For those who missed it, take a look at "Is New York 'Over'?" - Part One.”
It often seems to me that the typical New Yorker is never satisfied. No matter how well off they have it, and despite living in what is (to me at least) the greatest city in the world, their complaints are legion. One of the ways this perpetual dissatisfaction manifests itself is via the ever-changing state of the neighborhoods residents live in or once lived in. The long-ago metamorphosis of SoHo is one prime example. The typical scenario goes something like this:
Young urbanite finds that s/he is priced out of a "desirable" area of Manhattan - or later, even Manhattan itself.
A few brave souls, often artists, decide to explore "uncharted territory." Many decades ago, artists began moving into formerly industrial areas such as SoHo to avail themselves of still cheap and generous amounts of space. The area was dark and unwelcoming, with virtually no residential amenities.
After the artists had given it their stamp of approval, others became drawn to the now-hip ambiance of the area. Soon SoHo became a mecca of the new arts scene, and restaurants and bars sprung up to accommodate the residents and myriad tourists who came to visit what had become a charming enclave of converted loft spaces and world-class galleries.
The beginning of the end of the SoHo “scene” commenced when its main drag, West Broadway, became clogged with retail outlets. My friend D used to say everything on West Broadway was a "gallery" — a clothing gallery, a shoe gallery, a jewelry gallery.
Eventually the area became too expensive for all but the most successful artists, and the more monied non-artists who could afford to bask in their reflected glory. The main art scene and the biggest storefront galleries such as Mary Boone moved from SoHo to Chelsea, and other struggling artists looked elsewhere for sufficient space in which to live and work.
My boyfriend BG, who first came to the city in the summer of '69, often reminisces about how accessible and affordable Manhattan used to be. After returning from his periodic "sabbaticals" at his brother's or parent's places in Louisiana or Wisconsin, he could get off the bus and within an hour or so be set up in a cheap hotel. The per-day rate at the Bowery flophouse BG used to frequent when he was too poor to get an apartment is now too steep for him to ever return to.
The Bowery has been renovated and now harbors, in part, tourists who are looking for cheap accommodations, since a typical Manhattan hotel can run into hundreds a day. Down the block, the legendary club CBGB has closed its doors for good. Pricey bars and restaurants now abound, and a new museum is scheduled to be erected here.