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Urban  Landscapes  in  America  •  Winter  Round  Table  •  November  16,  2007

Creativity  and  the  New  Colonialism   Changes  a-­‐Comin’   If  you  drive  down  Evans  Avenue  in  San  Francisco,  past  Third  Street  and  what  most  city   dwellers  consider  the  “edge  of  town,”     (continue  as  the  street  becomes  Hunters  Point  Blvd,     pass  the  defunct  power  plant,    pass  the  housing  projects,     pass  BeBe’s  market,  where  the  locals  are  throwing  dice,   merge  onto  Innes  Avenue,   face  the  abandoned  navel  shipyard)   You  will  see  a  strange  sight:  the  severed  head  of  a  giant  fiberglass  horse,  speared  on  a  pole,   watching.  Several  yards  away,  guarding  a  broken  bench  where  the  19  bus  stops  with  only  a   tangential  regard  for  the  published  schedule,  is  the  horse’s  decapitated  body.  This  is   Headless  Point,  home  of  artists  Dan  Das  Mann  and  Karen  Cusolito.  Das  Mann  set  up  shop   here  over  a  decade  ago,  eventually  making  it  his  home  as  well.  Within  a  few  years,  he  had   successfully  started  his  own  company  out  of  the  space,  selling  custom-­‐made  metal  work   locally,  and  shipping  it  nationally.  He  had  a  number  of  full-­‐time  employees,  and  the  spot   become  a  hub  for  the  local  art  scene.   Das  Mann  then  expanded,  helping  establish  a   second  fabrication  space  just  down  the  street   from  Headless  Point.  The  Box  Shop  is  a   whimsical,  almost  Dr.  Suessian  compound  of   artists  working  out  of  a  multicolored  maze  of   stacked  recycled  shipping  containers.  Members   of  the  impromptu  community  produce   everything  from  decorative  scrollwork  to  large-­‐ scale  art  installations  that  have  appeared   around  the  city.  But  the  city  isn’t  always   supportive  of  the  creative  initiatives  that  grow   out  of  these  spaces:  over  the  summer,  Das   Mann  was  bullied  into  renting  a  full-­‐sized  crane   so  that  he  could  move  several  tons  of  art  and   equipment  –  stored  well  within  the  borders  of   his  property  at  Headless  Point  –  seven  feet  to   the  left.  This  was  to  make  way  for  renovations   to  the  adjacent  building,  the  shell  of  a  former   restaurant  burnt  out  by  a  fire  that  had  once   engulfed  both  properties.  The  new  prospective   tenant?  Starbucks.  

Aflame:  In  2004,  Headless  Point  caught  fire,   along  with  its  neighbor,  the  newly  opened   independent  Café  Lola.

  ©  Emily  Appelbaum  2007  •  emily.appelbaum@yale.edu  


Urban  Landscapes  in  America  •  Winter  Round  Table  •  November  16,  2007

Though  gritty  by  some  standards,  the  Box   Shop’s  affordable  rent  and  shared  space   provides  a  low  barrier  to  entry  for  artists  and   craftspeople  making  all  kinds  of  products.  At   night,  the  space  serves  an  additional  social   function,  all  while  integrating  well  into  the   existing  neighborhood.

Just  down  the  street,  a  much  larger  project  is   being  redeveloped,  headed  by  Lennar,  a   transnational  corporation  operating  under  the   slogan  “Everything  You  Want.”  The   catchphrase,  and  the  trendy  new  neighborhood   it  promises,  already  has  trucks  heading  to  and   from  the  Lennar  site  from  eight  in  the  morning,   well  into  the  night.    Hunters  Point,  an  area   already  affected  by  high  rates  of  asthma  and   lung  disease  (as  well  as  cancer  and  other  legacies   of  its  nuclear  waste-­‐site  origins)  is  now  covered   in  a  thick  layer  of  dust.  Cusolito  and  Das  Mann  no   longer  work  adjacent  to  their  home;  they  now   rent  space  in  a  40,000  square  foot  industrial   warehouse  in  West  Oakland.  Their  workspace,   though  larger,  is  sandwiched  between  a   commercial  metal  shop  and  a  composite  solid-­‐ surface  fabricator.  Even  so,  they’re  considering   renting  several  additional  bays  in  the   warehouse,  currently  used  as  garages  for  a  bus   line,  to  sublet  to  other  displaced  artists.  Because   their  numbers  are  growing.    

Karen  and  Dan  hate  the  bus  fumes,  the   fabrication  noise,  and  especially  the  daily   commute.  But  changes  are  coming  to  Hunters   Point.  “To  be  honest,”  Karen  says,  when  asked   about  her  concerns  for  the  future  of  her  home,   The  Lennar  Corporation  is  focused  on  macro-­‐ “I  don’t  even  know  how  much  longer  until  we’re   level  redevelopment  anchored  by  large-­‐scale   projects,  such  as  a  new  football  stadium  for  the   going  to  be  forced  from  here.”   San  Francisco  ‘49ers

The  New  Colonialism  

In  Cannibal  Culture:  Art,  Appropriation  and  the  Commodification  of  Difference,  Deborah   Root  describes  the  way  in  which  Western  culture  co-­‐opts  and  commodifies  “native”   tradition.  In  her  book,  Root  describes  a  system  of  cultural  consumption,  where   “appropriation  occurs  because  cultural  difference  can  be  bought  and  sold  in  the   marketplace.”1  At  a  time  when  Eastern  religions  are  tried  on  and  dropped  like  clothing  in  a   store,  sacred  symbols  turn  up  screen-­‐printed  on  tee-­‐shirts  and  dangling  from  necklaces,  and   there  are  travel  agencies  dedicated  specifically  to  tourism  of  indigenous  cultures,  Root  

1 Deborah Root. Cannibal Culture: Art, Appropriation, and the Commodlfication of Difference. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1996. 68.

  ©  Emily  Appelbaum  2007  •  emily.appelbaum@yale.edu  


Urban  Landscapes  in  America  •  Winter  Round  Table  •  November  16,  2007 expresses  contempt  for  a  society  where  cultural  heritage  and  ideology  can  be  picked  up,   willy-­‐nilly,  and  adopted.       Root  has  isolated  a  (perhaps  the)  key  characteristic  of  modern  American  culture  —  the   omnipresence  of  the  consumer  market,  and  its  ability  to  sweep  up  and  assimilate  even  the   most  distinct  and  innate  facets  of  life.  She  situates  this  mechanism  –  its  ubiquity  serving  as   the  foundation  for  commentaries  like  Guy  Debord’s  Society  of  the  Spectacle2  –  within  the   context  of  colonial  expansion.  Her  critique  of  the  process  whereby  we  establish  a   connection  to  an  idealized  ‘authentic’  or  ‘organic’  culture  fits  in  neatly  with  the  postcolonial   critical  approach,  as  popularized  by  Edward  Said’s  notion  of  the  ‘other’  in  his  foundational   Orientalism,  while  ipso  facto  challenging  a  term  that  implies  that  the  problem  of  colonialism   has  somehow  been  solved,  and  all  that  remains  is  an  analysis  of  the  after-­‐effects.  That  this   is  a  misconception  is  undoubtedly  illustrated  by  the  continuing  appropriation  of  culture,  not   only  where  a  legacy  of  colonialism  still  exists,  but  where  culture  is  being  digested,   repackaged,  and  dispensed,  for  profit,  within  our  own  cities.  The  new  ‘other’  being   processed  for  popular  ingestion  is  the  indigenous  culture  that  erupts  spontaneously  from   the  margins  of  our  own  mainstream  society  —  be  it  minority  culture,  youth  culture,  urban   culture,  queer  culture,  or  counter-­‐culture  in  any  other  form.  And  just  as  the  colonial   phenomenon  that  Root  describes  begins  with  physical  conquest  and  extends  to  the   appropriation  of  ideas  and  customs,  so  too  does  the  parallel  process  that  starts  with  the   battle  for  land  in  places  like  Hunters  Point.     Gentrification,  Redevelopment,  and  the  Changing  US  City   Neil  Smith  begins  his  book  The  New  Urban  Frontier:  Gentrification  and  the  Revanchist  City,   with  an  allusion  to  Fredrick  Jackson  Turner’s  classic  description  of  American  expansion  into   the  untamed  West.  Turner  argued  that  the  frontier  was  crucial  in  developing  our  national   consciousness  and  remains  integral  to  our  character;  this  national  pastime  of  conquest  now   manifests  itself  on  the  urban  front.  Through  this  allusion,  Smith  suggests  that  the  process  of   gentrification  —  the  phenomenon  by  which  low  income,  economically  and  physically   depressed  areas  undergo  a  ‘revitalization’  that  generally  results  in  repopulation  by   wealthier  classes  –  parallels  the  settlement  of  native  land.3  Masquerading  under  names  like   urban  renewal  or  rehabilitation,  the  forces  that  lead  to  social  displacement  are  widely   accepted  in  the  name  of  progress,  with  urban  developers  making  tidy  analogs  to  early   American  land  speculators  in  their  assumptions  about  the  civilizations  (or  perceived  lack   thereof)  that  they  overrun.       Urban  redevelopment  is  as  much  an  indicator  of  its  historical  climate  as  expansionism  had   been  in  colonial  America.  Scholars  such  as  Sharon  Zukin  and  John  Hannigan  have  placed   changing  patterns  of  urban  development  within  a  framework  that  identifies  a  shift  in  the   primary  economic  mode  of  cities,  from  industrial  manufacturing  to  the  production  of  ideas.     2 The first thesis of which is, “All that was once directly lived has become mere representation.” Guy Debord. The Society of the Spectacle, Trans. Donald Nicholson-Smith, New York: Zone Books. 1967. 3 Neil Smith. The New Urban Frontier: Gentrification and the Revanchist City. London: Routledge. 1996.

  ©  Emily  Appelbaum  2007  •  emily.appelbaum@yale.edu  


Urban  Landscapes  in  America  •  Winter  Round  Table  •  November  16,  2007

The  Florida-­‐based  international  Lennar   Corporation  has  been  a  presence  in  the  Bay   Area  for  the  past  decade,  nestling  into  the   abandoned  naval  bases  which  had  previously   provided,  amid  the  dust  and  traces  of   nuclear  toxins,  affordable  rents  for  the  city’s   low-­‐income  families  and  especially,  artists.       The  project  proposed  in  Hunters   Point  includes  plans  for  a  variety  of  housing   options,  including  market  rate,  reduced  cost,   luxury  and  “green.”    But  the  corporation’s   plans  for  this  771  acre  project  involve  the   demolition  of  1,500  already  existing  below-­‐ cost  residences.    The  project  will  provide   approximately  8,500  new  housing  options,   and  while  the  literature  presented  by  Lennar   continually  references  a  “robust  affordable   housing  program,”  it  neither  elaborates  on   this  program  nor  denotes  a  specific   percentage  of  the  housing  which  will  be   dedicated  to  low-­‐income  residents.   (www.sfredevelopment.org)     Even  more  importantly,  however,   the  development’s  proximity  threatens   hundreds  of  additional  units  of  affordable   housing  not  directly  slated  for  demolition,   which  already  stand  under  the  watchful  eye   of  advancing  rows  of  new  waterfront   condos.  While  this  real  estate  never  would   have  been  considered  desirable  pre-­‐Lennar,   the  government  is  finally  sponsoring  efforts   to  purge  the  area  of  bio-­‐toxins  left  over  from   decontamination  experiments  conducted  at   the  shipyard  following  the  navy’s  nuclear   testing  in  the  Marshall  Islands.  This   movement  will  advance  in  step  with  the   Lennar  development,  now  that  huge  housing   revenues  seem  likely.    The  existing  residents   of ��the  area  will  likely  be  evicted  or  forced  to   leave  with  the  rising  rents  of  gentrification.  .   .  of  course,  not  before  they  have  contracted   the  area’s  typically  higher  rates  of  asthma,   cancer,  and  other  maladies.  (Since  2001,   Bayview-­‐Hunters  Point  has  had  the  highest   incidence  of  breast  cancer,  for  women  over   40,  of  any  city  in  the  United  States.)    

Old  city  centers  have  lost  their  middle  class  to  the   suburbs,  and  their  manufacturing  to  the  strengthening   jaws  of  globalization  and  labor  outsourcing.   Meanwhile,  the  technology  boom  of  the  past  few   decades  has  injected  cities  with  a  growing  number  of   educated  young  professionals.  The  oft-­‐cited  example   of  this  phenomenon  is  the  1990s  Silicon  Valley   explosion  into  San  Francisco’s  economy  and  housing   market.  The  resulting  mix  of  degraded  inner  city  and   upwardly  mobile  elite  provided  the  perfect  stage  for   widespread  urban  renewal  projects  catering  to  the   influx.  As  San  Francisco,  and  cities  in  general,  became   geared  toward  more  high-­‐tech  businesses,  developers   shifted  away  from  the  traditional,  production-­‐focused   models  for  urban  planning,  and  sought  out  means  of   catering  to  the  new  “economy  of  ideas.”   Culture  as  a  driving  force   If  the  sign  of  a  modern  economy  is  an  emphasis  on   cognitive,  rather  than  physical  production,  theorist   Richard  Florida  has  pinpointed  this  economy’s   currency.  Florida  describes  how  human  creativity  has   replaced  raw  material  as  the  new  capital  and  driving   force  of  production.  He  identifies  a  new  sector  of  the   population:  those  engaged  in  what  he  deems  to  be   creative  work  —  which  can  include  everyone  from   artists  to  engineers.  Whereas  the  blue-­‐collar  working   class  provided  most  of  the  labor  force  for  the   American-­‐city-­‐as-­‐industrial-­‐center,  it  is  this  creative   class  that  is  employed  in  the  new  technological   economy  of  cities  today.  These  highly  innovative   workers,  Florida  proposes,  come  to  cities  because  of  a   ‘bohemian  effect,’  by  which  entrepreneurs  and   creative  professionals  follow  in  the  wake  of  a  more   eccentric  creative  core.  By  rating  economically  thriving   and  culturally  diverse  American  cities  like  San  Francisco   and  New  York  on  a  series  of  scales  such  as  the  ‘Gay   Index’  and  the  ‘Bohemian  Index,’  Florida  demonstrates   the  link  between  marginal  or  ‘organic’  culture,  and   information-­‐age  economic  success.    “All  of  these  places   were  open,  diverse,  and  culturally  creative  first.  Then   they  became  technologically  creative  and  subsequently     ©  Emily  Appelbaum  2007  •  emily.appelbaum@yale.edu  


Urban  Landscapes  in  America  •  Winter  Round  Table  •  November  16,  2007 gave  rise  to  new  high-­‐tech  firms  and  industries.”  4    Florida  thus  seeks  to  provide  everyone   from  politicians  to  developers  with  the  perfect  formula  for  progress  in  the  face  of  the   changing  American  city.       As  the  idea  of  a  culture-­‐driven  urban  renaissance  gains  momentum,  investment  into  the   arts  is  adopted  as  the  new  dogma  of  development.  Armed  with  a  new  strategy  for   transforming  ‘empty’  urban  space  into  valuable  real  estate,  which  will  in  turn  generate  new   business  for  the  city,  Florida  and  his  proponents  need  only  look  for  viable  property  to   transform  –  low-­‐value  land  home  to  low-­‐income,  often-­‐minority  populations  who  do  not   have  the  resources  or  political  will  to  resist  invasion.  Often,  developers  of  such  vulnerable   neighborhoods  have  the  raw  materials  needed  to  peddle  their  cultural  revolution   immediately  at  their  disposal,  because  many  decaying  neighborhoods  in  ‘need’  of   revitalization  already  provide  the  unique  ecosystem  of  low  rent  and  adaptable  space  that   artists  seek.  While  such  an  ecosystem  may  allow  for  the  stable  co-­‐existence  of  low-­‐income   minorities  and  artists  (who  are  often  described  as  low-­‐income-­‐by-­‐choice),  the  balance  is   instantly  upset  by  the  prospect  of  development,  the  raw  materials  of  which  now  include  not   just  the  land,  but  the  artistic  ambiance  as  well.   For  the  urban  conquistadors  who  stand  benefit  to  from  colonizing  the  landscape  in  this   manner,  economic  success  may  seem  like  a  sure  thing  —  new  units  are  built,  rents  paid,   jobs  created.  But  if  the  profit-­‐driven  call  to  manifest  destiny,  not  only  in  America  but  around   the  globe,  serves  as  an  reminder,  the  impulse  to  colonize  and  profit  does  not  always  yield   the  intended  result.  The  externalized  costs  of  dominating,  extracting,  and  commodifying  are   slowly  revealed:  costs  to  the  environment,  to  the  continued  productivity  of  the  region,  and,   of  course,  to  the  exploited  population  indigenous  to  the  area.  In  the  same  way,  the  push  for   high-­‐end  redevelopment  can  spin  out,  squandering  resources  before  their  importance  is   realized,  and  destroying  delicate  systems  whose  full  value  may  never  be  known.     Where’s  the  Beef?   In  this  culture-­‐driven  model  of  redevelopment,  artists  and  bohemians  take  on  a  unique  role:   they  can  be  seen  as  the  inadvertent  catalysts  of  gentrification,  but  are  usually  its  victims,  as   well.  While  gentrification  can  play  out  in  many  forms  and  have  a  variety  of  causes,  one   scenario  relevant  to  the  “creative  city”  discourse  occurs  when  artists  flock  to  decaying  low-­‐ income  areas  in  search  of  cheap  rents  as  well  as  the  freedom  to  pursue  alternative   lifestyles.  The  area  may  previously  have  been  seen  as  undesirable  and  its  socio-­‐ economically  disadvantaged  inhabitants  ignored,  but  the  cultural  influx  draws  attention  to   the  district,  with  artists  acting  as  a  mitigating  presence.  Redevelopment  ensues,  real-­‐estate   prices  shoot  up,  and  suddenly,  not  only  can’t  the  working-­‐class  residents  afford  their  rent,   the  artists  can’t  either.  Shepherded  by  driving  economic  forces,  they  are  forced  to  resettle   —  but  that’s  not  a  bad  thing,  for  they  must  choose  another  low-­‐income  area  where,  lucky   for  developers,  they  will  begin  this  profitable  and  efficient  process  anew.   4 Richard Florida. The Rise of the Creative Class: And How It’s Transforming Work, Leisure, Community and Everyday Life. New York: Basic Books, 2002. 207.

  ©  Emily  Appelbaum  2007  •  emily.appelbaum@yale.edu  


Urban  Landscapes  in  America  •  Winter  Round  Table  •  November  16,  2007 They  have  become  more  than  the  avant-­‐garde  (pun  intended);  they  have  become  more   than  even  a  selling  point.  The  have  become,  like  ore  or  timber,  the  raw  resources  needed  to   produce  a  material  good.  And  while  those  who  embrace  the  bohemian  lifestyle  might  be   unaware  of  their  role  in  the  process,  with  its  often-­‐disastrous  impacts  on  the  surrounding   neighborhood,  there  is  nothing  unintentional  or  involuntary  about  the  participation  of  the   speculators  seeking  to  corral  their  value.   One  only  need  turn  on  the  TV  or  venture  into  a  Big  Box  Store  to  see  the  marketability  of   counter-­‐culture.  Skateboarders,  for  decades,  were  considered  the  scourge  of  a  city  —  no-­‐ good  hoodlums  synonymous  with  crime  and  destruction  of  public  property,  who  were  rude   and  dreadful  to  behold,  to  boot.  Now,  they  are  endorsed  and  paid  to  endorse  —  everything   from  Mountain  Dew  to  athletic  apparel.  Once  banned  from  Philadelphia’s  LOVE  Park,  they   are  now  treasured  as  a  defining  feature  of  the  city.5  Likewise,  graffiti  and  guerilla  muraling   now  enjoy  the  status  of  celebrated  art  form.  Beat-­‐boxing,  break-­‐dancing,  low-­‐riding  and  rap   are  all  the  legacy  of  urban  bohemian  counter-­‐culture,  all  of  which  now  carry  huge  market   potential.  Every  trendy,  bankable  New-­‐Urbanist  mixed-­‐use  development  is  promoted   through  some  combination  of  vibrant  streetscapes,  live-­‐work  studios,  lofts,  boutiques,  and   artsy  little  cafes  –  all  good  things  in  their  own  right.  The  catch  is,  these  projects  are  so  often   constructed  by  mega-­‐developers  courting  monolithic  chain  corporations  posing  as  their   idiosyncratic  predecessors.  And  they  don’t  always  function  in  the  same  way.  The  very  idea   of  Starbucks  is  modeled  after  the  small,  mom-­‐and-­‐pop  neighborhood  café,  and  yet,  it  is  the   largest  coffeehouse  company  in  the  world.     The  organic  street  culture  provided  by  artists  is  prized  by  developers  looking  to  locate   projects  near  unique  assets,  or  simply  to  copy  these  forms  entirely  and  distribute  them  to  a   wider  market.  In  this  process,  artists  and  other  bohemians  become  domesticated,  like  herds   of  buffalo  or  cattle,  followed  by  man  across  the  great  American  plains.  So  here  is  the  crucial   question:  will  it  be  buffalo,  utilized  in  a  sustainable  loop  for  generations  by  the  indigenous   people  of  America?    Or  will  it  be  the  cattle,  who  followed  after  the  wholesale  slaughter  of   the  buffalo  and  destruction  of  the  delicate  ecosystems  they  helped  maintain,  who  can  no   longer  graze  the  plains,  but  rather,  eat  the  corn  grown  artificially  on  that  same  soil  from   endless  concrete  boxes  perched  above  manure  swamps,  underneath  the  buzzing  glare  of   fluorescent  lights?   The  analogy  may  seem  dramatic,  but  it’s  an  appropriate  reminder.  The  process  of  co-­‐opting   and  marketing  bohemian  culture  is  more  than  simply  unfair  to  those  who  produce  it,  and   from  whom  it  is  requisitioned.  Rather  than  building  healthy  urban  ecosystems  that  will   continue  to  enrich  and  reinvent  themselves  indefinitely  (by  allowing  the  forces  of  creativity   to  stay  integrated  in  the  landscape),  this  “instant  culture”  method  of  development  is  like   clear-­‐cutting  a  forest  or  hunting  a  population  to  extinction.  It  is  superficial  and   unsustainable,  as  it  undermines  those  it  depends  on.    Furthermore,  driven  by  money  and   5 Ocean Howell. “The Creative Class and the Gentrifying City: Skateboarding in Philadelphia’s Love Park.” Journal of Architectural Education, Vol. 55, No. 2, 2005. 32-42.

  ©  Emily  Appelbaum  2007  •  emily.appelbaum@yale.edu  


Urban  Landscapes  in  America  •  Winter  Round  Table  •  November  16,  2007 market  to  its  logical  ends,  this  cultural  consumption  contributes  to  the  very  same   placelessness,  lack  of  authenticity,  and  stagnation  that  it  seeks  to  remedy.         Better  than  a  Clean  Slate?   For  Dan  Das  Mann  and  Karen  Cusolito,  there  is  only  so  much  time  before  they,  and  many   other  artists,  are  buffed  out  of  Hunters  Point  leaving  a  shiny,  new  slate.  Not  clean.  No  —   better.  Reclaimed.  That’s  right.  Old  is  the  new  New.    For  now,  it’s  alright:  there  is  still  the   warehouse  in  West  Oakland.  But  Oakland  is  for  Hunters  Point  what  Hunters  Point  used  to   be  for  the  rest  of  San  Francisco:  the  Wild,  Wild,  West.  Now,  even  East  Bay  real  estate  prices   are  jumping,  and  Headless  Point  East,  as  Das  Mann  calls  it,  along  with  a  number  of  other   revamped  industrial  spaces,  is  in  danger.  Where  artists  dare  to  create  beauty,  there  is  a   consumer,  surely,  eager  to  buy.  Developers  are  eager  to  use  artists  as  the  engines  to  repaint   entire  cities  as  their  canvas.  Indeed,  were  are  long  past  the  stage  where  entire  cities  can  be   commodified.  San  Francisco,  with  its  Haight-­‐Ashbury  district,  has  been  billed  as  the  hip   place  to  be  since  the  ‘60s.  The  same  is  true  of  Berkeley  to  the  east  and  Santa  Cruz  to  the   south.  Even  a  nerdy  Ivy-­‐league  East  Coaster  like  me  can  gain  a  degree  of  street  cred,  a  cool   seal  of  approval  from  people  I  meet,  when  I  tell  them  I’ve  lived  in  those  areas.  I  get  asked  if  I   surf,  if  I  skateboard,  if  I  sell  pot,  and  if  I  want  to  hang  out  from  people  I  don’t  even  know.     I  get  asked  a  lot  what  it’s  like  to  have  lived  in  a  place  as  happening  as  San  Francisco.  And   when  I  tell  them  —  I’ve  been  a  resident  of  both  Headless  Point  and  the  Box  Shop  —  about   Hunters  Point,  I  also  get  this:   “You  live  in  Hunters  Point?  The  HP?  Man,  aren’t  you  scared?  Isn’t  that,  like,  the  hood?”  And   sadly,  the  truth  is,  it’s  not.     Not  that  I’ve  ever  been  particularly  afraid,  even  in  the  neighborhood’s  poorest  district.  The   characteristics  that  contribute  to  Hunters  Point’s  reputation  –  loud  cars,  homelessness,  high   numbers  of  unemployed  people  –  are  some  of  the  same  ones  that  contribute  to  what  Jane   Jacobs  calls  “eyes  on  the  street”:  people  having  barbeques,  playing  music,  throwing  dice.   But  soon,  none  of  that  will  matter,  because  new  condos  and  luxury  lofts  are  on  the  way.   The  Loft.  And  idea  actually  invented  by  artists  and  those  other  members  of  the  creative   class  who  needed  a  creative  way  to  live,  so  they  didn’t  have  to  choose  between  food  and   rent.  The  Loft.  Now  synonymous  with  Hip  City  Living,  and  often  with  a  monetary  and,   increasingly,  environmental  (as  buildings  are  rebuilt  rather  than  retrofitted)  price  tag  to   match.  But  the  real  cost?  Right  now,  that  remains  to  be  seen.  The  economy  can  be   equalized,  and  building  practices  can  be  improved.  But  what  of  the  city’s  artists,  writers,   musicians,  playwrights,  dancers,  inventors  and  dreamers?  Will  they  simply  be  buffed  away,   along  with  all  those  delicious  nooks  and  crannies,  scratches  and  dents,  in  the  city’s  urban   fabric?  Or  will  they  remain,  like  the  American  Bison,  that  crucial,  life-­‐sustaining  link,   necessary  for  existence  on  the  Last  Frontier.  At  least  I  know  that,  for  now,  when  I  visit  Dan   and  Karen,  I  sleep  on  a  bona  fide,  honest-­‐to-­‐goodness  loft,  built  of  plywood  and  pallet   racking,  in  the  burnt-­‐out  shell  of  a  restaurant-­‐cum-­‐workshop.     ©  Emily  Appelbaum  2007  •  emily.appelbaum@yale.edu  


Creativity and the New Colonialism