Oh, the Schadenfreude the current recession affords us!
Via Cajun Boy at Gawker comes notice of this New York Magazine article detailing the tremendous reversal of fortune afflicting Williamsburg, Brooklyn, long an enclave of tragically hip Gen-Y’ers.
Finding themselves suddenly fundless or jobless, hipsters have been beating a retreat out the neighborhood just as it was poised to tap jiggawatts of gentifying mojo. Now, many old buildings stand empty and many new ones unfinished, all victims of the housing-market equivalent of coitus interruptus that has frustrated the neighborhood’s priapic developers. Article author David Amsden depicts the desolation following the hipster exodus:
Walk down virtually any block and you’ll come across an amenity-laden building that sits nearly empty: relics of a moment in history that seems, increasingly, like a fever dream.
Dreams febrile or otherwise bump up against the harsh reality of paying the bills. Stakeholders find themselves resorting to measures which typically augur a neighborhood’s downmarket turn. “Some developers with iffy financing have quietly been forced to go rental,” Amsden continues, “others have lowered prices to the point where losses are inevitable, and a handful of projects … have gone into foreclosure.”
Many parts of Williamsburg were never invited to the party, it seems, the sleek high-rise condos festooning adjacent blocks remaining for them just so many castles in the air:
[Some] developers … seem to have vanished, leaving behind so many vacant lots and half-completed buildings — eighteen, to be precise, more than can be found in all of the Bronx — that large swaths of the neighborhood have come to resemble a city after an air raid.
The elegaic tones of Amsden’s piece meet with crocodile tears from Cajun Boy, who can barely contain his delight in “Billyburg’s” demise. “Oh pity the poor denizens of Williamsburg,” he apostrophizes:
The erosion of hipster trust funds is leading their greasy little utopia to slowly devolve into some sort of Mad Max-esque, post-apocalyptic real estate wasteland, just like Miami!
We at Generation Bubble understand how one could look upon Williamsburg’s transition from pleasure dome to Thunderdome with approval — glee, even. It certainly offers yet one more depressing glimpse of the destruction wrought by real-estate speculation’s deadweight hopscotch. The fox who sees the grapes he deemed sour actually turn so cannot help but gloat.
In Billyburg, however, it’s not so much sour grapes as grapes of wrath that are the order of the day, as hipsters hightail it out of the borough like so many latter-day Joads. Sadly, Steinbeck’s California no longer beckons, its waving grain and musky grapes now themselves but figments of a fever dream — or, worse, collateral for IOUs.
When James Baldwin wrote The Fire Next Time, did he mean an inferno or finance, insurance and real estate? Perhaps it doesn’t matter; either option leads to immolation.