The Outside World Breaks In

I was walking around last night when I happened upon this scene, over on Second Avenue:

20140827-palestinian-flag-q

I spoke with the driver of the car while they were stopped at the store on the corner. He told me a five-borough caravan passed through the neighborhood on Monday, and another earlier in the month. I waited for them to leave, to capture the flag flying instead of drooping at the side.

I find it strange that, with all the local blogs and newspapers and their armies of contributors, no mention of this has been made. There’s a piece in this week’s Villager about some of the rallies around the city, but it’s mostly meant to denigrate the organizers of these rallies — who, by the way, insisted on including the Palestinian struggle as part of every demonstration they’ve organized for at least the past ten years, and whom I would say were vitally important in keeping Palestine in people’s minds during the time when other groups wanted to exclude it.

Gross Opportunism

[This is part of the Release the Kraken! series.]

August 27, 2013

I was walking home from work yesterday (Aug. 28) when a headline caught my eye (the way they’re meant to): “East Village raises $18,000 for florist hurt by drag racer”.

Instead of leading the story with something like “Lack of affordable health insurance leaves people vulnerable”, they write a self-congratulatory story about a fund-raiser for the injured person:

Among the many who gave funds to the campaign for Ali was Veselka restaurant, which made one of the biggest contributions at $500. The biggest donor, though, was a tattoo shop, which went only by the tag “STI,” which gave $1,000. … Bob Holman of the Bowery Poetry Club also contributed, with the encouraging message posted on the GiveForward site, “Strength.” Activist and journalist Bill Weinberg, who leads tours for the new MoRUS museum on Avenue C, donated. Also giving was State Democratic Committeewoman Rachel Lavine, who lives in the West Village. … Katharine Wolpe, a leading member of Village Independent Democrats, pitched in $200. Fourth Arts Block also gave. The list goes on and on.

“I was kind of the catalyst for this thing,” [Chad] Marlow [a member of Community Board 3] said. “But I was one of 290 who gave. At the end of the day, a bit of the money is from me, just a bit. [Marlow gave $100.] I’m very grateful for having this opportunity to help. It’s been a bit of a healing experience for me. I walked past [the site of the crash], and it was all I could think about. I was really gratified that I could play a role. But it was really the East Village that did this.

This is sickening. Do they have no shame?

The article says that the injured person’s insurance was paying his hospital bills, but I seriously doubt that’s true. This is a guy whose job was “doing everything from making fresh-squeezed juices and salads to manning the flower stand.” There’s no question that the East Village Farm Deli didn’t pay for his insurance, which means he either paid for it himself, or had none. But The Villager has nothing to say about that.

Promoting Ukrainian Fascism – Part 2

I hope this doesn’t have to become a regular series.

Here’s a quick look at some headlines from the past week from sources outside of the “East Village”:

ukraine-2-dream-deferred-0227
dreamdeferred.org.uk

ukraine2-daily-beast-0228
The Daily Beast

ukraine2-time-mag-0301
Time Magazine

ukraine2-counterpunch-0303
Counterpunch

So, how is this being presented in the “East Village” you ask?:

ukraine2-evg-0223
EV Grieve

ukraine2-villager-0227
The Villager

ukraine2-dnainfo0227
ukraine2-bob-holman-antisocialist2
La Mama, via DNA Info

To their credit, The Lo-Down and Bowery Boogie have not been propagating this. It waits to be seen if The Shadow will write anything in their next issue.†

* * *

A musical about current events is not necessarily a bad thing. The San Francisco Mime Troupe had a musical called Steeltown, about the rise and fall of steel-worker jobs in this country. And while searching other blogs for this piece, I came across something The Lo-Down wrote last January about The Living Theater’s performance of “Here We Are” (from their promotional material):

    In the show, the international (and multi-generational) company “visits the Anarchist collectives of France, Spain and Ukraine [Emphasis mine–Q] for the 19th and 20th centuries, and finds (them)selves transported to an immersive and participatory underground outdoor/indoor crossroads of our present moment. The ensemble and the audience work together to manufacture and perform the potential creative possibilities for a post revolutionary world of beauty and non violence.”

Of course, that’s not what this performance is about.

ukraine2-lamama

Headlines like:

ukraine2-nytimes-0226

And then! In a flash of total-recall, I totally recalled this, from an EV Grieve piece written last January:

[Bob]
ukraine2-bob-holman-antisocialist

Socialist post-modernism? It’s fine to dislike Avalon buildings, but to throw in “socialist”, when socialism had absolutely nothing to do with the topic (1st meeting of the No 7-Eleven group), makes his position then, and now, all the more suspect. Interestingly enough, this was written at the same time of the performance of “Here We Are”.

=-=-=-=-=

† After a ten-year (?) hiatus, The Shadow recently published a new issue. I meant to write something about it but I haven’t got around to it yet. I even paid a dollar for the paper! I don’t remember ever having to pay for The Shadow before.

Veselka Supports Fascism in Ukraine

This past Sunday [February 9], a friend of mine and I ate at a restaurant called Veselka, on East 9th Street and Second Avenue. When we were finished and leaving, I noticed this sign:

veselka-euromaidan

Since most “East Villagers” don’t know anything about what’s happening in the world, for their benefit, I will introduce “Euromaidan” to them:

veselka-the-nation1

and

veselka-ibd2

and

veselka-rev-news3

That’s it, in a nut shell. Connect to the articles footnoted below for more information.

So here it is, in the heart of the “East Village”, an open advocation of fascism, and what do you suppose the local reaction is? Well, as I already said, most people don’t even know what it means. But of those who do? Or should? Newspapers, and the like? This is how The Villager soft-pedaled efforts here to advance the fascist effort, in a January 20 article:

veselka-the-villager

An “awareness campaign”!

It’s not surprising that The Villager either doesn’t know what “Euromaidan” is, or worse, supports it. The social composition of fascist movements have historically been the small capitalists that they champion.

So on February 12, I posted this photo on Twitter, and @’d local news organizations/bloggers:

 
(Cue crickets.)

OK, not crickets exactly. EV Grieve posted something about Veselka yesterday:

veselka-evgrieve

=-=-=-=-=

1The Ukrainian Nationalism at the Heart of ‘Euromaidan’
2Euromaidan: The Dark Shadows Of The Far-Right In Ukraine Protests
3The Ukrainian Euromaidan: The Solution to Putin, or Just Another Fascist Political Coup?

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?

“Quinn Doesn’t Win”

This is a follow-up to “NYC Community Media” Endorsements.

There’s a little more variation between the five papers in how the election results are covered than there was with the endorsements, but in the Mayor’s race The Villager and The East Villager are without doubt the worst:

tv-quinn
The Villager

ev-quinn
The East Villager

“Quinn Doesn’t Win”. That’s how they announce the results of the election. Quinn didn’t just not win, Quinn came in third place!

These headlines only make sense if you know (as readers of Quilas do) that NYCCM endorsed Quinn in each of their five newspapers. To someone who didn’t know that, it would make no sense at all. That’s some serious wound licking!

At least they acknowledge that a vote for Quinn was a vote for a continuation of Bloomberg. I wonder if they realize they did that?

And finally, has anyone ever seen a semicolon in a headline before?

***

They don’t do much better in their other newspapers, either:

cn-quinn
Chelsea Now

They name the winner this time, skip the second place contender, and run the story with a photo of Quinn.

Finally, they get it right:

gcn-mayor
Gay City News

There’s got to be some connection between The Villager and The East Villager being the only papers in the stable to endorse a Republican candidate, and neither of them mentioning DeBlasio in their lead stories. I don’t know what it is yet, but I’m going to keep an eye on this as the general election approaches.

***

I mentioned that NYCCM only endorsed Daniel Squadron in one of their newspapers (Gay City News). I wasn’t sure why that was, but after seeing how they reported his race, I can see they must feel pretty ambivalent about him:

ev-squadron
The East Villager

Does anyone know if that’s Squadron’s hand?

Their photo in The Villager (the only other paper where they mention this race) is better. The problem is that they’re taking 6×4 (1.5:1) photos and using them in 8×3 (2.67:1) layouts. It worked with the Quinn photo above (if you look, the right and left edges are the same; it’s the top and bottom that are cropped in the wider photo), and it might have worked in the Squadron photo if they had paid attention! Like this, for example:

ev-squadron

“NYC Community Media” Endorsements

In Workers Need Not Apply, I showed the endorsements the non-neighborhood papers owned by NYC Community Media LLC (NYCCM) made, to demonstrate their lack of editorial independence. Today I’m going to see which of their people won.

endorsements

Mayor

Well of course the big loser was Christine Quinn. They weren’t just off, they were way off! She came in third! You have to wonder what motivated this holding company to endorse her. I can’t take any of the newspapers themselves to task, because they don’t write their own editorials, but did NYCCM think people wanted Bloomberg-2? It’s more likely that they thought they would benefit from a Quinn victory, and this was their chance to get people to help them. It will be interesting to see how their reporting changes going forward, now that their audience let them down so.

On the Republican side, Joe Lhota won over NYCCM’s Catsimatidis. It’s interesting that they only endorsed a Republican in The Villager and The East Villager. I wonder if there are more registered Republicans in these areas? You’d think there would be more in the Downtown Express domain. Well, I would think so, anyway. Maybe it was the “self-made” man thing. That kind of thing resonates strongly here.

Public Advocate

Daniel Squadron, who now faces a runoff election against Letitia James, was endorsed in only one NYCCM’s newspapers: Gay City News. Their reasons for endorsing him are valid, in an identity-politics sort of way, but if you’re trying to influence people, why endorse him in only one newspaper? If they’d have endorsed him in their other four newspapers, maybe he would have won?

Comptroller

Oddly enough (is it odd?) NYCCM didn’t endorse anyone for Comptroller.

Manhattan Borough President

Julie Menin came in last. Last! I like what Tenant.net wrote:

    [A]ll four candidates are disappointments. Of the four, Gale Brewer is less objectionable…

Gale Brewer won. Julie Menin came in last.

City Council District 1

If I were registered to vote Democrat, and lived in District 1, I would have voted for Rajkumar!

City Council District 2

Rosie Mendez is the big winner over Richard Del Rio, but why would NYCCM not endorse Mendez in the newspapers where her district is situated? Maybe they thought there was no reason, that she was a shoe-in. Still, why not score some points? They only endorsed her in a newspaper with a significant portion of its readership outside Mendez’s district. Maybe they don’t really support her?

City Council District 3

Corey Johnson was the winner over Yetta Kurland. Another successful choice for NYCCM. It’s probably not a surprise that they endorsed Quinn and Johnson. Tenant.net describes Johnson as “Christine Quinn’s mini-me.” They link to this article back in June:

    Corey worked for a billion dollar real estate company, GFI Capital, which has made a habit of evicting poor and middle class workers and replacing SROs with luxury hotels and condos. His former employer has even been sued by the Department Of Justice Civil Rights Division for discrimination.

Endorsements aren’t predictions. These are the candidates NYCCM wanted it to appear their neighborhood newspapers thought would best serve the residents of their circulation area. But if they also want us to think these newspapers have their finger on the pulse of the neighborhood, they bungled it big time. I suspect Jennifer Goodstein will be looking to sell soon.

Workers Need Not Apply

There are a number of web sites that report on news of the Lower East Side: The Villager; The East Villager; The Lo-Down; NoHo News; to name a few. There are also more personal-type blogs that cover local events. Of all of these, only one reported on the recent walkout by fast-food workers that occurred on August 29, even though there are twenty fast-food restaurants in the Houston-to-14th, Avenue D-to-Broadway quadrangle. That site was Quilas.

The Villager is owned by NYC Community Media LLC, which owns the following papers: Chelsea Now, Downtown Express; The East Villager; Gay City News; and The Villager. Not one of these papers mentioned the day of walkouts, neither announcing that it would occur, nor reporting on it afterwards, despite the number of fast-food restaurants that exist in this area:

local-newspaper-map

Although these papers position themselves as neighborhood newspapers (with the exception of Gay City News), they are relatively uniform in their reporting (many of the same stories, written by the same people), and absolutely uniform in their endorsements of political candidates for the primary election:

endorsements

NYC Community News is itself owned by Jennifer Goodstein. Through each of these newspapers, they demonstrate their hostility to workers’ interests. In their endorsement of Christine Quinn for Mayor, they write:

    She would be a tough negotiator with the unions, which will be critically important for the next mayor.
    The East Villager, The Villager.

    …the city wrestles with fundamental questions about how policing is carried out as well as critical challenges regarding affordable housing, schools, healthcare access and public employee union contracts [Emphasis mine –Q]
    Chelsea Now, Gay City News.

    She also understands the city’s budget process, and is an experienced hand who can run the difficult labor negotiations to come. [Emphasis mine –Q]
    Downtown Express

Both of these papers (The Villager and The East Villager) also recently ran an article titled “Will a Democrat for mayor stand up for small stores?” followed-up a month later with “Who has the guts to fight for our small businesses?” Advocating for small business is a coded way of attacking workers’ rights. Small businesses don’t want the minimum wage to increase, nor do they want paid sick days. Neither do large businesses, but they can’t very well advance their agenda by writing: “Who has the guts to fight for our large businesses?”, or “Who has the guts to fight the increase in the minimum wage?” They know that if fast-food workers are successful in achieving their goal of $15/hour, it will have an upward push on their own workers’ wages.

Interestingly enough, through The Villager and The East Villager, NYC Community News endorsed a Republican candidate. They describe him as “a self-made man,” which is true only if “self-made” means on the backs of his workers.

***

The “personal-type” blogs didn’t write anything about the walkouts either. In their effort to oppose chain stores, they cannot bring themselves to support the people who work in fast-food restaurants (unless they can use it as a cudgel against the chains themselves). For that matter, they don’t support the workers who work in the small businesses they favor. It’s as I wrote before, workers are not a part of the “community”. Community members are shopkeepers and their customers, only. But even that’s tenuous, as I will discuss in a future piece.

When I first started writing Quilas, I wrote that some day the banner of “East Village” activism would be raised to fight the increase in the minimum wage. I think that day is drawing near.

“East Village” Ideology

The “East Village” has always more of an idea than a location, since the days when this northern part of the Lower East Side was first renamed, and that idea is petite bourgeois to the core. I knew this was true, but until I started receiving replies to Saving the Lower East Side?, I didn’t realize how deeply entrenched it was. This is a post that examines, from the workers’ perspective, a small business in the neighborhood that was offered as a model for future use of retail space. At first the piece sat silently, but then the owner of that business wrote and claimed ownership of the information in the piece, and requested I remove it.

I’m not going to recount the arguments here (you can read it in the Comments section of the above-mentioned piece), I just want to say that once he claimed ownership of the information obtained through an interview with one of the workers in the company, opinion shifted to his side. This is what surprised me. If it were simply that the owner of the company requested I remove the piece, I wouldn’t be writing this, and I wouldn’t have altered the piece the way I did. It was that friends of mine were siding with him against the workers at the company, whom I felt could only benefit by the information.

I have to say that even I felt as if I was doing something wrong by not removing the piece. But instead of just cravenly acquiescing the way SLES did:
rob-stupid-naive
I had to examine why I felt this way.

    The ultimate condition of production is the reproduction of the conditions of production. The tenacious obviousness … of the point of view of production alone, or even of that of mere productive practice … are so integrated into our everyday ‘consciousness’ that it is extremely hard, not to say almost impossible, to raise oneself to the point of view of reproduction. 1

How does this ideology reproduces itself? It’s everywhere. It’s the focus of news blog articles and editorials, it’s the focus of portraits of local residents, it’s represented in the goals of “community” organizations, it’s in the mythology of the “East Village” artist. There’s almost nowhere that it isn’t! Here are a few ways, off the top of my head.

Of course, the most obvious sources of reproduction are newspapers. This week’s edition of The Villager has this story:

pb-villager-headline1

It’s not so surprising that a small business should feature a story about mayoral candidates defending small businesses, but none of these are surprising.

***

A regular feature on the blog of photographer James Maher, and reproduced on EV Grieve, is called “Stories From the East Village”. It features profiles of PB locals. This is the list of occupations held by each, since the series began:

Singer / Songwriter English as Second Language Teacher, Retired
Construction Worker Piano Tuner
Coney Island Circus Performer Stratospheric Coloratura and Performance Artist
Owner, Surma — The Ukrainian Shop Social Worker, Retired
Owner, Continuum Cycles and Bike Shop, Continuum Coffee Electrical Contractor, Marine
Factory Worker Cartoon Artist
Speech Pathologist, Dancer/Dance Teacher Musician
Street Artist Actor
Stay-at-home Mother, Medical Assistant Landlord (Miami)
Designer, Argentine Tango Dance Organizer Photographer
Student, Employee at Zaragoza Environmental Engineering Marketing and Communications
Dominatrix Actress/Model
Owner, Cafecito Clothing Designer
Senior Minister,
Middle Collegiate Church
Nurse, Waiter, Retired
Public Relations, Curator, Bartender Doorman, Retired
Tattoo Artist, Owner Fineline Tattoo Caretaker, Student
Musician (Flute and Bass), The Flute Mistress of Epic Doom Metal Artist, Fashion Consultant
Musician, Artist, Producer Painter
Musician and Dog Walker Deliveryman
Musician, Barista

 

***

There is an online petition that originated in the “East Village,” that is meant to be presented to the New York City Planning Commission and City Council. Apart from making a number of specious claims, it calls for:

    … the City Planning Commission and the City Council to amend the city’s zoning text to require that no corporate formula store or bank open a new location without approval from the local community board. Such a zoning amendment will not only allow communities to restrict the number and location of chain stores, but also allow community boards to negotiate legally binding stipulations on all elements of chain store character from signage and closing hours to wage scale.
    [Emphasis mine. -Quilas]

***

And of course everything ever written by No 7-Eleven NYC! When I first started writing about them, I used the term “small business group” to describe them. It was not entirely accurate, but I was couching my terms then. Just swap in “petite bourgeois” for “small business group” and everything will make sense. It’s what I was trying to say anyway, without alienating my more sensitive readers.

***

That’s a very cursory look at some of the ways the dominant ideology is reproduced locally. I intend to write more on this topic in the coming weeks. Hopefully, they won’t all take as long as this one did to complete!

=-=-=-=-=

1 Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses

Response to The Villager

For some reason, the moderator of the comments section of thevillager.com saw fit to exclude my response to Clayton Patterson’s most recent article, Let’s get back to our roots: We need new leaders. It wasn’t long, or offensive, so I don’t know why they censored it, unless they just can’t brook any disagreement with Mr. Patterson.

This is what I wrote (as best as I can recall):

Mr. Patterson puts the cart before the horse. Leaders come out of the people. It used to be that the people of this neighborhood were communists, socialists, even anarchists. Today they are mostly liberals. Liberals don’t care about the poor.* They care more about which stores open in the neighborhood than they do about the condition of the people who work in those stores.

And if artists need to live in slums to be creative, there’s no shortage of those in the world. “The breeding places of disease, the infamous holes and cellars in which the capitalist mode of production confines our workers night after night, are not abolished; they are merely shifted elsewhere! The same economic necessity which produced them in the first place, produces them in the next place also.” (F. Engels, The Housing Question.)

*I bet this is where they balked!

So that’s what I wrote, but since I’m posting this on Quilas, I will expand it a bit.

I don’t know why it is that people isolate the experiences of artists when talking about this neighborhood. (Well, yes I do, but they shouldn’t do it.) The movement of artists into this area occurred during a specific period of time — post-WW2. Artists were not immigrants; they played a significant role in gentrifying this neighborhood. I wrote briefly about this in my post Artists Made This Neighborhood?

I’m not hostile to artists, but their plight was the plight of thousands more who had no other options, the way the artists did, to live elsewhere. Today, artists are seen as the victims of gentrification when, in the main, they were the tools of gentrification.