Times Portrays Williamsburg in 2002 As Crime-Ridden Ghetto

06/14/2011 8:57 AM |

In 2002, it was like Sarajevo over here!

  • In 2002, it was like Sarajevo over here!

In a piece from the Times‘ Real Estate section about how Grand is the new Bedford, the owner of a bar on Roebling (that’s “in a former liquor store that had a bulletproof window where you’d slide your money in and a bottle would come sliding out”) explains how far the neighborhood has come. “Back then,” the bar owner-sculptor, who lives in Williamsburg with his wife and two young children, told the paper, “we’d find nine-millimeter shells in the street outside.” Oh, wow. When is he talking about—like, 1977?

Nope. 2002!

While there may well have been casings littering Grand Street sidewalks less than a decade ago, the imagery’s implication of a gun-infested ghetto strikes some as ludicrous. “Anecdotal evidence from agents of gentrifications about ‘how the neighborhood used to be’ are always suspect,” Williamsburg resident and gentrification-critic Dennis Farr wrote on his Facebook page. “Five years from now, when interviewing agents of gentrification who will be moving into Williamsburg then, there will be reference to 2005 as ‘the bad before,’ and for agents after that it will be 2010, and so on and so on. The point is that this fictional terror is used by real estate to make a sale, not to tell about a community.”

“When agents of gentrification describe ‘crime’ in Williamsburg,” he continues, “it is typically vicarious, not directly expressed or suffered. Here, there is no gunshot fired, no gunshot struck, no gunshot heard—merely ‘9-millimeter shell casings’ found.”

47 Comment

  • Henry, thanks for this. I also wanted to add that liquor stores having sliding windows is not specific to Williamsburg or “her ongoing Sarajevo.” Just goes to show again how ridiculous this whole thing is–sliding windows are standard design for liquor stores everywhere in NYC. The reference is added by the Times, as we have previously discussed, to give the appearance that Williamsburg had a specific ill that could only be cured by gentrification. What nonsense.

  • Yeah. Granted, the Southside was a lot different in 2002, but that quote is just typical gentrifier bravado. I moved to the neighborhood in 1999, and somehow never wandered into a gunfight. Is it possible that he found 9 mm shells once? Yeah, there were gang shootings sometimes, just like there still are. But seriously.

  • Yo Yo Pa, I wish you would copy-paste your observation onto the comments section of that NY Times article, as it would help to disabuse not just readers with gentrifier bravado [good term, by the way], but also the journalists who write these ridiculous articles, as they clearly read responses to their work.

  • People have persisted in referring to me as a “pioneer” here in Williamsburg, a term which curls my lip and sours my stomach with its smell of “savages” tamed, manipulated and displaced in favor of colonists, who somehow earn their right to the land by “braving” the experience.

  • More than ever the air needs clearing like the way you do, KYourke. Yours is rare counsel, and everyone else should pay attention–to their benefit.

  • The recovery of our inner cities from the blight of the 70s and 80s has been the central experience of urban history of the past 30 years. And history often comes as an affront, even when it is reported in the New York Times. But let us expand the timeframe from 30 years to 200 years, and take in the entire history of the City of Williamsburg. In this expanded context, we see that the economic growth we are witnessing today has for Williamsburg generally been the rule, not the exception. And what is taken in a nostalgic way for a “normal” Brooklyn of decades ago, was in the broader sweep of history the exception, and not sustainable.

  • @EthanPettit: Gladly. We do in fact see it as normal that agents of gentrification displace and are in turn displaced–we may be “nostalgic,” which is really Pettit’s way of saying “boo hoo when you make a critical review of what we’ve done–which is nothign,” but this is nothing more than a pedantic display of the old bromide, “change happens,” as if the change he is describing cannot or will not fall in favor of peoples displaced. But what is also historical, what is also something consistent with the history of Williamsburg for 200 years, is resistance and backlash against colonial agents. You see, Ethan, as an agent of gentrification himself, is “historical,” but critical examination of gentrification by others is “nostalgic,” and when displaced personnel and local residents respond to gentrification, then it’s no longer “the normal cycle of things” but time to call the police and restrain voices.

  • And furthermore, notice that the only nostalgia allowed by persons like Pettit are the fantastic [as in fantasy] reminisces of persons who find shell-casings on the street. That’s because he wishes those persons who were making those “normal not nostalgic” observations had the guts and the excitement to fire the guns themselves, to be participants than spectators, which is what the gentrification of Williamsburg has been. In Lower Manhattan the agents of gentrification may or may not have made “situations,” but in Williamsburg, the agents of gentrification merely observe them–Spectatorists instead of Situationists, of course, along the social darwinist natural scheme of things.

  • The tragedy of the crime-ridden neighborhood is not the “act of crime” itself, as it occurs, routinely, in its era. We become acclimated to that, we adapt to it, and life is wonderful and none the worse. The tragedy of the crime-ridden neighborhood, rather, is that it stigmatizes the entire community. For years, decades hence, long after the fact, the law-abiding community that struggled to survive in a blighted neighborhood, is rewarded for its struggles by being delegitimized, tacitly criminalized itself. The real estate dealer who odiously invokes the blighted past, can only do so because the past was indeed blighted. This is the tragedy of Williamsburg.

  • @Ethan: Excuse me. It is preposterous to suggest that a more comprehensive review and understanding of a community’s history will not “lift the stigma” of that community. That’s what a more comprehensive review and understanding does! Are you seriously saying, “Let’s keep the narrative limited to some “memories,” and avoid expanding the narrative to include testimony that may contradict anything within that limited scope? That’s not history, that’s propaganda. Sort of like the propaganda that makes it seem Williamsburg was “bad” any given day of the week that an agent of gentrification moves into the neighborhood, and is not based on any real and rational analysis of crime IN the community, and crime as it is DIRECTLY EXPERIENCED by agents of gentrification as opposed to HEARSAY of crime. And it may have something to do with the fact that the “stigma” you’re referring to is a creation by some who have generated their very raison d’etre for being off this “stigma”–indeed, they are applying the stigma themselves, mostly to obfuscate and avoid examination not just into their own agency in gentrification, but their own lives as drug addicts, criminals and prostitutes.

    It is very well known that many of the “white artists” who played their significant role in the gentrification of Williamsburg were known, in turn, by the Puerto Rican communty–in the very same manner that the “white artists” describe them in reverse. If because the “white artists” were “exposed” [and even then there is much room to doubt, especially when we start getting more comprehensive] to a criminal element in the Puerto Rican community, it is because they gravitated to it. It is not very much discussed outside the gentrification, but many of the artists were heroin addicts, indeed, even reorienting the drug trade in Southside and Third Ward Williamsburg from crack to heroin. Some were even prostitutes! Do we need to start naming names? The reason why the white artists can only comprehend the Puerto Ricans as “junkies and hookers” is because their only exposure to the Puerto Rican community were through Puerto Rican drug dealers and discontents, who were as reviled by the larger Puerto Rican community as anyone else.

    The stigma won’t lift because the racists who are applying the stigma are in control of the community’s narrative. But the reason why there is such a “stigma” in the first place is because the white artists telling their fantastic tales of drugs and prostitution are omitting themselves in the narrative. This is precisely why all their accounts appear VICARIOUS–whereas, indeed, there are some like John Clement who are arriving in 2002 and marveling at relics, there are also those who were since the early 1980s, concentrating in the warehouse areas of the Northside and Southside where prostitution and drugs were concentrated, and they were not simply observing, THEY WERE PARTICIPATING. But I guarantee you that once the narrative rightly begins to include how white artists did not care to know their neighbors unless they could buy an ounce or two of some of that good stuff off them, and sometimes, when you don’t have the money and credit goes bad and “hook” onto the next level, then the narrative will not only show the perversity of the “stigma” that you’re describing, but the perversity of who exactly is applying that stigma.

    This is not to suggest that “all the artists” were “junkies and hookers” themselves: I won’t fall into the trap of bad history the way some who now tell OF Williamsburg, but note that the artists who involve themselves in the community, who involve themselves in the multitude of organizations and activities outside of drugs and prostitution in the Puerto Rican community somehow fail to confine their memories to “stigma.” Somehow they’re able to lift the narrative from the dungeon that confines certain compromised individuals.

  • Here is graduate student and gentrification researcher Brian Paul, commenting on my Facebook wall in a thread devoted to early NY Times reporting on crime reduction in 1980s Williamsburg, who is also working on a documentary about the CPCR development on the former Domino Sugar site in the Southside [also covered by Henry Stewart here for L Magazine in “Williamsburg’s Last Domino: A Gentrification Time Bomb?”, “Is the Domino Developer Out of Money?”, “Brooklyn Filmmakers Hustle To Finish Domino Documentary” and “Lawsuit Fails, Domino Moves Forward”]: “1974 is the key year when the banks “rescued” the City from its “fiscal crisis” and forced cuts in services to Williamsburg and LES that led to disinvestment peaking in 1977-1978. Then we have a cycle of reinvestment in the 1980’s under Ed Koch, who lowered real estate taxes, created new subsidies, and began auctioning City owned property to private owners and discouraging transfer to tenant cooperatives and CDCs like Los Sures who had saved many buildings by “sweat equity”/homesteading. Then there is a major recession 1988-1993 that effectively stalls gentrification in Williamsburg until it picks up again at much great speed in the mid-90’s.”

    Note that this continuity of applied municipal service against withdrawal of municipal service matches “the rise and fall” of crime AS IT IS REPORTED [but not necessarily experienced] in Williamsburg–which goes to show that a comprehensive review of crime and response in Williamsburg will show that the persons most responsible for “blight” in Williamsburg were not Puerto Ricans but, internally, landlord arson and burn-outs [often anti-Semitically referred to as “Jewish lightning”] and externally, the caprices of City Hall. The arrival and expansion of the white artist community did not internally or intrinsically promote or produce any innovation in of itself that “cured” the “blight” of the neighborhood–IT ATTRACTED, IN A RACIST FASHION, THE ATTENTION OF THOSE AGENCIES THAT PROVIDE MUNICIPAL SERVICES, i.e. the dreaded “Government.” It is the restoration of those services by external and absent agencies that have brought the Williamsburg we know now. Not the “white artists,” who, in actuality, have produced, manufactured or innovated ZERO towards that end. [continuing]

  • [continuing]

    Or, as observed in that thread with Brian Paul, “For too long people here have denied their racism while simultaneously connecting the presence of Puerto Ricans to dilapidation, ignoring the mountains of evidence, some of which you’re now tapping into, that shows municipal disinvestment was key. It’s not like the artists in Williamsburg repaved the Northside–it was government. And now that government has done “its job” servicing white people while disowning the Puerto Ricans they brought in to draft for the Korean and Vietnam Wars and occupy the low-paying work, everyone has gone all ‘Tea Party.'”

    To which Paul added, stamping the whole mess, “Government on the city, state, and federal levels has constantly intervened in the supposed “free-market” to support middle-upper class development while casting the poor aside. Perfect example is all those town-house style affordable homeownership units built on vacant blocks in the Southside in the 90’s — these were intended to seed the neighborhood for private middle and upper class development. Something I find very interesting is the contradiction that seems to exist between the Latino community’s striving for middle class status and “moving up” — which leads to support for these kind of projects as well as the New Domino — and the demographic reality that the majority has not actually “moved up” and these projects may be playing a role in that.”

  • Ha! Whether the fiscal crisis of the 70s and the recovery of the 80s and 90s were a grand and specific conspiracy to oust Puerto Ricans, or whether these cycles were economic in a broader sense, is beside the point. The fact remains, the place was blighted, and it took outsiders to fix it. Nor should it come as any surprise that liberal artists who “involve themselves in the community” will never criticize any ethnic group in the community. That is anathema to their politically correct doctrine. Far from bringing healthy criticism to the situation, white liberal artists have habitually reinforced the polity of entitlement and of skirting blame that has enfeebled the Latino political establishment in Williamsburg for generations, and probably contributed to the area’s economic distress in the years before gentrification.

  • You can keep playing “Pee-Wee Herman” with your “well, you say this, and I say that,” but the truth of the matter is that no liberal establishment here would deny the presence of drugs and prostitution in Williamsburg. You’re making that up with your usual reactionary conservative claptrap that sees conspiracies in nothing but what liberals do–or did you not notice you applied the tag “conspiracy” to review of government and municipal involvement in Williamsburg while failing to apply the same tag, of course, to your fantastic “liberal establishment in Williamsburg.” What nonsense. That’s the whole point of this exercise that you still fail to notice: examinations by everyone other than you or your peers is “conspiracy” and “nostalgia” whereas “examination” by you is “history” and “exposing the liberal establishment.” Cheap tricks from a Fox News playbook. What that fanciful and conspiratorial and hackneyed “liberal establishment” might actually do, which you or your peers cannot do from lack of experience and involvement, or more tellingly, TYPE of experience and involvement, is tell of Puerto Ricans they know who were not involved in either the drug or prostitution trade. Williamsburg’s Puerto Ricans were workers, professionals, writers, musicians, poets, churchgoers, radicals, conservatives, liberals, and so on. At their very edges, where white artists went to buy their drugs and cavort with the “sexy other”, they were drug dealers and prostitutes. You wouldn’t know any of that because you think stigma is sexy, and you weren’t in the neighborhood long enough to get to know your neighbors.

  • By the way, since it was “done by outsiders”–what anti-crime initiatives or neighborhood patrols were YOU or any of your peers involved in? As has been previously pointed out, as far back as 1981, before there was cognizance of “white bohemians” in Williamsburg, crime was dropping by 44% from the year before, without any help from “outsiders”–which goes to show that the pace of crime was already dropping by the time of the gentrification, and had more to do with internal policy shifts in the NYPD and community initiatives than anything any “white artist” ever did–which amounted to very little, if any, contribution to anti-crime initiatives. Quite the opposite in fact: the white artists have passed on a legacy in which white people can traffic drugs in Williamsburg in amounts shocking to any sense without any police attention whatsoever. It’s not “crime” because no one is complaining–but that won’t last long.

  • Excuse me, I take it back. I do know of ONE particular “anti-crime” initiative you and your peers participated in, involving getting the police to apprehend pamphleteers in the neighborhood who were critical of the gentrification of Williamsburg and silence them: you should be proud.

  • The mention of these 9mm shell casings sounds less like journalism or amateur forensic ballistics than it sounds like found art. A worse possibility is that the discovered brass serves to psychologically legitimize urban immigrants in a new setting. I

  • I lived in Williamsburg in 1999, worked in the neighborhood until 2004 as a bartender. I moved back to Manhattan in 2000. I never had any problems, but all the hipsters bored me, so I left and happily moved back to the city. Calling it Sarjevo, is a huge stretch…

  • “Agents of gentrification”- What is this -1984? LOL I lived in Williamsburg in 1998 for a year and likening it to Sarajevo in that time is a total joke. I never had any problems, nor did I find any bullet casings- EVER! I worked in Williamsburg from 2000 to 2004-often till 5AM, would go home on the subway. It was the all the boring, predictable hipsters in “Billyburg” that made me move back to the city in 2000.

  • I would like to draw the attention of this thread to another story here on The Measure. This story covers the recent Bushwick Open Studios. In the comments to that story someone remarks something to the effect that Bushwick is “where it’s at” and Williamsburg is “old hat.” It occurred to me that this is a typical but misguided statement. It hews to the urban myth which says that artists are “displaced” and “pushed out” by the forces of gentrification; to go colonize other neighborhoods. I suggest that the assumption here is unfounded.


    When I visited the recent Northside Open Studios, which occurred about a week after the Bushwick Open Studios, I walked through about half a dozen factory buildings in the heart of the Northside and even directly on the Northside waterfront. Today this is one of the most expensive neighborhoods in New York City. And yet, I found more artists and creative entrepreneurs in any one building here than existed in the entire neighborhood some 20 years ago when I lived here.

    Artist colonization proceeds apace and with equal vigor in Williamsburg, Greenpoint, and Bushwick. Artists do not move en masse like a wave from one neighborhood to the other, as the dramatic urban myth of an artist diaspora would have it. The choice of location has to do with logistical and temperamental needs of the artist or business, more even than it has to do with budget. Surprisingly, the difference in rent for commercial, non-retail, non-residential space in the Northside and in Bushwick is not always appreciable. I myself rent a studio in Bushwick. I turned one down in the Northside

  • The reason why that logic is incorrect and a body of persons indeed move en masse from one neighborhood to another is that “artists” has always been a misidentification of the forces involved with gentrification–an urban myth and miscommunication about “the symbiosis of art and gentrification” that you and your peers have been a primary source. It is not “artists” that have gentrified Williamsburg–the term “art” is a murderous vampire itself drained of all substance and meaning so that it can mean anything and nothing simultaneously. This allows you and your peers, as apologists for gentrification, to jump back and forth between positions, never hewing to any one of them solidly but allowing that inconsistency to give the impression of “fluidity” as you obfuscate the true demographics of the agents of gentrification: white, middle to upper-middle class RECENT COLLEGE GRADUATES. It is the recency of that college experience, superimposed upon an urban setting where college education is in desiderata, severely so in fact, that gives the impression that “art” has been signified. The most cogent distinction between the agents of distinction and “the locals” of Williamsburg has been the COLLEGE EXPERIENCE, specifically, “the spirit of the college campus,” since the agents of gentrification carry over the rituals of the college campus [but, as the lack of intellectual rigor and ACTUAL ACHIEVEMENT AND PRODUCTION of the gentrification evidences, NOT THE COLLEGE CLASSROOM], the impression is made and gladly given that “artists” have participated and made impact. There have been whites in Williamsburg preceding the gentrification: Irish, Italians, Poles, Jews, etc. The greatest distinction between those whites and the whites of the gentrification has been THE COLLEGE EXPERIENCE. Indeed, those locals who have participated in the gentrification have found their entry and passage throughout facilitated by the fact of their own college experiences, which have distinguished them from their own peers. It is precisely why, previously, I have suggested a University be established in Williamsburg that supplies locals with that college experience and thus extinguish the distinction between them, and the agents of gentrification who have passed off, for too long, as “artists”, but only as apologia for gentrification, and as tools for Real Estate.

  • Furthermore, your reference to a “creative economy” is another mischievous and fallacious informing of the narcissism that is a Williamsburg syndrome amongst the recent college graduates involved in the gentrification of Williamsburg. It’s an attempt to put a slight chisel on what is better known as the “design economy” outside of Williamsburg–the agents of gentrification of Williamsburg had negligible, IF ZERO, impact upon the development of the protocols of that design economy. Those protocols were developed in other geographic locales, such as Silicon Valley, so that the agents of gentrification, in another telltale sign as to the true “creative” dimensions of the gentrification, were ultimately and always, just like their un-college educated temporary neighbors, CONSUMERS NOT PRODUCERS.

    And, to flog zombie horses, “art” cannot be used as a criteria to determine anything in the neighborhood, because there has been no substantial or significant development, manufacture or production during the course of the gentrification of Williamsburg. Again, the productions that have had the most significant impact on the cultural hue of the neighborhood have had their protocols set OUTSIDE of Williamsburg DURING the gentrification, again proving that Williamsburg is not a concentration of production, but a concentration of consumption. The so-called “artists” of Williamsburg have derived their value not in their works, but as “placeholders.”

  • Anyone who wants to get a hold as to who the actual agents of gentrification were will be misled if they attempt to originate with “artists,” given that the radical fluidity of the term makes for nihilism of definition. Thus, no criteria can be set down to pinpoint our point of departure. But mostly, it’s because if there even were such a “demographical” thing, it would still be false. The actual initial wave of agents of gentrification were the VISTA volunteers who were sent in to Williamsburg “to institute change” according to incipient neoliberal polices of the time coming out of the City Hall during the 1970s, and who make up some of the most interesting characters you could ever know [Vito Lopez, for example, was one of these VISTA volunteers,] and established many of the venues and institutions taken for granted in Williamsburg as “cultural exchanges.” The Swinging 60s Center on Ainslie Street, for example, and an excellent example, where ever-pro-gentrification Community Board 1 meets, was established and built by VISTA volunteers. The socio-economic-cultural impact of this body of persons, along with the pool of professionals hired by the various community advocacy organizations to develop and fund their organizations who REMAINED in the neighborhood [especially those organizations employing individuals who had an eye on gaining for themselves parcels of land through so-called “homesteading” and “sweat equity”], is far greater than the pool of hedonists that commenter Ethan Pettit is vainly [and with vanity] attributing everything “good” under the sun, who spent much more time in bars than in their studios, and can be credited for the ugly dimension of Williamsburg that comprises her overlong stretch of bars. Many of those persons, especially those who are attempting to draw to themselves an undue amount of influence and “credit” over the gentrification, spent very little time in the neighborhood and accomplished very little, while fancying themselves as casting giant shadows from their absentee locations. Pettit himself only spent two to three years in the neighborhood, sometime in the mid-1980s, and then was off to Park Slope to produce, of all things, a propaganda about the influence of the artists in Williamsburg on what would seem every glowing jot and tittle. Such is the typical account of the agents of gentrification in Williamsburg. It is no small irony that a Subway sandwich store operates in the space he once lived on in Bedford Avenue.

  • The gymnastics here would be comical if they were not so fraught with resentment. In the face of bold manifestations of the impact of artists in northern Brooklyn over the past 30 years, we are presented with objections that verge on the absurd.

    “VISTA volunteers” are to account for gentrification, not artists. Puerto Rican block associations, real estate auctions, the shenanigans of Ed Koch, the CIA. Anything, but anything, than to have to acknowledge that artists succeeded in Williamsburg where “Los Sures” or “El Puente” or “The People’s Firehouse” barely hung on. Toss in a few lines of slander and untruth aimed at any detractors, and you have the stuff of a desperate argument.

    To be sure, there is a Marxist argument that holds that gentrification is a planned process in which powerful interest groups follow a policy of neglect of the inner city until real estate prices fall to such an extent that profits can be realized in a “recovery.” This theory is not hard to grasp, it provides an easy answer to vexing questions, and its pattern of thought is the sine qua non of disgruntled attempts to explain anything from rising rents in Brooklyn to the war in Afghanistan.

    Alas, the theory falls apart in Williamsburg, where the history of gentrification is one of ineptitude and a patent lack of coordination among the political establishment and the powerful interests. As early as 1987, a developer wants to put condos on the waterfront. He is stymied because the City has another idea for the waterfront

  • I challenge you to prove how “art” “entered into” the neighborhood during the course of the gentrification–what were its achievements, who were its agents, and what significance did they have. Because without all that, what you have indeed is what you are accusing others of: unfounded conspiracy theory. Whereas data exists as to actual persons with actual categories of profession and being, there is no statistical data or, really, any quantification existing that indicates a class of persons that can rightly call themselves “artists.” You like to tell people to show you that data, and presuming the lack thereof, let fly with your own unfounded defamations of conspiracy, though VISTA volunteers and the pool of professionals who, incompetently or not [and what nerve to claim incompetence on their part–what have you or your peers ever done that was so competent?], left behind a statistical trace and significance or signification of their time in the neighborhood.

    What is the trace of the so-called “artists” in Williamsburg? Immersionism? Immerse by giving one a break already.

    And that you choose to use Joseph Lentol and Golden as voices that legitimize or endorse the “artists”–what a hoot! Truly comical and pathetic but definitely not gymnastics.

  • And that Vito Lopez, as a VISTA volunteer himself, and one of many other significant VISTA volunteers in the neighborhood not having significance or somehow trailing behind any “artist” in the neighborhood is also a hoot. Whether or not one views Lopez as “incompetent”, “corrupt” or Santa Claus, to deny his significance under a blanket, and intellectually lazy “conspiracy theory” hurl, is some more of that narcissistic intoxication that has defined the class of persons who live/d in Williamsburg and fancied themselves “artists.” Vito Lopez, hands down over any individual or party of “artists,” had significance in the neighborhood. Again, I challenge you, and begin with yourself: how long were you in the neighborhood? what did you produce that validates anyone, let alone yourself, calling you an “artist”? and how has any of that “art” stood the test of time against Art with a capital A.

  • While we wait on Pettit to supply us with the data, I draw attention to Suleiman Osman’s The Invention of Brownstone Brooklyn: Gentrification and the Search for Authenticity in Postwar New York. For you see, those “conspiracy theories” that Pettit decries somehow are well-researched, well-written and well-attested, unlike his Randian fantasies of Atlas f/art/ing all over Williamsburg’s every molecule, which find little, if any, of the same support.

    If Facebook had an algorithm collecting and sifting data on “artist” expressions in Williamsburg, nearly the entire pool collected would be Real Estate Shill, with addendum begging for credit and attention for that Shill.

  • With pleasure, I will make a defense of Immersionism and of half a dozen other cultural movements in Williamsburg, before any art critic, any art historian, any authority with any breed of sheepskin to their name, at any time, anywhere. They can find me here: http://www.immersionism.net.

  • What art critics or historians are necessary when you’re getting your stamp of approval from Marty Markowitz and Corcoran Real Estate?

  • Was it Megadeth that sang, “if that’s winning, I’d rather lose”?

  • And while you defend Immersionism, shall I offer my own account, of listening to you personally deriding Immersionism and it’s participants, while publically doing the exact opposite? Your defense cannot be believed.

  • I respond merely to your “challenge to prove how art entered into the neighborhood during the course of the gentrification

  • Peek back throughout this thread and smell if not the slightest whiff of hypocrisy in that last statement of yours. Are you baffled that your opponents can move between positions as easily as you? You are not merely solely taking up the challenge of defending “immersionism,” a “movement” [ha!] that you personally derided as long as you didn’t need to gratify your own ego. In fact, I likewise draw attention to your “defense,” here: http://www.immersionism.net, and I encourage inquiry, but I likewise caution objectivity and critical awareness–which you wholly lack. I likewise draw attention to your stewardship of the Waterfront Week: no finer example exists where something that once may have had “artistic value” is cheapened during its prostitution by Real Estate and reactionary forces by YOUR HAND [and you have nerve to speak of liberalism as “enfeebling”–ha! take a gander at years 4-12 of the Waterfront Week when you handed over the paper to conservative ideologues and they “unenfeebled”]. For when all is said and done and the dust settles, I’m confident that study will prove that the so-called “artists” of Williamsburg have been doing better apologia for Real Estate than they have “art.” And when you take that peek throughout this thread to see who exactly is waffling, you may perchance see what it is exactly that you are doing–pimping art for Real Estate, and prostituting ego. How’s that for a waffle?

  • Mind you, I’m simply drawing attention to the league and type of persons YOU YOURSELF are citing as legitimizing “art”: Joseph Lentol and Howard Golden. How can it be “waffling” if I’m quoting you?

    And I forgot to comment on your typically ignorant and absentee take on how El Puente is doing: barely hanging on? Brother, please, get your facts straight. You must be projecting, talking about your peers–or even yourself, who lived in the neighborhood for two years and then left to rhapsodize self-worth. Who exactly “barely hung on”? No “artist” establishment, vendor or artifact from the time period of “immersionism” has endured the gentrification, unlike El Puente, which has, indeed, “hanged on.” Not Minor Injury. Not Waterfront Week. Not Breukelen Magazine. Not Noes. Not the L Cafe. Not Oznot’s Dish. Not Green Room. And certainly not Ethan Pettit. All of those activities and persons barely made a fleeting scratch on the cultural landscape, and have their authenticity measured simply by the fact “they were there,” not “what they did.”

    I take the entire output of the gentrification of Williamsburg, all the shit that it has “immersed,” and match it against just one mural by El Puente: http://www.elpuente.us/academy/index.htm
    So that when everyone has had their fill of http://www.immersionism.net and ask themselves, “where are these “artists” now?” they can go to El Puente and see exactly who “barely hung on.”

  • My suggestion to you, brother, is that you emancipate yourself from that pimp, Real Estate, and get back to the studio and do some actual art.

  • From the El Puente website: “The cornerstone of El Puente Center for Arts and Culture is the Williamsburg Arts and Culture Council for Youth (WACCY), Williamsburg’s first arts organization, founded by Frances Lucerna in 1980.”

    This statement helps argue that “art” in Williamsburg preceded “the artists,” which requires further and critical observation as to who and what exactly were the agents of gentrification in Williamsburg. This is not to say the “artists” did not gentrify–simply that the fact of their “art” [which requires critical examination] was not the germinating cause of gentrification. Immersionism did not bring art into the neighborhood, it was already there. “Art” cannot be used to distinguish the agents of gentrification even if some did practice “art,” because those agents of gentrification are likewise claiming they are bringing art into an area where it was absent–emphasized by agents of gentrification themselves. What did distinguish the agents of gentrification from the “locals” has been, again, that they were largely a body of middle to upper-middle class white recent college graduates. The idea that “art” distinguished the agents of gentrification from the “locals” is belied by the fact of “art’s” existence in the neighborhood BEFORE the gentrification, as evidenced by the quote from the El Puente website above.

  • My suggestion to you, brother, is that you emancipate yourself from the flunkydom of the welfare state and the grinding resentment and lethargy it instills in its victims. El Puente “hangs on” because it is on welfare, my brother! Has been for decades. Everyone knows this. It is one of Williamsburg’s perennial grant mills, forever churning at the tit of the politics of entitlement. This is why the so-called “art” of outfits like this is inherently insipid and boring. It does not come from the fire of its own initiative. It solicits approval for itself on the basis of its being “local Puerto Rican art.” You can call it welfare esthetics, or the esthetics of self-pity, where legitimation as art flows from a crybaby sense of entitlement as art. The upshot is that after 30 years, the only interest anyone has in the El Puente “arts organization” is the feigned interest of the politely condescending. As for the L Cafe and Oznots, there are hundreds of them today.

  • What nonsense. How dare you speak of “welfare” when certain operators behind certain galleries squandered close to a million in taxpayer dollars that went unpaid. Oh wait, it’s not “welfare” when artists commit fraud, it’s Ayn Rand.

  • Indeed, without that welfare, certain schemes behind converting non-profit organs into for-profit ventures wouldn’t have even materialized. It doesn’t matter that they were executed so incompetently [and you have nerve, with el Puente operating for decades running and you measuring a thousand failed businesses as somehow the “superior model”] that some feel relieved of paying back those taxpayer funds. Lucky for you and so many of your peers that government doesn’t have the oomph to investigate who it gets into bed with. Maybe El Puente is on welfare, but one thing it can’t be said is that it committed fraud.

  • Oh wait, that’s just conspiracy theory.

  • I know I’m belaboring, but I have to comment on claims that the Puerto Rican art from Williamsburg has credential only in it being “local Puerto Rican art.” This audaciously coming from someone whose sole grounds for legitimizing the art of the gentrification has begun and ended not on any accomplishment of that art but that “it is from Williamsburg.” Take the art that Ethan defends and put it in any geographic setting but Williamsburg, say, the art of Lower Manhattan, and it fails atrociously–his slur of “boring” and “insipid” and “lacking fire” are all very interesting since he has also made this claim about his own peers and their works in Williamsburg. But now that he feels himself shunted to the side by the new hipsterism in Williamsburg [which is remote to his circle of peers, precisely because they are a new wave of college graduates unfamiliar with the circle of colleges Ethan et al. come from], he must belligerently emphasize the “Williamsburgness” of his peers’ works, while hypocritically criticizing it in the “locality” of what is greater than anything he or his peers have ever accomplished.

  • Take, for example, this recent “art” event: Williamsburg2000. Video footage covers the event, and nearly the entirety of the coverage is not on the actual works on the walls of the event space, but instead over-emphasizes the location, namely “Williamsburg,” and the curiosity of the happenstance that “these artists are here.” There is no in-depth coverage, analysis or even admiration of ANY of the works. What is important here is that “it does not come from the fire of its own initiative. It solicits approval for itself on the basis of its being Williamsburg” even though there is no demonstration of the manner or style that would validate any of the works as either “being from Williamsburg” or produced by artists “from Williamsburg” or even that it should be called “Williamsburg2000.” You see, Ethan projects, and he does it well, because he knows much about his peers and nothing about his imagined neighbors, which must draw some attention as to why he should feel the nerve to call anything “Williamsburg,” when he is from Park Slope. Talk about soliciting approval for self.

  • In fact, I was the mastermind behind the multi-million dollar Williamsburg “art fraud” that bilked taxpayers out of millions of dollars. All my doing. Call the DA and tell him it was me. The evidence is all here:


  • Now, why would I do that if the DA is likely busy alongside Marty Markowitz and Corcoran Real Estate authenticating Williamsburg “art”? Someone’s got to do it, since so many other critics are seemingly asleep before the immersion.

    There is no escaping that it was your greed and selfishness that removed the Minor Injury art gallery from Northern Brooklyn in violation of the gallery’s declared mission, a declared mission that made it eligible for the type of “welfare” you seemingly decry except when your pocket is being filled, in numerous grants for the gallery, numerous grants for “artists” connected to the gallery, and numerous grants for “artists” who used Minor Injury as a resource. And in that violation of the declared mission of the gallery it was taken into Manhattan for a for-profit (ad)venture where again your misjudgments were realized, thinking you could capitalize in Manhattan what was supposed to be in Brooklyn–but oh cruel fate in further proof of the argument that Williamsburg “art,” once removed from its setting and thus removing it from the one thing that made it viable [namely, not the fact of its production or labor, but that it was “in Williamsburg”] and brought into the “art scene” of other locales, suffers terribly and is revealed for its amateurism. Even its narcissism is amateurish–but hey, like that other amateur piece over the Dunham Place rooftops, supposedly Williamsburg “art” “is tough to get” even though “everyone gets it when they see it.” “It” being “it does not come from the fire of its own initiative. It solicits approval for itself on the basis of its being Williamsburg.” But hey, why don’t you tell us how much money you made off your genius move–one of many throughout your TWO YEAR stay in Williamsburg that you have successfully passed off as a lifetime [and to many, it feels like a lifetime], which is the capper on the radical credibility reduction that is representative of Williamsburg’s true art. You say you got the “real story”, well, let me quote en extenso what the ACTUAL FOUNDER of Minor Injury had to say about you personally:

    I was the founder of MI, first established in 1985, and used to be a director and co-director for 1985-1989 period. I was quite perplexed and more shocked than anyone upon hearing of the present controversy (only 3 weeks ago). Though my name still remains on the Board of MI (sometimes not), I do not know much about the past 3 years of operation. I never got any information about programs, never was invited to a boardmeeting. To make it short, the operation of MI did not seem to be professional enough to me in the past 3 years. But that was all right, as long as it served the north Brooklyn community and adhered to some part of original direction of organization. Considering the fact that nobody was ever paid, I appreciated that Minor Injury had still managed to survive. But, after I learned what had been going on, this was no longer the case. I was called upon to attend a board meeting last week, and I proposed that the current directors resign, even after the Board agreed that Minor Injury would have to remain in the North Brooklyn community in the form of exhibition/cultural space. I proposed their resignation for the following reasons:

    1. The current directors directly/indirectly caused the present controversy, regardless of how exaggerated or slanderous it may be. It is a fact that Minor Injury lost some (little or significant) support of community artists. Nobody can deny this split and someone caused it. There can be no smoke without fire. Though it may be true that two directors are not entirely responsible for this controversy, there is no doubt that they are largely responsible for this situation. This alone is enough reason that they might consider resignation. I would understand if Minor Injury had some conflict with the existing ethnic community, but I have always taken for granted the entire support of the emerging artists

  • The question of fraudulence aside for the second, an examination into many of your hijinks reveals one coherent trend: that whenever there has been anything involving “art” and “community” you have stepped in, saturated with amateurish narcissistic and hedonistic crap and then projected the crapness of that boring amateurism as “community is a liberal bore”, and then sabotaged those venues. Waterfront Week and Minor Injury are excellent examples that retain evidentiary value not as art but as demonstrations of the illusions of gentrification–that is, Minor Injury and Waterfront Week [and places like El Puente of which you have ZERO familiarity with but you immediately lay down your falsehoods and defamation because, egad, they do “community”] put out excellent work while it was in the hands of “those boring liberals.” Once Minor Injury was morphed over into your “vision,” it became wreckage and corporate vestige. Once Waterfront Week was handed over, by you, to reactionaries from the Community Board, it slid hard into banality and amateurism, even ugliness. You are a testament to how misanthropy, irrespective of your many fantasies about “art,” is also hatred of art.

  • You went too far spewing that slander about El Puente. And what’s truly sad is that you are indeed echoing your peers, all of whom are beneficiaries of public funds and public support, and all of whom have derived their significance not from the substance of their work, but from the surface of the ground that “art” walked on, while deriding these qualities in others.

  • Ethan, that photo is very interesting. Nicely shot. Now that we got the immediate experience to the side, on with the dreaded didactism: Check the mise-en-scene, which perfectly articulates, with perfect irony, the illusions of gentrification: hamster-hipster-macho bravado before the blightness and the abandonment. But what the owner of this photo, you, the most ardent cheerleader for gentrification in Williamsburg, fails to notice, along with gentrification’s myriad reporters and celebrants, is that this is a POLICE CAR abandoned, WITH IDENTIFYING SIGNAGE, under the Williamsburg Bridge. The only entity capable of abandoning a police car with identifying signage is the NYPD. Even when the NYPD auctions off its vehicles, it removes identifying signage on vehicles–it’s illegal to brandish NYPD. A telling anecdote, reversed from the mouth of demonology, of who exactly “abandoned” Williamsburg, and who celebrated that abandonment.