Brooklyn Boro

Author takes a nostalgic look at pre-gentrification Brooklyn

January 22, 2018 Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Author Jeremiah Moss. Photo by Christopher Schulz

Author and practicing psychoanalyst Jeremiah Moss maintains a blog called “Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York” where he chronicles the shuttering of popular small businesses in rapidly gentrifying areas of New York City. Many of these beloved supermarkets, bodegas and restaurants are located in Brooklyn.

After observing and painstakingly documenting the sea of change that has occurred in New York for the past decade, Moss has a written a book called “Vanishing New York: How a Great City Lost Its Soul.” According to Moss, New York has long been a destination for rebels and rule breakers, artists, writers, and other hopefuls longing to be part of its rich cultural exchange and unique social fabric. But today, modern gentrification is transforming the city from an exceptional, iconoclastic metropolis into a suburbanized luxury zone with a price tag only the one percent can afford.

He has emerged as one of the most outspoken and celebrated critics of this dramatic shift.

In “Vanishing New York: How a Great City Lost Its Soul,” he reports on the city’s development in the 21st century, a period of “hyper-gentrification” that has resulted in the shocking transformation of beloved neighborhoods and the loss of treasured unofficial landmarks.

Moss moved to New York in 1993 — unaware that the early 1990s was quite possibly the worst moment to fall in love with and get attached to the city. As Moss describes it, that was the beginning of the end. In Vanishing New York, he leads us on a colorful guided tour of the most changed parts of town — from the Lower East Side and Chelsea to Harlem and Williamsburg — lovingly eulogizing iconic institutions as they’re replaced with soulless upscale boutiques, luxury condo towers, and suburban chains.

An unflinching portrait of gentrification in the 21st century and a love letter to lost New York, propelled by Moss’s hard-hitting cantankerous style, “Vanishing New York” is a staggering examination of contemporary “urban renewal,” its roots and its repercussions — not only for New Yorkers, but for all of America and the world.

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“‘I live in Brooklyn. By choice.’ So Truman Capote began his celebrated essay on the borough in 1959. He calls Brooklyn an ‘uninviting community’ and a ‘veritable veldt of tawdriness,’ as he yet defends it to mystified friends who ask, ‘But what do you do over there?’ Manhattan types did not go to Brooklyn. It was a place for people of color and working class ethnics, the people who weren’t quite American. Of his youth in blue-collar Brownsville during the 1930s and ’40s, Norman Podhoretz wrote, ‘I came from Brooklyn, and in Brooklyn there were no Americans. There were Jews and Negroes and Italians and Poles and Irishmen. Americans lived in New England, in the South, in the Midwest: alien people in alien places.’ Twentieth-century Brooklyn was not a white Anglo-Saxon borough. And it was not for aesthetes. If you were a native Brooklynite whose heart yearned for the city, you fled. The interborough migration path traveled in one direction, across the river to Manhattan.” — “Vanishing New York”

 

“In February 2014, with the slogan ‘Defend Brooklyn’ on the sleeve of his sweatshirt, filmmaker Spike Lee gave a Black History Month talk to an audience of art students at Brooklyn’s Pratt Institute. During the Q&A, one student asked if gentrification had its good sides. I don’t believe that,’ Lee replied, launching into a defense of his home neighborhood, Fort Greene, where, along with the surrounding neighborhoods, the white population increased by 120 percent, while the black population decreased by 30 percent in the decade between 2000 and 2010. The rents, of course, went up. Lee recalled his childhood, when the garbage wasn’t collected and police weren’t out protecting the streets. Addressing the question about gentrifications good sides, he asked, ‘Why does it take an influx of white New Yorkers in the South Bronx, in Harlem, in Bed-Stuy, in Crown Heights, for facilities to get better?’” — “Vanishing New York”

 

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