Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Another Blow to NYC Culture

It's been a steady creep of gentrification hitting all corners of NYC, a steady loss of the unique, quirky, and fascinating in exchange for the new, shiny and luxurious. It's a slow, steady movement, like that of glaciers or tectonic plates, but every once in a while a cataclysm erupts and it becomes glaringly obvious what's changed.

Ye Olde Tripple Inn, a dive bar in midtown Manhattan, is closing this week. The building will be torn down to make way for a new condominium development.

I know the Tripple from the show Felber's Frolics, a comedy show run by Susie Felber where I and many of my comedian friends would gather on Saturday nights to take our chances with a volatile crowd. Sometimes the show was the best show you'd see in weeks, sometimes it was the most painful experience in a comic's life, and sometimes that was the same night. Susie, and her brother Adam side-kicking with the crapiola keyboard, were there once a week for years. And before the Frolics other people like Freddie Prinze (sr.) ran shows there.

It was legendary.

The Tripple isn't trendy or fashionable, it has a dartboard and decorations for every holiday hanging from the ceiling year-round, so on paper it seems like an easy transaction. The city loses a dive bar and gains a construction project and real-estate tax revenue. It's the same fate that has befallen legendary rock club CBGB's.

And I'm trying not to sound like one of those bleeding hearts who passed around petitions trying to keep CBGB's open by appealing to the altruism of real estate developers. That'll get you nowhere.

But at some point enough unique cultural character will be lost that the condos won't be worth much to anyone. Manhattan will become a bedroom community for people that work in... Manahattan. People come to New York and say things like "Ooh, there's CB's, the rock club I've heard about." They don't say "Oh look, luxury condos, just like every other freakin' city in the world."

And thanks to the Supreme Court's latest eminent domain ruling, it looks like more will be lost in the name of development.

And just my luck too. I finally get a rent-stabilized joint and the next thing you know it'll get razed to make way for a T.G.I. Friday's.


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