We need vision, not people hiding behind computers

Ludlow St. in 1990. Today, the ultra-exclusive Soho House is planning to open up a new club on the block.   Photo by Clayton Patterson

Ludlow St. in 1990. Today, the ultra-exclusive Soho House is planning to open up a new club on the block. Photo by Clayton Patterson

BY CLAYTON PATTERSON  |  I appreciate the debate going on around Soho House. Does a private, exclusive, expensive-to-join, membership-only art club belong on Ludlow St.? A reasonable question. People agree that so much of the old Lower East Side has been gentrified and there is not much left to save. What are people doing to save what little is left? Are the people against Soho House supporting the few struggling artists left in the community?

How many people are helping Shell Sheddy save her L.E.S. photo archive? Or buying Peter Missing’s inexpensive artwork? Or supporting John Penley’s protest efforts to bring attention to the human suffering connected to gentrification? John, a well-known and respected L.E.S. photojournalist, knows the price of gentrification: He is now homeless.

What seems to be the norm is, rather than actually doing something, it’s easier to go on the computer, use a pseudonym, and make caustic remarks criticizing or supporting whatever it is the writer is for or against. If people want to save some of what is left, they have to do something to support what’s still here. They have to stand up, be seen, be counted. Have a plan. A Vision. A goal.

For example, it makes me question the seriousness of the debate to save what is left of the old community when I read the flier to save the Meltzer Tower park. Turn over the flier and there is a list of local politicians to call. To begin with, the list is incomplete. It does not have the phone number to some of the local politicians, like Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver or Councilmember Rosie Mendez — or former Councilmember Margarita Lopez, now a New York City Housing Authority board member.

Soho House is not the problem. In fact, I have met the owner, a real person, and I have met Rachel Smith, who controls who gets a Soho House membership. They both seem like real people, good people, people who at least have some kind of humanist vision of what makes a community. It may not be my vision — but, for the most part, the community I love is gone.

Compare Soho House to the Extell Corporation, which bought 17 Lower East Side buildings for $72 million. What is Extell? Who owns Extell?

Change was and is important. It is just that the pendulum of change has swung too far over to the money side. It is not like the old L.E.S. was a utopian village. Take Hell Square — the area between Houston and Delancey Sts., Essex to Allen Sts. — before the Entertainment Zone. Just to pull a few examples out of my photography archive. … Remember the abandoned crumbling buildings on Ludlow St.? Or when the young junior high school student, in school, with a pair of scissors, killed a drug dealer’s son and the family had to leave Ludlow? Or when Tony the drug seller was shot on Essex and no ambulance or police showed up and a Delancey St. car service drove and I drove him to Bellevue? I’ve got one photo of that. Or when Fernando and his Hell Raisers heroin crew ran Ludlow, from Stanton to Houston? Or young, beautiful Anna, whose father was in jail for murder, who started to grow up and run wild, eventually getting eaten up by the streets? Or when NETA started taking over the dope spots? Or when young PEEWEE was riding his bicycle on Rivington and Orchard and took a stray bullet in the leg? Or when the Chinese man’s face was slashed up in a robbery gone bad, and so on?

We must be careful to not exaggerate how wonderful the old L.E.S. was. We must find a balance. We need the people to stop hiding behind fake names on the computer and get out and do something. We need political change. We need new blood in our political system. Out of all the complainers, there must be someone who has a vision that includes a place for the poor, the struggling, the rent-controlled and rent-stabilized, the local mom-and-pop businesses. A leader who can fight to protect the rights of the long-term residents in the community. Someone who will fight for We The People, All the People, instead of the sellouts we have representing us now.

For me, Soho House coming to Ludlow is not such a crisis of change. Soho House is looking to take over an already commercial property. This is much different than when the Economakis family evicted all the families in 47 E. Third St., a doublewide tenement building, so they could have a one-family mansion.

It is easy to be against. We need someone who can fight for the rights of all of us.

Take the example of the stalled, 20-plus-story luxury hotel that wiped out almost half of the local, small mom-and-pop businesses on the east side of Orchard St. and the west side of Ludlow St. This unregulated project was a complete failure right from the start.

Rebecca Moore, using her own name and face, stood up and fronted the fight to try and save some of what was being lost on her block, between Stanton and Houston Sts. She created the Ludlow Orchard Community Organization, or — in the acronym that sums up how they were being driven to distraction — L.O.C.O. In her dealings with the community board and local politicians to try and stop this hotel, she was called crazy, extremist. Eventually, she was so overcome by all the construction noise and lack of community support, that to save her own sanity, she had to eventually leave New York City — the place she was born and raised.

Ironically, it was her photographer father, Peter Moore, and his documentation of all that was lost with the destruction of Penn Station, who was, in large part, responsible for getting New York City to begin landmarking buildings. To read about Rebecca and her out-front fight to save her block, go to http://www.thevillager.com/villager_104/newgroupsgoingloco.html .

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9 Responses to We need vision, not people hiding behind computers

  1. Wow, CP, you are really stuck on this SoHo House thing (“art club” come on dude, at least be honest). But is it worth demeaning so many people who fight for this community every day? Maybe they don’t do it in the old school way that you and Penley prefer, but I know there are out there. I see them at the community board meetings; I see them at candidate forums; and, I recently met many of them in the basement of the Puck Building, planning their fight; but I don’t see you at these things. At this point, maybe that’s for the best. I mean, this post of yours has more strawmen than an Oz convention. No one is saying that they want to go back to the bad old days of the neighborhood, but that doesn’t mean they want the neighborhood to be reinvented by outside developers who just want the money and bar owners who don’t care who lives here. Cont…

    • Cont… Really, feel free to fight for SoHo House all you want, but maybe consider some higher ground and stop impugning so many terrific locals just because they don’t chose to do battle the way you want them to. Personally, in addition to fighting my own eviction proceeding and the hateful Finale club across the street, I work with my local block assoc’, and I’ve contributed the max’ $ to Rajkumar and offered to volunteer. With a fulltime job, plus my theater company, I’m not sure how much more you want me to do, but I do hope Jenifer will be one of those voices that you say don’t exist. Like her, I, too, am a real person.

  2. c;aytpn patterson

    Oz= reminds me– did you see the Yellow Brick Road show in my window gallery show? A great piece by locally grown artist Agathe Snow.

    And– You are being silly if you do not think we are for the people who live here. We are the people who live here. SoHoHouse is real. I want to see the limits. See who can join from here. Jobs. What is, is what is. What do you have to offer? If you have got something better then bring it on.

    • "What do you have to offer?" we covered all that after your post last week. no need to repete. ps. SoHoHouse is Not real, literally, not yet anyway. Sorry, but youre comment here does not seem sober. "What is, is what is." Seriously?

  3. clayton patterson

    Rajkumar- I know nothing about her. She does not look good. Who is she? Chin we are starting to know. Chin is not for community she is for corporate power. She goes where the money leads.

    Real is good. We should meet. Why not? I like real.

    • If you do not even know who's running for public office in this area, then, more than ever, I'm not sure why we should listen to you. ps. commenting on a candidate's looks is probably not a good idea. Maybe consider sticking to substance.

      • clayton patterson

        Chin I know has sold us out to the ones with the most money. She was invisible in helping with the Taylor Mead situation.

        Rajkumar- I have never met her and do not know anyone who knows her, or has seen her in this area. Who are her friends that live in our area? Does she have friends in this area? Where does she hang out? What does she know about our area?

        AS far as how she looks- I was not referring to facial features. I would not know her if she walked by me.

        But you have me a little confused. You say you are against SoHo House because it is an elitist Yuppie establishment. Yet, for political representation, you back Rajkumar who is as Yuppie as one can get- Ivy league education, a lawyer, lives in Battery Park City one of the most luxurious residential areas in all of downtown. What do you see in this politician that makes you feel so safe and comfy? What am I missing? Educate me. Show me a record. Something more than just a speech. Something that reflects a connection to this part of the LES. Something more than SoHo House, luxury hotels and apartments, designer cloths, pearl necklaces. Something anything.

        • "elitist Yuppie establishment" – never my words. you must be confusing me with another commenter or trying to twist my words. actually, i just went back and reread everyone's comments, and did not see those words used by anyone, so it must be the latter. again, your lack of honesty here is killing your cred'.

          I stand by my comments in your previous post, esp’ my first one.

          I'm sure you can do your own political research, and I'm certainly not "comfy", but Jenifer's point is for decisions to be made from the bottom up, not Chin's top down way; and if the LES's bottom has a say in the changes in their neighborhood, there'll never be a SH here. Unfortunately, the bar & clubs owners have stacked the CB3/SLA deck against the residents.

  4. You make no sense Clayton–muddling the discourse with misinformation and distracting from the discourse by misrepresenting the oppositions position. Soho House is the start of a speedier gentrification toward NY becoming what Bloomberg (and Quinn if god-forbid she is elected) intended a gilded city for and the rich to live and play, and a giant suburban shopping mall of chain stores for tourists. Ask yourself this Clayton the 1 percent saw their incomes increase by 7% during the economic downturn while the middle, working class and poor dropped in the double digits -who do you think NYC is being redeveloped for? Tale of Two Cities – the rich and the servant class to serve them…

    The few shops and restaurants lef0 here t will be gone replaced by luxury shops and corporate chains, and the rent stabilized and controlled residents squeezed out until no one remains. If anyone small business ie retail, restaurants think that Soho House opening will help their businesses you are sadly mistaken… You will be gone as soon as your lease is up. Soho House is the LES Bid (trying so hard to expand everywhere) and every landlord ie Shaoul, Mizrahi and Mahfar dream come true. They will get Meatpacking prices soon for their properties, closing down every little shop left along the way, and wiping out the middle class and whatever little culture is left here.

    Be careful what you wish for Clayton for the LES. You are propagating a lie about what Soho House is. Next to Soho House will pop up a different nightlife – more high end. Libation, Piano's will just be redressed to cater to the Meatpacking crowd. Everything stays the same for residents – noise, crowds, pollution, no retail diversity, but the landlords and Soho House and all the places that come it its wake make out like bandits. Look to the Meatpacking for the evidence of what fate awaits the LES. Soho House is not a warm and fuzzy "Kumbaya" for the people, of the people, alternative. It is the exact opposite – big money buying NYC and the only culture being preserved is that of f money and materialism. For artists and locals yeah right! It seems you were easily bought by Soho House…

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