It’s frequently said that the only constant in New York City is change. In few other places does cultural, political, and social change take such a physical form. Not only that, but the relationship between people and their environment in reciprocal. When your local bar or repairman closes shop, it deals a blow to your individual map and impression of New York.
At the conclusion of E.B. White’s famous 1949 essay “Here is New York,” he writes about an old “battered tree, long suffering and much climbed, held together by strands of wire but beloved of those who know it.” To him, it symbolized the city and he thought to himself, “this must be saved, this particular thing, this very tree.” His words still ring painfully true for plenty of modern New Yorkers, but with all the trees gone, they instead fight for the small businesses that made their neighborhoods uniquely theirs.
Not all the stories of demise follow the simple narrative that gentrification usually elicits: that of a greedy landlord threatening small businesses with astronomical rent prices. In some cases, the building owners were actually very sympathetic, but the business was no longer catering to the new demographic in a changing neighborhood. Change is never simple and neither is the change gentrification brings.
This exhibit details the closing of just a few of those businesses beloved by their owners, employees, and neighbors. Some have closed altogether, others have moved, and others still face extinction at the hand of rising rents each day. All of them are being mourned.