Yesterday I met up with a long time friend and Brooklyn business owner and a commercial real estate developer pal. My friend is looking into expanding his business in Philly so I tagged along with them to scope out neighborhoods talk to other business owners and get a general feel of Philadelphia. We had some pretty interesting conversations regarding gentrification, the inevitable boring cloud that will roll over nyc due to pricing out creatives, and we also talked about our various view on what the future holds as far as urban development.
If you ever want to really get the lowdown on what's to come in your neighborhood, make friends with a real estate developer and members of city council. So much of the conversations about what will be allowed to go where are are determined by those two entities...with supposed input from the community residents. The part that was so startling to me about many of the views of the developer was how much money and aquisition of it seemed to be a primarily concern. For examples, the proposed plan to build a gated high rise luxury apartment building in an area of row houses. The community was completely against it. The developer was for it stating that by bring in higher earning residents the city could have more tax revenue. My concern is that property taxes are done based on average area incomes so that would inevitably push out old tenants by the tax increase. He argued that the schools and public facilities, such as parks would get more funding from that and get better...but better for whom? My concern was primarily for the residents that currently live in the neighborhood not the rich ones he hoped to invite. I understand that change is inevitable and cities are constantly in a state of flux. One thing that became very apparent in that conversation is that there is a huge gap in perspective in how residents view where they live and developers view that same region. I truely feel that most folks just want a decent roof over their head in a safe and neighborhoor. There are so many people in the business of shaping what that means to potential buyers, often done in a way that doesn't support diversity in age, backgrounds and socioeconomic position. Doing that isn't generally as profitable. So that gap in perspective of what the future of the neighborhood could be is so large that folks are often not even speaking the same language.
I don't think that all developers are bad folks and there are some beautiful examples of valuable developments such as Crane art and the teachers lofts on philadelphia. It's just that so much of the positive development is rarely enjoyed by people of color and old neighborhood residents. I'm sure alot of this has to do with the limited participation and involment if those parties with city planning, funding and development.
That limited involvement sounds like the same problem with every other sector (with the exclusion of activism) of business, from art, fashion, music, finance, tech, entertainment etc. At the end of our conversation I had a series of mixed emotions and thoughts.
In 1988 Keith Haring was diagnosed with AIDS; and in 1989 he established the Keith Haring Foundation which provided funding and imagery to AIDS organizations and children’s programs. Sadly, Keith Haring died of AIDS related complications at the age of 31 on February 16, 1990.
After that I pretty much stayed close to my pal Naomi, I planned this trip around her due date. Yep that's right my gal (and her man) brought a freakin child into the world. Generally I'm not really into babies. I appreciate them but they aren't my thing. They're fragile, they look funny at first, the shit and cry and need stuff all the time and a good chunk of them grow to be assholes. Yes, some of 'em grow up to be awesome folks, but let's not kid ourselves, even Hitler was someones lovable baby at one point. This baby is special though, because both of his parents are reasonable, open minded, free thinking folks and that just might be the formula for being parents. I don't know exactly what it is, but I was def inspired and kinda mushy on the inside for their fantastic family. "My own babies?" you ask...I wasn't that inspired, and anything that requires me to not roller skate or jump on trampolines for long periods of time is a hindrance to my quality of life, call it selfish but I know my limits. And then the show opened! Yah! Except for the art work wasn't freakin labeled. That's right, they did a group show, had a press opening and didn't label the work. Shepard Fairey was swarmed with press but the rest of us chumps (well the ones that were their to witness the show) were on our own. This sucked balls and I left shortly upon arrival pretty pissed off and ready to take my work off the walls. Sometimes I have a hard time asking for stuff and get all upset on the inside trying to figure out what's a fair request. This was one of those moments. So I decided to give the coordinators a piece of my mind the next morning and threatened to pull the work it wasn't labeled by noon on the terms that it was wack to invite artists to show work (many of it created specifically for the occasion of supporting the Democratic convention) and not to give them credit. WTF??? So after I spoke with them they assured me that the work would be labeled (after letting me know that it wasn't just my work that wasn't labeled, so basically they were doing bunch of artists dirty not just me, yay! solidarity in your fuck up, that makes me feel alot better;) I had to check things out for myself . When I arrived they were in the midst of putting up maps and gallery guides for the art work so I labeled my own art work and spoke to them again, and well, I'm a sucker! They gave me passes to live performances there and I left with a smile. Sorry for all ya'll that didn't get credited, I can't fight all the battles all the time and my dilemma had been solved. Check this out...after I labeled my art work I got contacted by 3 publications that afternoon doing write ups on the show. Go figure. Be Kanye' ads and I think it's important to keep things in perspective and use some media literacy to decipher this stuff as best we can. The show organizers had asked that some of the artist donate the art work to help raise money for the campaign. I know that campaigns are expensive and I appreciate Obama not taking money from private lobbyists but I can't cosign private jets and expensive dinners for Obama and crew, so I decided not to donate my piece and just felt that my artwork could serve a broader cause then that. I look forward to the elections and the debates and can't wait to see it all unfold. As a side note that Palin chick is wack and I'm not feeling the tokenism, McCain an peeps. jump street...wall to wall trampolines. NO LIE! It smells like feet but after you get over that, you can play dodge ball on trampolines and get completely pooped out in less than 20mins.