I was just talking about this very thing to some friends yesterday. A few years ago, I said, Patti Smith was down here in Fishtown looking at lofts. She said that New York wasn’t really good for artists anymore because there was simply no affordable places left to live, and that Philly still had those kinds of gritty neighborhoods. But then her book “Just Kids” won the National Book Award and I guess she could afford to stay in New York.
Crain’s New York Business, not known as a friend of the arts, reports the endgame of the trend identified by Hughes, namely that the young painter and sculptor are now sidestepping New York altogether, heading instead to cities like Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Cleveland, and overseas to Berlin–wherever the rents are low and the air doesn’t stink of cash. The Times reports that freelance musicians in New York are killed off in a marketplace that no longer has need for them. The once-great Philharmonics, mainstay of a New York tradition, are crippled from lack of listeners, lack of funding; Broadway replaces the live musician in the well with the artifice of sounds sampled out of computers. New York loses its “standing as a creative center,” reports Crain’s. It becomes “sterile.” It is “an institutionalized sort of Disney Land” where “art is presented but not made.” Henceforth it will no longer be “known as a birthplace for new cultural ideas and trends.”
In Brooklyn, I bump into a newspaper editor I once worked with who tells me he is abandoning the city. He talks of Costa Rica, the dark side of the moon, even Los Angeles. Anywhere but New York. “It’s just too depressing to watch what’s happened,” he tells me. “The place is creatively bankrupt.” He had freelanced at the paltry rates that freelancers are expected to survive on–the wages dropping always lower, the marketplace for journalism devalued by “content mills” and “information aggregators” staffed by content serfs producing blog entries. Then he attempted to start a small newspaper in Brooklyn. The investors weren’t interested. “They want digital projects that promise an all-or-nothing billion dollars,” he tells me. “I just don’t get that buzzy creative vibe from New York anymore. I see mercenarianism. Cynical ambition. Monied dullness. People trying to get rich and cash out. It’s always a CEO and CTO and CFO launching a new web property. Not writers and editors getting together because they have common visions.“