News & Politics

‘Sun’ Gaslights Its Readers





Yesterday’s New York Sun article “Manhattan’s Lower East Side Enjoys a Renaissance,” penned by contributing editor and realty bigwig Michael Stoler, was a typical paean to how the neighborhood’s unsavory past is being replaced by a gleaming steel-and-glass present, all thanks to the magic of redevelopment. Typical, that is, aside from its second paragraph:

“Until fairly recently the Bowery always possessed the greatest number of groggeries, flophouses, clip joints, brothels, fire sales, rigged auctions, pawnbrokers, dime museums, shooting galleries, dime-a-dance establishments, fortune-telling and lottery agencies, thieves markets and tattoo parlors, as well as second and third rate theaters,” the director of Eastern Consolidated Properties, Alan Miller, said.

“Groggeries”? “Dime-a-dance establishments”? What is this, 1880?

As it turns out, yes. The quote attributed to Miller was, in fact, lifted verbatim from Luc Sante’s book Low Life, describing the lower-class environs that flourished on the Lower East Side in the late 19th century. (As cited here.) Sante wrote those words in 1992, but even then his “fairly recently” was meant on a historical time scale, not something you might have seen stumbling home from a show at CBGB’s.

Stoler, in an e-mail to Power Plays, apologized for the mix up, saying Miller “should have told me that he took that quote.” Left unexplained was how a New York City real estate expert and newspaper editor managed to think that “thieves markets” survived into the present-day Lower East Side. (Second- and third-rate theaters we can vouch for.) As was how Sun readers might feel about having Lower East Side redevelopment sold to them as the needed remedy for the horrors of the gaslight era.

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