Wandering around New York this weekend, I realized how much the city continues to change. I’m typically a champion of change, but I catch myself worrying about the Big Apple losing its character and, more precisely, its ability to move at the speed of culture.
I stopped by opening weekend at Hudson Yards, the new playground for tourists and the uber-rich. On the surface, it’s exciting to get (even more) hot-button restaurants. And yes, the honeycomb vessel installation is pretty iconic. But is a world-class megamall really going to be the first page of the city’s next chapter?
I had a similar feeling bopping around Williamsburg, where it’s no secret that soaring rents have pushed out residents and businesses alike. Boutiques and local bars are constantly closing while more and more chains fill up the storefronts. Companies with massive funding, ones that can even afford to *take a loss* to score cool points, are the only real candidates for the neighborhood’s next phase.
In my lifetime, no city has displaced New York as the greatest city in the world as the cultural capitol. I mean, we gave birth to rap music, which now accounts for one-third of all music consumption. Throw in Broadway, Madison Ave, the museums, and things like the unmatched diversity of Queens, and you’ve got yourself the clear-cut standard-bearer.
But greed is a real threat. Critiques of housing and fiscal policies that undermine the livelihood of the city’s lifeblood should be taken seriously. The aforementioned storefronts tell the tale: more and more spaces sit empty as landlords try to keep property values high by refusing to make rents affordable.
One smart music business ex-pat wants to seize this arbitrage opportunity and create billboards out of the windows around these empty storefronts. It’s a savvy stopgap for both renter and owner, but it also highlights the acceleration of the class divide in New York.
Enter No Longer Empty, an organization I came across a decade or so ago. What makes NLE such a special outfit is their work focusing on reinvigorating urban spaces through art and education. They offer a touchpoint to the art world at all levels of interest while delivering energizing, site-specific installations in unlikely locations. These range from a shuttered landmark courthouse to a former hospital emergency waiting room to the middle of Times Square itself.
The NLE project that originally drew me in was their takeover of the old Tower Records in Soho. I knocked on the door while walking by and told them I needed to do an event there. I brought Social Media Week in as a partner, Pepsi as a sponsor, and had Questlove as the guest of honor. It was a special evening of music, tech, and art, all under a righteous roof.
No Longer Empty continues to do this important work in other parts of the city, so when I was asked by the NYC power couple Jon and Lexie Kurland to host an NLE event with a mix of friends, colleagues, and associates, I jumped at the chance.
As a member of the host committee, I would love for you to join me for a night filled with art, inspiration, and new connections. The soirée will be held April 3rd at the historic Prince George Ballroom (15 East 27th St.) from 9 pm to 11 pm. A large portion of the ticket price goes directly towards No Longer Empty’s 2019 programming. The evening will honor artist Derek Fordjour, gallerist David Castillo, and Sara Reisman, Executive Director of the Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation.
Tickets are currently available at the early bird rate of $75, though the cost goes up Friday, March 22nd.
I hope you’ll consider supporting this great organization by having a great time!