What Makes a Neighborhood? Who Creates a City?

Way back in 2001, I interviewed Tass Michos — Director of Photography for the “Death to Smoochy” movie starring Edward Norton and Robin Williams — for eyepiece magazine, the official publication of the Guild of British Camera Technicians; and while the interview didn’t start off well, we did meet at the fancied Union Square Cafe for our power lunch, and the best part of the meeting was that the Guild was picking up the tab for what turned out to be a discomforting meal in more ways than one.

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You Don’t Fit

We all like to belong — and when we are told we are no longer part of the core, there is concern that something grander has been lost in the translation between being being and living.

Our building Super recently told me that he’s surprised we’ve lived here so long — rented so long — because we “don’t fit” in the building or in our neighborhood.

I told him I found that an odd statement to make because we have never been late on the rent, we have lived here for over 12 years, and we have never made a single complaint about anyone or requested any sort of maintenance from the landlord.

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You Are Part of the House

I love discovering new interoperative cultural memes, and I happened upon one over the weekend at the local McDonald’s.  I’m not a big fan of McDonald’s, but they do try to offer some healthy food, and I appreciate they set a major agenda when it comes to creating an entire landscape of community dietary choices.  There is grand power in creating caloric counts.  Oftentimes, the only affordable meal in an urban neighborhood is found under the Golden Arches — and that creates a static economy and a trapped customer base. We’ll discuss more about that dangerous, if unassailable, economic power tomorrow.

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NYU Razes Greenwich Village

NYU is a big bully of a university with over 45,000 students and no real campus.  Well, it has a sort-of campus as in “The Entire New York City Bohunk Neighborhood Called Greenwich Village” — and it isn’t folly to argue NYU not only wants to own all of Greenwich Village, it wants to be Greenwich Village… and probably re-brand the area, “The NYU Green.”

As you can imagine, the non-NYU students who currently reside in Greenwich Village despise the school’s ongoing and aggressive attempts over the last couple of decades to undermine the status of their lives by buying up and tearing down the real estate that makes up their little corner of the world:

New York University says it needs more dormitories, classrooms, athletic and performance spaces and a hotel to accommodate its burgeoning student body and compete with national universities, and it wants to erect four buildings amid two sprawling apartment complexes north of Houston Street.

The square footage of the four buildings, the tallest of which would be 25 floors, would nearly equal that of the Empire State Building.

The local community board recommended unanimously last month that the Council reject the university’s plan — known as NYU 2031 — and the zoning changes it would require. The board said that the proposed buildings were too dense and tall and that the addition of thousands of students and workers would erode the character of a still quaint and offbeat city quarter.

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Picking Your Public School

When I was growing up in Lincoln, Nebraska, we had four high schools. Attendance was decided by neighborhood. You attended your high school based on which one you lived closest to — and you were not allowed to pick your high school. Your address locked you into your school no matter what.  Your parents not only made you, they then chained you to a public school just because of the house in which you happened to live.

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