Tales of neighborhood gentrification are nothing new in this city, but it's hard to ignore just how high-end the gentrification of once-Bohemian Greenwich Village has made the area.
In a piece entitled "When the Rich Took Over our Neighborhood," over on BillMoyers.com, author Michael Winship points to the recent shuttering of Empire Szechuan on 7th Avenue South after 30 years as just one example of how affordable, mom-and-pop restaurants no longer have a place in the neighborhood, and how high-end boutiques, and the people who shop in them, have taken over. The owner of Empire Szechuan was quoted on Eater as saying his rent went from $5,000 to $25,000.
And just a couple of blocks away from the empty restaurant, two apartments just sold in the controversial high-end condo development at the former site of St. Vincent's hospital. Prices: $16 million and $20 million.
Winship says community services "that make a neighborhood a neighborhood" have been replaced by "expensive housing and other amenities for the rich whose desires are obliterating the very things that made this area an attractive place to live in the first place."
"These new apartments next door to the empty Chinese restaurant are what economists call 'local indicators,' further proof that the one percent would prefer the rest of us to vanish into the woodwork—excuse me, the 'custom wood trim," he writes.
And, Winship adds, it's likely that the empty Empire Szechuan building will remain that way for a while, joining the ranks of many other empty storefronts in the area. He describes it as "a paradoxical phenomenon related to our ongoing gentrification known as 'high-rent blight.' Even though this pestilence can destroy the character and stability of a neighborhood, owners may hold out for months and years in the hope that the space will be sold to build yet more deluxe apartments or that a bank, national chain or top-of-the-line, overpriced boutique will show up to pay top dollar, as so many others already have," he writes.
Winship says the West Village is part of a larger trend in which less and less housing in metropolitan areas across the country is actually affordable.
What would the late Greenwich Village resident and urban activist Jane Jacobs do in the same predicament? "She would look at what’s happening today and first despair, then fight like hell," he writes.