East Village Blogosphere Polluted
I don’t live in the East Village, but I’d like to. That’s what drew me to East Village blogs. It’s strangely comforting to see something odd on Second Avenue and then read about it in a blog post an hour later. Blogs can be effective neighborhood tools, creating a soapbox upon which any neighbor can stand. The catch is that it occurs without actual human interaction. Despite the good things that occasionally come of them, these blogs can be extremely alienating.
When I discovered the East Village’s local blog scene, I felt like I’d struck gold. I’ve always been interested in the neighborhood’s cultural past, so this was an opportunity for some inside scoop from folks who could tap into an earlier era. Their posts frequently center around an East Village that’s as old as or older than most students are when they arrive in the city for college — a neighborhood that we can only get a sense of from the few landmarks that remain today. I felt like the bloggers had an opportunity to act as gurus — gatekeepers for the younger generation who encourage community instead of marginalization and generalization. I suppose they accomplish this indirectly, but they often give me the impression that each “Die Yuppie Scum” T-shirt ever worn is directed at me.
Admittedly, I enjoy browsing archived photographs of local characters on Neither More Nor Less reading EV Grieve’s sarcastic commentary on Village minutiae, and learning about forgotten relics on Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York. Usually these guys are just the right kind of grumpy. Jeremiah’s site is subtitled “a.k.a. The Book of Lamentations: a bitterly nostalgic look at a city in the process of going extinct,” but it can sometimes be over the top. Whether they are native New Yorkers or people who lucked into rent controlled apartments decades ago is hard to tell, but they frequently adopt a “voice of the people” moniker.
Around the time The Local East Village, a NYU based New York Times blog, launched, I noticed how negativity quickly seeped into the neighborhood blogosphere. The original blogs took the helm as leaders in the New vs. Old war with added gusto. The arguments became reminiscent of the hipster sentiment many love to hate, with the “indie” blogs posing as more authentic than their mainstream, corporate sponsored opposition. One post on EV Grieve from February read, “After helping ruin the East Village, NYU turns its attention to covering it.”
EV Grieve later acknowledged that the feud was over-hyped. They jokingly referred to themselves (via a quote from Jeremiah’s Vanishing NY) as the “EV Blog Mafia,” which was quickly picked up by Business Insider and the New York Observer. While these bloggers seem like genuine people who aren’t afraid to make tongue-in-cheek swipes at New York transplants, it seems like they’ve formed a club that excludes anyone born after a certain year, in a certain zip code or within a certain income bracket. Posts framed as either objective reporting or as outright accusatory "jokes" don't soften the snide underlying sentiment.
Throughout these blogs, there’s a recurring link between NYU, bars, binge drinking, partying and young people. These things are inseparable to them, and are the brunt of most of their assaults. For me, it includes an embedded stereotype that I struggle with quite often in this city, from proving my individuality to my native-Brooklyn coworkers, to enduring comments from a homeless man who demoted me to “NYU boy” when I didn’t give him change.
There’s no merit in endlessly regurgitating this kind of dialogue. I don’t feel represented by the binge-drinking hordes that hijack Lower Manhattan every weekend, and I certainly don’t feel shame in being new here, but I have no desire to enter a digital shouting match about it. It’s aggravating how some young people in the East Village and Lower East Side continue to disregard the neighborhood’s past and give ammunition to those who would prefer that we disappear, but that’s too large of an issue to actually tackle. My take is to enjoy what these blogs have to offer and avoid slipping into rhetoric that is as pointless as it is un-New York.