By Keegan Hamilton
By Albert Samaha
By Village Voice staff
By Tessa Stuart
By Albert Samaha
By Steve Weinstein
By Devon Maloney
By Tessa Stuart
WILD WEST VILLAGE
Editor's Note: Richard Goldstein's cover story in last week's issue, "Street Hassle: A New Youth Scene Fights for Turf in Greenwich Village," prompted an unusual amount of mail. Some of the letters and a brief reply by Goldstein follow.
With voices on either side of the "quality of Village life" debate getting more shrill by the day, it would have been nice to read a more balanced and thoughtful article on the situation in Greenwich Village than Richard Goldstein's. As a resident of the West Village since 1995, I have found myself getting increasingly fed up with the state of my neighborhood. I am not afraid of black men lurking in the shadows. What I am furious about is the noise level, the litter, and the utter lack of respect shown to Village residents.
I understand that youths such as those discussed in Goldstein's piece see the Village as one of the few places in the city where they can fully express themselveshell, that's one of the reasons I was attracted to the Villagebut what I cannot comprehend is why they feel they have the right to scream and shout outside my window until three or four o'clock in the morning, or why they think it's OK to defecate on the pavement, leave litter all over the sidewalks, congregate in phalanxes so that nobody can actually walk on the sidewalks, or spit at my dogs when I take them for a walk.
The fact is that this is not, despite Goldstein's best efforts to identify it as such, a race issueit is far more simple than that. This has to do with basic civility and manners.
Richard Goldstein's article "Street Hassle" made me livid. My first response was to urge the police to adopt the old practice described by an unnamed woman in the piece, and drive local community board chair Aubrey Lees and her friend Jessica Berk over to Jersey "and dump them." But after settling down, I became saddened by the realization that these women have support and power.
Most people in the Village pay ridiculous rents because of its bohemian lure, which is the same reason young people of color migrate to the neighborhood. If Berk's evenings are spent racially profiling those who come to her area pursuing that same lure but who unfortunately cannot afford the current rents, then maybe she should re-evaluate her lifestyle, move to Jersey on her own, and start taking the PATH home.
Is our city's freest neighborhood, where diversity reigns, now to be the place where bigotry lays its doormat reading "welcome"?
Thanks for Richard Goldstein's article. I too escaped an intolerant environment and came to New York to be free and to discover gay life. I have fond memories of meeting friends for drinks and going to dinner at many of the restaurants that I still frequent 15 years later. What I'd like to point out, however, is that I respected the West Village, its inhabitants, and businesses. I didn't loiter, sell drugs, create noise, and litter the streets. Now, as a Barrow Street resident, I find myself padlocking the gate to my town houseto keep these people from dealing drugs and urinating under my bedroom window. Nearly every night I find myself being awakened by people loitering on my front stoopscreaming, yelling, playing music, and having sex.
The Village should be a place that is open for all to enjoyprovided that those who come to visit respect the fact that others call it home. It isn't some party zone where all rules and codes of decency are suspended. The current situation is out of control, and steps need to be taken to ensure that the Village remains the open, safe, and free neighborhood that it has been for a very long time.
After reading Richard Goldstein's article, I am more ashamed than ever to be white. It's amazing how people try to disguise their racism and elitism under the platform of community cleanup. I remember my parents telling me "there goes the neighborhood" stories of how the racial makeup of the towns where they grew up changed, with residents fearing that their property values would decrease. Unfortunately, such feelings appear to be spreading in Greenwich Village today. No longer is it a fear of blacks and Latinos ruining the neighborhood. It now has grown to include gays and transvestitesprimarily of the black and Latino persuasion. It's sad to think that nothing has really changed; it only remains hidden until the threat comes to your block.
Richard Goldstein's article uses some very blunt and inaccurate language to express its general premise. That the gentrification of Greenwich Village is meeting resistance from the social groups that made it (in)famous for bending the rules is no surprise. That crime follows the bohemianism around town is also no surprise. The surprise comes from the racial profiling the author takes up on behalf of the police.
The article is generally agreeable in its assertion, but loses cred when it turns social friction into racial friction. The issues of Greenwich Village are of the quality-of-life variety, which always declines when a neighborhood becomes a tourist attraction.