Saturday, November 15, 2008

More on "The Dirty G Word"

Goddamn, gentrification is a tricky issue - sometimes it makes BoogieDowner's head feel as if it's about to explode!

But even though we don't agree with a lot of the media's coverage of gentrification, we do sincerely believe that the best way to figure it all out is to get a dialogue going on it... Hence, a linky-loo to our first attempt at scratching the surface on the issue: "The Dirty G Word."

We'd like to explore the issue a bit further today by discussing Kate Taylor's New York Times article about Danny Hoch's anti-gentrification show "Taking Over," which he performed in the BoogieDown last month as part of the Hip-Hop Theatre Festival.

Mr. Hoch hails from a Jewish (and presumably white) family in Queens and describes himself as a "flag-waving antigentrifier." He's been perturbed by the amount of mid-Western girlfriends whom he's dated in NYC who inevitably end up back in their hometowns because they're not invested in this city. He's done some community theatre work and is frustrated when he re-visits those neighborhoods' bars, cafes, and restaurants and realizes he's one of the only New Yorkers there. Do you hear the violins playing yet? If you don't, just read on to the best part, which is a direct excerpt from Kate Taylor's New York Times piece:

"As he acknowledges at one point in the show, [Mr. Hoch] owns his house in Williamsburg. When he is on tour he rents it out for $1,700 a week, thus directly benefiting from the run-up in real estate values and New York’s image as a safe place for tourists." [New York Times]

Conflict of interest much? BoogieDowner just doesn't get it: if this is a white Jewish guy, who moved to Williamsburg in the 90s, and now profits from the fact that hipsters from the midwest are willing to spend a ton of their parents' money to live there, how does he consider himself a "flag-waving antigentrifier?" Yes, he's a born and raised New Yorker, but he wasn't born and raised in Williamsburg. He's a transplant, just like all the other people who moved there in the 90s.

In "Taking Over," one of Mr. Hoch's characters is a middle-aged black woman living in Williamsburg who cannot afford to eat in all the new wannabe French cafes, but still craves the almond croissants they sell there. In his real life, Mr. Hoch is a homeowner who struggles with his economic status and (somewhat dramatically) can't push himself to buy a croissant in those cafes, even though he often intends to.

According to the New York Times, Mr. Hoch's hopes are as follows:

“I really just wish,” Mr. Hoch said, “that all the people who stayed here through the crack epidemic and the violence of the ’70s and the ’80s could enjoy those croissants, and that we could enjoy them together with people from Missouri and Minnesota.” And, summing up the argument of his play in three words, he concluded: “It feels unfair.” [New York Times]

That's sweet. Just one question for you Mr. Hoch: If the crack epidemic and violence of the 70s and 80s were still around, would you have made an investment in Williamsburg by buying a property there? Would you be living there now?

Readers... lest you get the wrong idea here, we just wanted to point out a few areas of frustration regarding Mr. Hoch's take on gentrification. His play, and his success in continuing to spark a dialogue about the Dirty G Word, are admirable.

Your thoughts?
*Photo courtesy of Nicholas Roberts/New York Times*

~ErLu

2 comments:

Boogiedown said...

So you are exploring gentrification by discussing Taylor's take of Danny Hoch via excerpts from his one man show?!

Boogiedowner, I'm like to give up on you!

Here are some dates Danny will be performing his show. I strongly suggest you get yourself to one before you start speaking on something you don't have all the facts!

http://www.publictheater.org/component/option,com_shows/task,calendar/Itemid,141/month,11/year,2008;

Anonymous said...

Love it! the fact is that most ant-G's are White/transplants who did not live through the "glorified" heroin/crack epidemics in these now hip neighborhoods. Do they really want the grit, guns and gangs back? I truly don't think so.
I'm a boogiedowner who wants to get past that... these urban folk tales that people fall in love with are ridiculous.
Let's move on. I need a supermarket with vegetables that at least sells fresh bread!