Tuesday, June 14, 2005

I Forgot I Was a New Yorker

Holy cheesetoast, Batman, I totally forgot I was a New Yorker for a minute. I've written so much about queer issues that I've completely neglected to say anything about the 3 biggest fiascos in recent New York history: the Brooklyn Nets Stadium, the West Side Stadium, and the Olympic bid. Let's just go in order, shall we?

The Brooklyn Nets Stadium

As a Park Slope resident, formerly a Fort Greene and Clinton Hill resident, my stomach absolutely turns at the thought of living so effing close to such a mess. As corny and cliche as it sounds (and it does), I live in Brooklyn, well, truthfully, because I can afford it (although I have lived in Tribeca, but that's another post), but mainly because it isn't Manhattan. People living really close together, the constant traffic, loud drunken posers, rampant classism. It's all just nauseating. And then there's Brooklyn, the county of Kings. Oh sure, it's not Utopia. And it hasn't been without controversy, including gay bashings and racial incidents, but this beats all. So, last year, we hear that developer Bruce Ratner has purchased the New Jersey Nets, and has big plans to bring the team to Brooklyn. On its face, that doesn't seem so bad. A basketball team with winning potential. Beats the Knicks, certainly. Well, further down the road, us mere mortals find out that part of bringing the Nets to the big BK involves building a stadium which would have proverbial arms into several communities: Fort Greene, Prospect Heights, and Park Slope (mainly the northern end). Additionally, thousands would be displaced as ineluctable abuses of eminent domain, AKA "Get the hell out 'cuz you don't deserve to stay; we makin' money, and you blockin da flow" ensue. Already, entire buildings have been purchased, and residents forced out. In one building, a lone holdout (God bless this dude!) refuses to sell.

The West Side Stadium

The Jets somehow broker a deal with the city to build a stadium for the Jets to play in. Oh, and as an afterthought, it would also be a convention center. Like the already-existing Javits Center. Yes, another pro team would play here, and there would be meetings and conventions, exhibits and displays. The big deal is that the plan is to build on land that is currently vacant and pretty much function-free. Oh, and the city would be asked to kick in $300 million. That's 300 million dollars. Teachers who work for New York City public schools have been working without a contract for 2 years, firehouses have closed. Gov. Pataki is pushing for the state to sign on even though the money would probably be better spent on say improving transit, keeping token booths open. Certainly, those who are big on Lower Manhattan say rebuild. And God bless Sheldon Silver, he's the only one with stones big enough to say this is a bad idea.

The Olympics

I don't know of an American city that feels it has fared better after hosting the Olympic Games. Hell, I went to the Gay Games held here back in 1994, and we're talking a similar scale (thousands of athletes, millions of visitors). That event pretty much went broke. Atlanta hosted the Olympics in 1996, and there was a bombing. Los Angeles was too far back for me to remember (1968? I was 2 years old!), but if I recall, under then-governor Ronald Reagan, the city experienced its worst racial conflicts. And, when they came back to L.A. in 1984, it wasn't much better. Anyway, I'm just a fat-ass who'll never make the Gay Games (except in the chorus), much less the Olympics, but it seems to me that a city spends 10 or so years building and improving its infrasturcture for an influx of a few extra million people who spend less than a month in that city, hardly seems worth it to me. Yet, here is Mayor Mike "We've let America down" Bloomberg, pushing like mad to get the Games here. And, whaddya know, someone figures out, at long last, that maybe Queens is the better place. Or, we can even use an already-existing venue!

What Sucks About All Three

The union boys crying "they'll bring jobs to the city" are talking about a tiny amount of permanent jobs, and mainly for, well, union boys. Yes, you need a convention hall electrician to hook up the electricity in your convention booth, but how many of you cats need to be in full-time employ? Or would be, even? Most of these same unionistas are White men, and not residents of New York City. Their payroll tax wouldn't benefit the City, they'd benefit locales as far away as the Poconos (believe me, I've been on commuter buses with these guys; lots of them are willing to take a 3-hour ride one way to come work here). Sure, they'll put out a call for female and minority-owned vendors, but the cats who'll end up working on these monstrocities, both in Brooklyn and Manhattan, aren't the ones who really need a job. Your 4-bedroom, 2 1/2 bathroom, 2-car garage with swimming pool in the back, and his & hers SUVs are proof of that.

The traffic in Midtown is hell. It's cold, stinky hell at Christmas -- have you ever tried to drive down Broadway from 57th street to 28th street during the holiday season? Imagine the same kind of traffic on Brooklyn's Atlantic Avenue, where Saturday morning shoppers at Pathmark, the legit gypsy cabs, the minivan owners who aren't cab drivers, but are hustling rides anyway, and jaywalking pedestrians clamoring to get to Party City so their baby's daddy can pay for Man Man's balloons for his birthday party (the one that will have more adults than children in attendance) or to wretched Chuck E. Cheese for a slice of frozen pizza microwaved to just the right hot cheese stuck to the roof of your mouth second-degree burn temperature, all bring a 4-lane thoroughfare to a screeching, accident-causing halt. Why in hell would you subject 3 communities to that? Oh, silly me. It's all about the Benjamins. 'Cuz really, the stadium, and its thinly veiled public good bullshit is a front for a bunch of luxury high-rise developments that won't benefit anyone except Cleveland-born Bruce Ratner.

And, finally, the Olympics. What a total pantload. I have yet to understand why -- yes, yes, I know, money -- anybody thinks this is a good idea. Olympic marathoners have run the New York City Marathon in November, when it isn't always optimal running temperature. Why would they want to do it in August -- has anyone ever experienced summer in New York? New York streets have this grease slick, rancid garbage smell exacerbated by rats using the street as a toilet, fed to fatness courtesy of rotting refuse in overflowing garbage cans. The heat wafting up from smoldering asphalt is vile. Thousands of tourists create sidewalk bottlenecks as they stop to buy a $20 Louis Vuitton bag (girl, don't try to pass it off as real -- it totally looks fake!). Car fumes, too much perfume, too little perfume. It's ghastly. And how much did New York spend on the Republicans during their convention last year, to have them turn around this year and demand we give back September 11 money?

I knew the end was near when Times Square was sanitized. I knew trouble lay ahead when St. Marks Place was no longer home to tattoo parlors and head shops. Hell, I knew something wicked was this way coming when Dojo, home of the $3 tofu burger with brown rice plate, opened a pretty little outpost near NYU. But, come on people, this stuff just doesn't make sense. Yes, the titty bars, porn theaters, and peep shows were nasty, but Times Square today, with its light-up marquee McDonalds, and endless crap souvenir shops isn't much better. And, at least the porno theaters saw more action than the highly touted New Victory Theater does. The closing of CBGB, the West Village piers being turned into a waterfront park where queer kids of color will no longer be welcomed, are tragic.

There comes a point in every native New Yorker's life where she longs for days of yore. The days of yesteryear where a young lesbian roamed the streets of the Village because that's were the gay people were. The hetero days, spent with an alcoholic freak of a boyfriend in a porno theater on 42nd street with a giant dick on the giant screen plowing a giant pussy while the mice ran across the floor. Walking through Washington Square Park to the chants of "smoke, smoke." I know it all sounds absolutely skanky, but that's what made finding the little sparkling places so cool. Referring to the A train as the Africa Express because it took Black gays & lesbians home to Fort Greene and Clinton Hill, now home to White yuppies and hipsters. I miss those days. Hell, I miss not paying so much for my New York experience.

Maybe it's time for me to find a new New York. Somewhere that isn't New York.

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