The Glittering Ghosts of 20th Century Habitats


{ NYC foto by Serge Semenov, click to enlarge! }

An article from David Byrne about saving NYC – “a vital cultural capital” succumbing to 1% plans + politics – is circulating in the newsfeeds… But someone needs to catch him, perhaps while he’s still floating about in Venice, and tell him New York is already DEAD !

We never really got to understand NYC’s appeal… to us it was always like a testament to Fordism and pyramid schemes, a brutal uninhabitable matrix-user design, which was recently caught in flagrante, and unintentionally, by Sergey Semonov’s fotos from the sky above. We are perhaps a little alien in our perspective, only one of the few who read its negative aspect, its ugly meaning.  Like the skyscraper night above or of central park ( below ), surrounded by the towering shards of densely stacked lives, these could easily be gawked at for their stunning beauty, but also analyzed as evidence of a misguided civilization. ( especially when juxtaposed to his images of Other Exotic landscapes – )


We know this will probably sound like blasphemy to the futuro-heads, the lovers of late-capital money stews, and most of the cultural creatives Byrne is talking to, but LET New York turn into a haunted sterile emptiness, LET creative energies go full exodus, LET’S begin to re-dream, and re-design living for the 21st century. LET 1000 new ‘architectures’ bloom … elsewhere! … Paolo Soleri comes to mind, but sure there’s plenty of fresher examples… ( we’ll come back to that ) .

New York’s a DEAD CITY ! … An old 20th century concept of living that is simply OVER ! …

[ Any new visions and radical energies invested there will probably be continuously landing on the Monopoly Board ( sprouting 'Red Hotels' ) long-controlled by the city's elite, the landlords, the bankers... for as long as the corporatocracy survives. ]

And here’s a small anecdotal tale to belabor the point…

One trip to NYC back in pre-Guliani days, we made a little pilgrimage to Edgar Poe’s old cottage – a museum – in the Bronx, walking past seemingly endless miles of hellish tenements, endless concrete, and nearly empty streets ( Everyone else was wisely hiding from the sun that day). One image stuck in our minds as the epitome of the lesser-known NYC… ( at least to outsiders ).

A shabby, ghostly pet shop window in the full blistering heat of August. A sole lizard in a barren aquarium was franticly digging to hide in some shade of the earth… But there was no dirt, no sand, nothing… the midday sun was jabbing its rays at this little cooking-alive item-for-sale. And it just kept scratching at that glass bottom, panicked, desperate with no real place to go …

What percent of NYC inhabitants live/d like that lizard ?… In all those baking shit-hole labor camps that built the loft(y) bubbles + towers of power for the 1% … and even one for David Byrne too. We like Byrne, his article makes a stab at challenging these things which are truly fucked. And he’s not an artist whose abandoned his civic duties. But this just comes across as a little dreamy nostalgic and whiny Op-ed for artyfarts ! It’s certainly no call for radical liberation !

Back in the Bronx, Poe’s old house, was lifted from its original plot, and placed into a TINY square green-ish patch of a park, surrounded by all these rows and rows and woes of tenement-era container-stacked lives.

An appropriate place for the museum of The man who begat the genre of literary nightmares.

Inside was a painting of the cottage as it once stood in a quaint meadow, and a rising monster Manhattan that would dig its financial fangs into the world for 100+ years, was far off in the distance.

It’s Time to move away from those 20th Century traps, those old industrial grids … those vicious un-habitats.

Mr. Byrne, the old haunt of empire is already a fully-exhausted, fully-spent 1% fantasy. New York is no longer the place to be to create another possible world !


{ C0-op City Housing, The Bronx. completed in 1973. }


{ sleeping on the fire-escape, to escape the summer heat of the concrete jungle… 1940s }

Some afterthoughts:

A friend of ours wrote: “First they came for New York City, then Berlin, but when they came for my town (etc.)”

Sure, Byrne’s article is directing some necessary energy towards defending the hood ( though probably in a capitalist reformist sort of way )  and we aren’t suggesting to anyone who already resides there not to take that on. But anyone considering moving to NYC should either have that struggle in mind OR consider the future of sustainable living in new territory, new environments. Places where radical new concepts for the future have room – and soil – ( and less corrupted infrastructures ) to take shape. But of course We also stand with all our sister-city neighbors globally who plan to scale back against the 1% agendas in the metropolis scenarios !

Btw, no one thought about reforming the 3rd Reich ! ;)

Another friend sent this rather nice and admirable clip of David Byrne’s love for bicycles… but for those who still aren’t getting our bigger point…

” Gee, we wish they had put more bike lanes on Unter den Linden in 1942.” XLt historian


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