While this weekend saw a bizarre knockout fight in the Bronx, far away in another one of the five boroughs, another, quieter, less publicized (but just as weird) battle took place. Today, the New York Times documented the Italian neighborhood around Williamsburg’s Graham Avenue, and their traditional parades, and how the residents of the last few years are taking to them. It is, without question, The Classic Hipster Gentrification Piece.
There are Italian street parades during the summer. When they’re held, most people “from” the neighborhood pay their respects in the form of cheering them on, or donations. And how do the current residents respond?
Today, another ritual has emerged: curious hipsters whipping out cellphones to take a snapshot.
Note the following things:
The Times‘ use of the designation “curious hipsters”. It’s in the second paragraph, and basically…nails it.
The consequent quote right after that from an outraged local about how she feels like cultural artifact for “curious hipsters” to cultivate: “‘It used to be the whole street was waiting to give money,’ recalled Lucy D’Alto, a longtime resident of Devoe Street. ‘We don’t see that now. They don’t understand. They see it as something superficial. They don’t respect us, all these young kids — artistes, whatever you call them.’”
More name calling by the locals: “Her compatriots who live in the neighborhood call them lots of things: yuppies, guppies and Village people.”
A hipster incorrectly employing the concept of irony: “‘It was a tiny parade, and they shut down Graham Avenue?’ said Mr. Tocco, 26, an actor. ‘There was one float and a horrible marching band. It was very ironic. The Latino parades are more festive.‘
Another hipster actually saying something unintentionally, epically ironic: “Two young people standing on the sidewalk looked a little puzzled after one of the faithful sold them a prayer card featuring the saint. ‘It seems very old school,’ said one of the onlookers, Jon McGrath, 27. ‘It’s kind of like a vestige of the old neighborhoods of Brooklyn.‘”
The Legitimately Upsetting Quote from a Local About Their Neighborhood Being Destroyed: “‘Now things are done inside more, and not so much on the street,’ he said. ‘You start feeling like a goldfish in a bowl. You’re an oddity to the neighbors. They stop and stare.‘”
The Legitimately Absurd Quote from a Local About Their Neighborhood Being Destroyed: “‘Two years ago when we were doing St. Cono, one of these yuppies dropped his pants,’ said Antonio Curcio, who is president of the Society of Saint Mary of the Snow. ‘It’s something I never saw in my lifetime. As a man, I wanted to grab him and smash him against a wall, but you got to be a better person.’”
The Bigger-Picture Ending: “‘Like anything in this area, people are trying to create the past,’ he said. ‘Like the old facades or the old fashions. The whole society is trying to connect again with something.’”
And that’s basically the rubric for the article for a Gentrifying Young Upstarts vs. Dying Ethnic Neighborhoods:
1. Young New People are living near Old Neighborhood People..
2. Old Neighborhood People are pissed.
3. Young New People don’t get why Old Neighborhood People are pissed.
4. Old Neighborhood People don’t get how Young New People don’t get it.
5. All the old ways about the world and cultures that used to separate us are going away.
It’s perfect, and funny, but mostly, sad, because that’s kind of the contradictory nature of life: the things that give our lives individuality and uniqueness also drive us apart, not that it matters, because technology and gentrification and the dying of tribalist attitudes are destroying all of those things, anyway. And the Times did an expert job at showing that they understand the tragicomedy of all these things. Kudos.
*Disclosure: I live quite close to Devoe Street. And am by no means an Artiste.