Mud Coffee in First Park

Mud Coffee is one of those local companies that “East Villagers” love to love. They started by selling coffee from a bright orange truck in Astor Place, then they opened up a café on East 9th Street, and most recently took over the gazebo in First Park (at First Avenue and East 1st Street), once occupied by Veselka.

Regular readers of Quilas* will know my position on privatization of public spaces: I don’t think any company should operate in any park, nor should park conservancies have domain over them. That said, Mud operates the gazebo in First Park.

They weren’t there for very long before they hung this sign, on the south side of the park:

first-park-0

It wasn’t up for very long before it was removed, either by the Parks Department or the Mud people at the behest of the Parks Department. I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t have done it of their own volition.

Fast forward to November, 2014, and these appeared:

first-park-1
Northeast corner.

first-park-2
Southwest corner.

first-park-3
South side, at F-train entrance.

first-park-4
Southeast corner.

Responsible citizen that I am, I filed a complaint with 311. With some complaints, you can upload photos, and this was one of those. I uploaded three of the photos; a few weeks later, the signs were down.

_MG_5165
Free of obnoxious signs.

These people have shown no regard for the public nature of this park, so I’m sure they’ll try something again.

* * *

One of the buzzwords of the “East Village” is “community”. Small businesses like Mud are considered part of this “community”, but what type of community member actively tries to destroy that community? The answer, as I’ve written before, is that “community” is not a group that includes everyone — it’s small-business owners and their customers. The Mud owners would take over the park entirely if given the opportunity. It’s already been alleged that they close the park early:

mud-park-20140825-1257

I’m glad to see I’m not the only one who cares about these things.

=-=-=-=-=

*As regular as that can be, given my infrequent posting!

Advertisements

East Village Community Coalition

There is an organization in the “East Village” called the East Village Community Coalition. I don’t know how long they’ve been around, but a whois search shows their web site was created on 08-Jun-2004, so it’s probably safe to assume they came into being some time around then.

They’re pretty secretive, too. Their registrant, admin, and tech contacts are masked. But that’s not why I’m writing about them. I want to discuss their
Guide to East Village Local Shops.

This is from their web site:

evcc-shopping-guide

Point by point:

Choose creativity and personality over uniformity – If you shop in one place because you like the color of the paint, or don’t shop in another because you don’t like the awning, it’s all the same. Besides, many local shops show neither creativity nor personality, and uniformity, in itself, is not a bad thing. And there are plenty of chain stores that vary their appearance. I suspect there will be more of this in the future, as they try to meet the demand for this type of “creativity and personality”.

Provide economic diversity and stability – It makes no sense to speak of “economic diversity” within such a small area. A country might have economic diversity, even a city, but when you break it down to ever-smaller localities, like neighborhoods, you can’t maintain this. It makes no sense, under any mode of production, to have manufacturing, distribution, retail, finance, agriculture, etc., all in one square block.

I doubt that the EVCC really expects manufacturing or agriculture to exist here. They understand the division of labor. They’re talking about retail only, which means that they want to take the level of productive forces as they’re given, and freeze them there.

Keep more of your money in your community – Does shopping locally keep money within the community? Leaving aside for now what “the community” really is, let’s set the boundaries as Houston Street on the South, 14th Street on the North, the East River on the East, and Third Avenue on the West. Imagine this is a closed system, with no money coming in and no money going out. (If the “East Village” were actually isolated from the rest of the global economy, it would die off in no time. Still, for the sake of argument, let’s imagine this.)

All value, in the capitalist sense, is created within this closed system. No money/resources/people come in or go out, and everything functions under the capitalist mode of production. People go to work and make commodities that are sold only inside these boundaries – wages to the workers, profits to the owners. Right away you can see, in a very short time, there would be a crisis of overproduction. Assuming everyone can buy one of everything produced on their wages, once they have what they need they won’t need more. The producers would have to look outside these boundaries to sell their wares, and the local paradigm is demolished. This is essentially the national economy, reduced to the area described above.

And what about the surplus population? There are not enough jobs provided by the local businesses in the “East Village” for everyone who lives here. People will have to emigrate to other neighborhoods and send money back home. Which is, of course, what actually happens. Almost no one who lives in this geographical area works here. While the EVCC tells us to keep the money in the neighborhood, they couldn’t survive without its coming from outside the neighborhood.

Which is a good thing, because it’s the retailers themselves who are sending the money out! Since there is no manufacturing or agriculture here, local retailers sell commodities manufactured somewhere else, or with raw materials originating somewhere else, whether it’s tchotchkes at Alphabets or coffee at Mud.

The first section of EVCC’s Guide is Cafes. Cafe types, and some of their non-local ingredients, are:

Cafe Type Imports
Bakeries Butter, Flour, Sugar
Cafes Coffee
Candy & Chocolate Chocolate, Sugar
Ice Cream Eggs, Milk, Sugar, Vanilla
Juice Bar Fruits, Vegetables
Tea Shop Honey, Sugar, Tea

 
The next section is Fashion. Most of the retailers don’t make what they sell: Dinosaur Hill, Jane’s Exchange, Village Kids Footwear, etc. It’s possible that some others do, but they don’t make the sewing machines or material or thread. The other categories are: Galleries; Gifts; Florist; Health and Beauty; Culture, Music, Entertainment; and Specialty Services. It’s the same with all of them.

Create local jobs with fair living wages – The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows little variation in pay for professionals and managers by establishment size, but differentials widen as you move down the status hierarchy. Data entry clerks in small establishments earned 7% below the national average, while those in large firms earned 20% above. Gaps for janitors were wider, and those for laborers were wider still.

This fact persists regardless of occupation, industrial sector, education, experience, geographical location, union status. Workers in larger firms are more likely to be covered by company-paid health insurance and have some type of retirement plan. Also, worker safety is worse in small businesses — “Size and risk are inversely correlated at all levels of scale,” according to an International Labour Organization report.1

Sustain small business owners who strengthen the local economy – Redundant.

People who make the claims made by EVCC like to point to studies that show how much money stays in the community with small business than with larger businesses. One study conducted in Chicago found that for every $100 spent by customers, $43 stayed in the area for chains, while $68 stayed in the area for non-chains. One problem with this is that the geographical boundaries were the entire city of Chicago, so money that moved from a poor neighborhood to a richer neighborhood was still considered to be “local”. Likewise with the “East Village”. Many of the owners/workers do not live here. The money they make leaves the neighborhood daily.

A bigger problem is that this is only a measure of profits. For the chain, some part of the profits, or even gross revenue, is sent to the corporate office, leaving the manager with less to spend than the owner, but this assumes that the owners spend all their profits. Owners reinvest profits, or they use them to pay their more-expensive mortgages or vacations or restaurant bills. The argument ultimately centers on filling the capitalist class’s luxury-goods market, something that doesn’t even exist in the “East Village”.

Defend our neighborhood’s identity – Is the neighborhood’s identity really defined by its retail shops? This is definitely a petite-bourgeois perspective! Anyway, this neighborhood’s identity was defined by the real estate industry, not the retail industry. The term “East Village” was coined by real estate developers in the 1960s as a way to attract renters, by linking the area above Houston Street with Greenwich Village, and disassociating it from the Lower East Side’s immigrant, working-class roots.

Fight the lie that “low prices” at chain stores makes up for the loss of local business ownership – Low prices benefit workers, local business ownership benefits owners. Welcome to the class struggle.

***

A few things about small businesses that I’ve written about before, but which bear repeating:

Unemployment Insurance – If employees are paid in cash, there is no record of their employment, making it impossible for them to collect unemployment when they lose their job.

OSHA Requirements – If a company has fewer than 25 employees, their penalty is cut by 60 percent. If the business has fewer than 10 employees, they’re exempt from many requirements that obligate them to report workplace injuries.

Discrimination Laws – Federal laws against discrimination in the workplace do not always apply to small businesses. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Title I of the Americans with Disabilities Act apply to employers with 15 or more employees. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act applies only to employers of 20 or more people.

Employee Health Insurance – Beginning in 2014, employers will be expected to pay a “shared responsibility fee” for health insurance coverage under the terms of the Affordable Care Act. Small businesses are exempt from this rule. If the company has fewer than 50 employees, they have no healthcare responsibilities.2

=-=-=-=-=

1The Small Business Myth
2Small Business Exemptions

Fallout

I posted Class Struggle on Avenue A on November 11 at 15:29. Twenty minutes later, a founding member of No 7-Eleven NYC wrote on his blog:

    NO711 is headed towards a racially divided face-off […]
    At a meeting with the NO711 group in June, I let the group
    know that I didn’t want to be involved…

I commend him for this action. Not so much leaving the group, which happened back in June, in any case, but for making it public. I had a feeling that my post would bring us back into contact, and when it did, I already had my reply ready: to preserve your self-respect, publicly divorce yourself from the group. I did not expect him to beat me to the punch.

Meanwhile, no other blog has picked up on this. The N7E blog says nothing about it, not even a fare-thee-well. And EV Grieve, who’s written about them 38 times this year (maybe more, if any of the posts are missing the “No 7-Eleven” tag), is also silent about it. Likewise with The Villager, another of their cheerleaders.

Am I the only one who thinks this is newsworthy?

***

As regular readers of Quilas know, N7E has been gathering outside the 7-Eleven on Avenue A every Sunday afternoon since the store opened, calling for a boycott. While researching “Class Struggle…”, I came across a comment of his, that I used in another context elsewhere:

fallout-boycott-useless

I’m starting to wonder to what degree he was pushed out?

***

Speaking of The Villager, they ran a story last week called “Small shops already feeling the crunch from 7-Eleven”.

    Although 7-Eleven is a cheaper alternative to traditional mom-and-pop stores, the majority of local residents The Villager recently polled about the new store agreed with No 7-Eleven. They said they would rather preserve the small businesses in the area than save money.

“[T]he majority of local residents The Villager recently polled” were the twelve people standing outside the store holding signs!

If you’re going to argue against large corporations like 7-Eleven, or Wal*Mart, you can’t use the argument that their prices are lower, unless of course your audience has a higher discretionary income. When has The Villager ever run an article titled: “Small stores gouge customers with higher prices”?

Their article ran with a chart bearing the title “Can a bodega compete with 7‑Eleven?” (What do they think competition is?!) I revised it, below:

price-chart''

For the record, I checked these prices today, as I did my Thanksgiving shopping. Carnation Evaporated Milk, 12 oz can, 10 for $10! Do bodegas even have evaporated milk?

The Pathology of the “East Village”

[Updated 10/10]

I started a version of this article many weeks ago, after a post on EV Grieve
ran with this photo:

eliciting this comment:

evg-heroin-tsp-0805-1635

Then recently, in an article about a memorial in Tompkins Square Park for a “crusty” who died, one commenter wrote:

evg-comment-light-violence-0919-1052 1

Comments such as these are not uncommon. There’s some troll element, to be sure, but most of it is legitimate (in that it’s not trolling). Since that time, I slowly gathered examples to demonstrate that there is a vocal faction of people in the “East Village” who are basically misanthropes. I wasn’t very active collecting this, but all of a sudden a truckload of it fell into my virtual lap!

But first, I must digress.

***

Early in the week of September 22, this sign went up in my neighborhood:

atwe4sba-anti-drug-mtg

On September 24, this story ran on EV Grieve:

evg-drug-mtg-story

I attended the meeting. My original estimation of the number of people in attendance was 35, including the representatives of the 9th Precinct and District Attorney’s office, but I was later told that the sign-in sheet at the desk showed it was closer to 50. Almost everyone had a story, of drug use (mostly heroin) taking place in their vestibules, dealers operating out of a renovated but unoccupied building, dealers having keys to the NYCHA buildings and operating out of them, members of community gardens who have all but abandoned the gardens because of drug dealing in them… They came from all through the neighborhood, from 3rd and 5th Streets as well as both avenues, even Houston Street. Many of them said they heard about the meeting from EV Grieve.

The attendees were 80%+ black and hispanic, most over 40. Some live in the NYCHA buildings under siege. Some were representatives of shelters and treatment centers in the area. Many have lived here since the 1980s and were founding members of the community gardens on the block. That might fit the demographic of people in this area who attend meetings, but it also demonstrates (spoiler alert!) that they weren’t young transplants trying to sanitize the neighborhood.

There will be a follow-up meeting October 9. In the intervening time, people with sales/use taking place in their buildings will approach the owners and try to get the building registered in the city’s Trespass Affidavit Program. And everyone was urged to call 911 when they see drug sales/use taking place. The 9th Precinct rep said that despite the number of stories people had, there have been very few calls, so they were not aware of the severity of the problem.

***

It didn’t take long after EV Grieve’s post for the rats to emerge! One response on the blog itself:

evg-drug-mtg-0925-1320

But the EV Grieve Facebook page is where the worst appeared. (Coincidentally enough, an article appeared on Slate the same day, titled “Facebook’s for Middle-Aged Narcissists”.

I divided the Facebook comments into two categories: Presumptuous; and Misanthropic.

Presumptuous

0924-0905b

0924-0936

0924-1003

0924-1009

Misanthropic

0924-0904

0924-0905a

0924-1016

0924-1025

0924-1214

0924-1323

0924-1649

One of the things discussed at the meeting is that the dealers will smile at residents, to try to ingratiate them. It’s no different than greeters in stores: it’s part of their selling strategy. To think that this demonstrates beneficence on their part is naive.

***

I don’t think there’s a single one of them who doesn’t argue from a white-privileged position. Why is it always older, white people who glorify drug sales/use? I think it’s because they know they won’t be directly affected by it — only peripherally, like the people who think Giuseppe Logan being mugged is a small price to pay to keep people they don’t like out of the neighborhood.1 They chose to live here when they could have chosen to live somewhere else.2 They see it taking place, but it’s not their lives that will be destroyed by it.

No doubt they find it romantic, or adventuresome. This is their “authentic” New York neighborhood. This is how they define themselves, as people who lived under harsh conditions and survived. There’s a song (I forget the name of it) with a line “New York is where people go to live out their fantasy of being Lou Reed.” It’s telling that no one ever imagines themselves to be Johnny Thunders!

lou-reed-johnny-thunders

***

I want to be clear that I’m not lumping together everyone who moved here in the 1970s/80s, only the sociopaths. There were definitely people who had a larger social vision, of taking back the land, of the right to the city. But these people did not view the heroin trade as positive in any way.

Marlis Momber, a local photographer, has a photo called “No No Drugs 1986” that shows a demonstration winding its way through the streets of the “East Village”. A copy of it hangs in the Lower East Side People’s Federal Credit Union:

no-no-drugs-1986

Other examples:

local-east-village-momber
Photo by Marlis Momber, via The Local East Village.

villager-marlis-momber-interview
Interview with Marlis Momber, in The Villager.

drugs-demo-nyt-1983
Pace, Eric. “Lower East Side Residents Protest ‘Drug Drive-Ins’.” NY Times, October 23, 1983. [Almost 30 years to the date! –Q]

***

Looking at current movement in this area, you would think these people would oppose the heroin trade because it wasn’t local. Opium poppies do not grow locally. The processing is done outside the neighborhood and employs no local residents. The dealers live outside the neighborhood and for the most part, so do the buyers. There is nothing local about any part of it.

=-=-=-=-=

1 Two days after the claim that “light violence is a small price to pay”, this story appeared on EV Grieve:
evg-giuseppi-logan-jumped

2 Rosalyn Deutsche and Cara Gendel Ryan, “The Fine Art of Gentrification,” THE PORTABLE LOWER EAST SIDE, Volume 4, Number 1, Spring 1987, 22 Jan. 2013.

Fast-Food Workers Call for Nationwide Walkout Aug. 29

Emboldened by a series of smaller walkouts this past year, workers at fast-food restaurants are calling for a nationwide walkout this Thursday, August 29.

Below is a map, based on one published in the NY Times last year, with the locations of fast-food restaurants in the “East Village”.

fast-food

This is a chance for people who claim to care about the “community” to stand with the people who work here. Choose your location and be there to support them! Walk the picket line with them. Document the action. Send your photos to Quilas.

Keep The “East Village” Weird?

Back in April, Reverend Billy came to preach in Tompkins Square Park.


 
Anyone who’s seen the show Portlandia is no doubt familiar with the unofficial slogan of the town that’s shown in the opening credits: Keep Portland Weird. It’s the slogan on over 18,000 bumper stickers1 in the Portland area, and many more t-shirts, no doubt. What people probably do not know is that Keep Portland Weird is a marketing campaign:

    Keep Portland Weird is about supporting local business in the Portland Oregon area. We want to support local business because they make Portland stand out from other cites and make it a more unique place to live. They do this by providing consumers a wide range of products that represent the different cultures that make up Portland.2

Culture is expressed through one’s purchases. The web site itself is an online shop, where KPW tchotchkes can be bought.

kpw-whats-weird

Weird umbrellas! Weird soy candles! Weird keychains! Weird stickers!
Weird refrigerator magnets!

Weird.

This campaign is modeled on a similar one in Austin Texas, with a surprisingly similar name: Keep Austin Weird. The campaign was launched by the Austin Independent Business Alliance, with the same goal of promoting shopping at small businesses in Austin.

But this isn’t about Portland, it’s about the “East Village,” and what could be the development of a similar strategy here. Reverend Billy says “We’re not the product of a corporate marketing campaign,” but to what degree is the “East Village” the product of a small-business marketing campaign? To what degree does someone “make themselves up” when all of the accessories are already on the shelves, ready to buy?

It may not be a concerted effort yet, but it’s just a matter of time. The sensibility is there, and so is the language. Key words are: sustainable, responsible, local, community. You almost never see one of these words without the others. Once you see the word “weird” in this mix, you’ll know it’s started.

***

Probably the most insidious thing about the Weird movement is its racism. A resident of Portland, Linda Ueki Absher, wrote a piece for Counterpunch called Keep Portland White!

    But as I wander pass the organic coffee houses chock-full of thirtyish men with full-on lumberjack beards and defiant beer bellies, or boutiques filled with mock Goodwill cardigans selling for prices once considered exorbitant monthly rent, the message is unmistakable: I am not a member of the Keeping-it-Weird club.

After retiring from the Univesity of Pennsylvania – Johnstown, former Economics professor Michael Yates spent some time travelling around the country, and wrote about his adventure in a book called “Cheap Motels and a Hot Plate: An Economist’s Travelogue.” About Portland, he wrote:

    The most distressing thing about Portland, and the fact that most belied its liberal image, was its racism. A writer once called Portland the “last bastion of Caucasian culture.” It is certainly a white town; less than 7 percent of the population is African-American. Even the city’s homeless are nearly all white, as are all the young people asking for money. Blacks who gravitated to Portland to work in the wartime shipyards were housed in a flood plain of the Columbia River and were soon enough driven out by high waters. The ghettoes where they were next allowed to live were destroyed by highway construction. Today the tiny black community is scattered over several mostly poor neighborhoods. Despite the small number of black residents, whites were inordinately hostile to them.

    There is a growing Hispanic community in both Portland and the rest of Oregon. … Not surprisingly, anti-immigrant sentiment resonated in Portland. A history of racism – Oregon had anti-miscegenation laws until the Supreme Court overturned these in the late 1960s – and high unemployment made workers susceptible to immigrant-bashing.

Maybe this is a Portland thing, but the group that showed up to see Reverend Billy this day was entirely white. The neighborhood is changing. According to the always-helpful city‑data.com:

Races: White Alone
white-alone-recent

Races: Black Alone
black-alone

Hispanic
hispanic

Races: Two or More
two-or-more

If you click on the maps it will take you to the site, where you can get a better sense of things.

***

While I’m on the subject, I never cared for Reverend Billy. The whole evangelist schtick was played out a long time ago. I remember when he first went into the Disney Store in Times Square. It may have been the first time but maybe not. I have a friend who was very excited about it and went. I was curious, but for some reason I couldn’t make it. I’ve seen him all too many times since then, but I’ve never been won over.

His whole spiel is to stop shopping, but here he is exhorting people to do exactly the opposite: Go to “these small shops you can’t find anywhere else” and buy crap. What exactly can you not find anywhere else? Let’s not forget that the stuff sold here is manufactured first. It’s only then that the small shops you can’t find anywhere else stock it. There’s no factory churning out commodities that are sold in only one location, or that can’t be bought online. And Alphabets isn’t any different than Spencer’s Gifts, found in every mall.

***

Finally, while researching this piece, I discovered that KPW’s web site is a do-it-yourself mess! From “What’s Weird About Portland?”:

kpw-about

From the Soy Candles page:

kpw-soy-candles-lorem-ipsum

Is this supposed to be part of their appeal?

=-=-=-=-=

1Keep Portland … quaint?
2Keep Portland Weird

No 7-Eleven’s Nativism

Two recent tweets from an organization dedicated to preventing the “whitewash[ing of] our community.”

Localism adopts the premise that people have free choice to structure a capitalist economy. But when people make the wrong choices, then localism can become right-wing and anti-immigrant. It critiques globalization for strengthening multinational corporations at the expense of communities.

A distrust of foreign people creeps in. Being rooted in a place enhances relationships, whereas “(m)obility erodes community.” Migration brings displacement and alienation. This parochialism extends to non-local workers, who don’t contribute to local economies and spend what they earn elsewhere. Since value for localists is created only through exchange, foreign workers bring no benefit.

Previous Older Entries