerating the pace of gentrification on the Bowery.
Even the most ardent Lower East Side preservationists would have to concede the museum has added greatly to the cultural life of the neighborhood. The festival is a collaboration among many downtown-centric organizations. A number of groups dedicated to fighting gentrification — including the Cooper Square Committee, Good Old Lower East Side and the Bowery Alliance of Neighbors — are taking part.
As we reported yesterday, however, antiques dealer Billy Leroy (“Mayor of the Bowery”) is not exactly embracing the festivall. He told Curbed, “these yuppies from the New Museum don’t get it. NYC does not need another street fair. It’s not cool to try and gentrify the Bowery.”
This brief item prompted a couple of interesting reader comments.
Brad Burgess of the Living Theater (the legendary radical theater company on Clinton Street) wrote:
How can you be against a festival promoting alternative energy and arts education!? It’s anti-human. I doubt Bill even understands that half of the groups he is insulting as part of the festival are ones that he probably would hold up as wonderful local institutions, maybe even higher percentage. Probably even some of his friends are involved. This is why art and cultural progress is stunted and deformed, not because some wealthy white people are involved. That is a good thing in this case! What a great thing for them to support! It’s this kind of negative attitude that flies in the face of progress in any community and creates animosity and disunity, ultimately assuring the kind of imbalance Bill is afraid of. It’s the defeated radicals and outdated/embittered locals that feel you can only be hip if you are on the losing side. What a negative aspect to The Lower East Side. I’d much rather that attitude go away than the investment in New Ideas.
Billy Leroy responded:
Don’t you see you are buying into the Corporation “the man” I grew up on the Upper Eastside went to Prep Schools in Conn. and Switzerland..I left that world 20+ years ago to be with people/Atrists/Outlaws that could be who they wanted to be with cheap rent…now that is all gone..just Sheeple wearing American Apparel and Latte’s permanently attached to there meathooks. I am on the Street everyday watching the herds go by. I love the Artist’s god bless them take advantage of getting some exposer but let’s be real the New Museum is a farce it’s not for the Artists it’s for RICH..In 5 years the LES and Bowery will look like the Upper Eastside..Herds of stressed out rich people with to much cosmetic surgery instead of Bums and Junkies.
No doubt, the debate will rage on before, during and after the Festival of Ideas.