Why New York Needs to Stay Independent

New York is perhaps best known for being the only place where you can get things you can’t get anywhere else. This means everything from pierogies at 4am, 24-hour partying, film premieres, poetry readings, concerts for up-and-coming as well as famous bands, gallery and art shows, on Broadway and off Broadway plays, etc. The list of possibilities in New York is endless. Or it used to be, at least.

The history of the city also plays a part to its appeal. This is after all the city that has seen Allen Ginsberg, Patti Smith, Interpol, Andy Warhol, Michael Alig, Jay Z, Martin Scorsese, and Tina Fey become legends, amongst hundreds more people. The best part of its history is being able to visit the city staples that are as legendary as the icons that have inhabited them, but this is rapidly changing.

As anyone who lives in New York can tell you, rent is a daily conversation. It started off that Manhattan was too expensive, but now the other boroughs are raising their rent in insurmountable quantities too. This not only means that people have had to start spreading farther and farther away from the island to be able to afford an apartment (which brings up issues of gentrification), but it means businesses everywhere are perishing as well. It started off slowly, but in the past couple of years New York landmarks have had to bow down and hand the keys over to corporate conglomerates due to rent increase. Bleecker Bob’s Records became a fro-yo place, and Bleecker Street Records got displaced from its historic site and relocated to West 4th Street.

CBGB’s, the legendary music club that hosted acts like The Ramones, Talking Heads, Blondie, and Joan Jett, famously closed its doors in 2005 and made way for a John Varvatos boutique. Pearl Paint – a staple for artists like Jean Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring to buy supplies – closed down last year. 285 Kent and Death by Audio, the 21st century versions of CBGB, also closed last year even though musicians and concertgoers alike protested.

Joining the list of soon-to-be defunct landmarks is Pearl River Mart in SoHo. To those unfamiliar with the store, which was founded in 1971, Pearl River has been the place to get anything Chinese and Japanese, like silk robes, crystals, decorative swords, Pocky, miso soup spoons, and glitter mesh mules. However, with a whopping rent increase of 400%, the warehouse haven can no longer afford to stay in place and will say goodbye in December.

The end of these historic New York venues is not only sad but dangerous, signifying what could be the death of New York as we’ve all grown to know and love it. Mayor De Blasio offered to create some affordable housing for artists, but that’s simply not enough. Business in New York is as important as the people who inhabit the city because business here has a face. It is the face of the local deli guy who knows what cigarettes you smoke, the baristas who know how you drink your coffee, and the storeowners who can tell you more about New York than Wikipedia can.

New York is a city based on independence but with independent businesses being shoved out, that mantra will not prevail. We want to inhabit the places with history, not the places with sterile architecture and a lack of presence. If New York loses its landmarks it’ll lose its character too. It’s time to take back New York so that it can stay New York.

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