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November 19, 2006 4:27 PM   Subscribe

The Death of the Upper East Side by Jay McInerney.
posted by four panels (66 comments total)

 
The Upper East Side is a beautiful spot for taphophiliacs.
posted by redhanrahan at 4:59 PM on November 19, 2006


Executive summary: not content with keeping the UES a boring hellhole for generations, the rich and useless are now trying to do the same to the Village and points east. Bring out the pitchforks!
posted by languagehat at 5:02 PM on November 19, 2006


You see and hear so much about gentrification -- not so much about de-gentrification. Thanks. That was interesting.
posted by veggieboy at 5:03 PM on November 19, 2006


It's no so much de-gentrification, as the spread of gentrification. Witht hem wanting to move to "funkier" neighborhoods, rent gets driven up and becomes less affordable for everyone else.
posted by piratebowling at 5:09 PM on November 19, 2006


Brings to mind the gentrification by straight families of Chelsea -- a neighborhood defined by artists and gay men who had settled there during the 80's and 90's.
"The townhouses and prewar co-ops of gay-friendly Chelsea have been home to photographers and filmmakers for years. But 'we're increasingly seeing doctors, lawyers, and business owners,' says Stribling's Georgia Asher."*
posted by ericb at 5:28 PM on November 19, 2006


For several years (mid-80's to early 90's) I worked as a private chauffeur for a very well-to-do finance industry type who lived, of course, on the UES. I had many opportunities to observe him and his rail-thin, dripping-with-jewelry trophy wife in their various interactions with, well, other finance types and their rail-thin, dripping-with-jewelry trophy wives. I spent a lot of time shuttling them about, to the Hamptons, around town, etc, overhearing their conversations about what piece of jewelry wifey should wear on opening night at the Met, and other such topics of intense concern for these bizarre specimens of humanity. I was in near-proximity to their rarefied daily lives to an extent largely impossible for anyone but their fellow filthy rich friends. And actually, I saw sides of them that their "friends" (virtually always business associates of one type or another) would never see. Many a late night I'd drop off their dinner partners (who usually lived no more than a few blocks from where my employer lived) only to hear my boss and his wife launch into all manner of vicious critique of what (you guessed it) wifey was wearing, or speculation about how much they were worth. I'm telling you, these people were soulless. I have nothing but disgust for all of them. All the rich people on the UES that I ever interacted with were contemptible and shockingly ignorant about how their fellow New Yorkers actually live, and think. And now they wanna move downtown.

New York is lost.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 5:43 PM on November 19, 2006 [6 favorites]


Jay McInerney isn't dead yet? Why?
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 5:44 PM on November 19, 2006 [1 favorite]


his rail-thin, dripping-with-jewelry trophy wife

AKA -- a "social x-ray."
posted by ericb at 5:48 PM on November 19, 2006


Jay McInerney isn't dead yet? Why?

Because no one would notice?
posted by R. Mutt at 5:55 PM on November 19, 2006


I paid you enough to keep you in flapjacks well past midnight, and this is the gratitude I get?
posted by emelenjr at 6:06 PM on November 19, 2006


the rich and useless are now trying to do the same to the Village and points east.

I think the composition of this group has changed over the past ten or twenty years, with the rise of finance and IT. Hedge fund managers, implementation consultants, and investment bankers may be just as "useless," but they can usually make a claim to "earning" their money in a way that rentiers can not.
posted by Kwantsar at 6:07 PM on November 19, 2006


the rich and useless are now trying to do the same to the Village and points east.

*erects razor wire fence around Queens*
posted by jonmc at 6:27 PM on November 19, 2006


New York is lost.

There's more to New York than Manhattan.
posted by jonmc at 6:29 PM on November 19, 2006


flapjacks well past midnight

Y'know, we really need spellcheck in the comments...
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:29 PM on November 19, 2006


Many a late night I'd drop off their dinner partners...only to hear my boss and his wife launch into all manner of vicious critique....

That's not a rich person thing, that's a person thing. Half the fun of going out is the post-outing rehash.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:30 PM on November 19, 2006 [1 favorite]


There's more to New York than Manhattan.

Very true, jonmc, very true. I spent 11 years in beautiful Ft. Greene, Brooklyn. Couldn't afford my old apartment there now, though...

Only a matter of time before they come for you. And their money can chew through razor wire.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:32 PM on November 19, 2006


That's not a rich person thing, that's a person thing. Half the fun of going out is the post-outing rehash.

*remembers outing he's gone on with ThePink Superhero. cries*
posted by jonmc at 6:43 PM on November 19, 2006


We all do it!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:48 PM on November 19, 2006 [1 favorite]


I hate name-dropping pseudo-literary mammon-worshipping knobgobbling like this.

Hey Jay: go and do a line like you used to, for old times sakes, and see if that cold, atrophied heart of yours finally gives up the ghost. We'll hold a memorial for you in the Odeon and we'll all be terribly, terribly arch in our eulogies while secretly loathing your success which seemed to consist of writing entirely about nothing.



PS: "The Donald is unclubbable" - I'd club him good.
posted by lalochezia at 6:48 PM on November 19, 2006 [1 favorite]


Hey, everybody wanna move out to Brooklyn and chill under the BQE with me? It's just like living next to an interstate *anywhere else in the country!* And that makes it worth it.
posted by SmileyChewtrain at 6:49 PM on November 19, 2006


There's more to New York than Manhattan.
I like the island Manhattan
Smoke on your pipe and put that in!
</ritamoreno>
posted by George_Spiggott at 6:49 PM on November 19, 2006


We all do it!

No, the rich really are different.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:50 PM on November 19, 2006


I doubt it.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:55 PM on November 19, 2006 [1 favorite]


NO! They REALLY ARE!!! ;)
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:01 PM on November 19, 2006


This piece introduced me to a large number of people, including the author and his finance, who I can the rest of my life without meeting and be better for it.

In other words, are there more than 25 people who actually care about the article, the people in it, or the "issue" it's discussing?
posted by maxwelton at 7:02 PM on November 19, 2006


So far, only 19.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:09 PM on November 19, 2006 [1 favorite]


We all do it!

Not me. Not out of any virtue, it's just that after an outing, I'm usually not sober enough to speak.
posted by jonmc at 7:13 PM on November 19, 2006


And you wonder what I talk about after we go out ;-)
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:14 PM on November 19, 2006 [1 favorite]


The only friend I've stayed in touch with from NYC lives on the UES. But he has a studio apartment he bought, brand-new, in the 60's. He's done well, but it blows my mind he's still living in a studio. Not one of the 'useless', he's an artist and activist.

But all my thoughts about Manhattan are rooted in decades past. I've never partied in Chelsea, I'm of the West Village time frame, when the alaphabet streets were considered a no-go area and Brooklyn Heights wasn't entirely gentrified. And since I've been an on-and-off New Yorker, I have some notions rooted even earlier, and still miss the pre-gentrification upper westside (kids, the west 70s used to be a blast!). In those days, the "outer bourroughs" were considered foreign countries. Do they even call them 'outer' anymore?
posted by Goofyy at 7:39 PM on November 19, 2006


A mover once told me he always knew where the loaded truck was to go: more books than clothes, west side; more clothes than books, east side.
posted by StickyCarpet at 8:06 PM on November 19, 2006 [1 favorite]


You were a hack novelist back in the eighties. The publishing industry latched on to you because you were young and shallow and marketable. Your novels sucked sweaty monkey nuts but that wasn't important. You were young and hip and everything the publishing industry was desperate to have.

Now you've run out of inspiration and you write stuff for sorry bushwah rags like New York magazine. You write about rich people, about the "Death of the Upper East Side." Other rich people read you. Your writing still sucks sweaty monkey nuts but hey-- it still pays the bills.

Your article is not something to be put down lightly, as the saying goes. Instead, it should be hurled across the room with maximum force.
posted by jason's_planet at 9:41 PM on November 19, 2006 [3 favorites]


Not one of the 'useless', he's an artist and activist.

This is funny.
posted by Bookhouse at 11:51 PM on November 19, 2006


Without rehashing McInerney's career or the obvious struggle he has with disliking the people he obviously aspires to mingle with, this is a fascinating phenomenon. The UES held its position at the pinnacle for a loooong time, whether you're talking about the country or just Manhattan, and to have that center shift downtown is interesting for a number of reasons.

This process was underway back in the 80s, even, when I was out there. The thing I remember was the furor over the building Zeckendorf built on Union Square, an ugly multi-use development (condos, street-level retail). Everybody wondered who the hell would live there as it was too expensive for the neighborhood. Sure, Union Square and environs had a few nice restaurants and such, but 14th was seedy as hell, and just this side of scary.

Anyway, those were the Soho years. The parts of the village that people wanted to live in were becoming expensive, the other parts were too dangerous, and yuppies began moving into converted lofts and such. Tribeca was still the place that artists went for cheap studio space.

Back then the UES was expanding north into what had been Spanish Harlem. People were daring to dream that the north end of Central Park would become safe again.

So when Tribeca and even the Meat-Packing District became hip places ... well, that was hugely surprising. To have them take over from the UES in a mere 20 years is earth-shaking.

I don't know all the causes or how accurate McInerney is here. It seems to me that the explosion of yuppie housing everywhere beginning in the 80s has served to dilute the UES demographic. I know there are new buildings there, or were, so that doesn't seem like halting development and forcing it to other neighborhoods is all of it, either. The thing that I noticed then, though, was that the trends seemed to me to be diluting what I had understood to be the UWS core demographic.

I also wonder how much the financial district's expansion beginning in the 80s (and leaping over the Hudson to Jersey in the 90s) helped this. Lots of stockbrokers who don't want to take long livery rides?

Anyway, yes the people in the article are mainly tedious people who don't deserve the influence they have. I think an interesting thing McInerney almost touches on is how much this "400" has been infiltrated by show-biz people, whether it's actors or TV journalists.
posted by dhartung at 3:27 AM on November 20, 2006


If you go a little further up into 10028 and east to the river, you will find a cheaper neighborhood with perhaps the most afforable housing in Manhattan below 125th. Still, it is The Land That Fun Forgot.
posted by exogenous at 4:41 AM on November 20, 2006


Not one of the 'useless', he's an artist and activist.

This is funny.


Truly. This is where I play the "Williamsburg" card. I'll take full responsibility for anything that follows.
posted by spicynuts at 7:09 AM on November 20, 2006


Williamsburg isn't even part of Brooklyn anymore. It's a theme park for Rich Kid bohemians, BrooklynLand!

(actually, it's merely Soho East. Stay outta Queens, hipsters!)
posted by jonmc at 7:20 AM on November 20, 2006


Years ago there was an article (in NY Magazine, coincidentally) about the geology of Manhattan, alleging that the area under the UES would be at risk of liquifaction in the event of an earthquake.

Pretty much deep sixed any aspiration I had to live there, never mind the quality of the neighbours. No matter. I too have more books than clothes, if not enough money to live in Manhattan at all. (UWS apparantly far more stable, geologically. Such a comfort.)
posted by IndigoJones at 7:20 AM on November 20, 2006


is puffy's still open?
posted by phaedon at 7:34 AM on November 20, 2006


This piece prompted me to map my own NYC geography ... In the early 80s I lived in the east village and clubbed in very remote-seeming and underpopulated Tribeca. In the late 80s, we had a kid and bizarrely found a great deal on an apartment at 86th and Park, and I gotta admit, the amenities were awesome. In the 90s, with kid #2, we moved to a big fat loft in Tribeca just as PS 234 opened, but still there were few and far-between family-friendly amenities in the neighborhood. Longings for car/yard/dog had us decamped to the suburbs for the late 90s, early '00s. Divorce has brought me back to Manhattan, to Morningside Heights -- the most diverse and least self-conscious New York neighborhood I've lived in.

Recently, I worked with a literary publication that survived off the droppings of this crowd (mostly netted during the annual fundraiser, with Mr. McInerney and his 'fiancee' Anne Hearst in attendance) and I was up close to them for almost a year. It was horrible. It really was.
posted by thinkpiece at 8:02 AM on November 20, 2006


On preview, phaedon, nope.
posted by thinkpiece at 8:03 AM on November 20, 2006


Morningside Heights -- the most diverse and least self-conscious New York neighborhood

umm, yeah? It's a collegetown really.
posted by carmina at 8:15 AM on November 20, 2006


Do real people like me still live in Manhattan? Or is it pretty much made up of the wealthy? Didn't like punks used to live there? I can't imagine any self-respecting rocker would make enough money to be able to afford it now.
posted by DieHipsterDie at 8:35 AM on November 20, 2006


Manhattan is the new Upper East Side; Park Slope is the new Village; Queens is the new Brooklyn; and the Bronx is the new Queens.
posted by DenOfSizer at 8:37 AM on November 20, 2006


Is this something I'd have to live in New York to care about?

Guh, this seems like much clucking about where rich old farts live.
posted by ninjew at 8:51 AM on November 20, 2006


Morningside Heights -- the most diverse and least self-conscious New York neighborhood

Meh. Astoria, Jackson Hts, or Woodside, maybe.
posted by DenOfSizer at 8:56 AM on November 20, 2006


Meh, back atcha DenOfSizer. I meant Manhattan and I qualified it by saying "... I've lived in." I, meaning, not you.
posted by thinkpiece at 9:23 AM on November 20, 2006


*erects razor wire fence around Queens*

*attaches electrodes to fence, starts generator*

The great part about dripping-with-jewelry assholes is the way they light up when you pass a few thousand amps through them.

I went to school in the UES, and there were at least a few good people there, but they've all seen the light and moved to Queens, so I guess now's as good a time as any for that quake to hit. I do hope it spares the Met though.
posted by Skorgu at 9:32 AM on November 20, 2006


So Queens is now no longer depressing and faintly squalid? I remember it made me think of boiled cabbage and seemed to be made of cardboard.

It's been so bloody long since I lived in New York -- illegally in the East Village, in on Avenue B, in 1982 -- I'm a canuck and was only able to stay about 6 months.

I've been back to visit, but I've never gone off the island of Manhattan, except to Brooklyn. It's worth it, seriously?
posted by jrochest at 11:09 AM on November 20, 2006


Coming from the perspective of a young person who has had the unique experience of looking for an apartment in Manhattan - the UES is lame. Lame, lame, lame, lame, lame. When I think of the UES, I think of poodle ladies, frat boys, and feux-Irish bars. It didn't really surprise me that apartments there were more affordable then those in Alphabet City, where there's a hell of a lot more to do and, at least for the time being, more interesting people. Who the hell would want to live in the UES, so far away from anything even remotely interesting interesting (except for the park and museums, which I can take a train to)?

In the end, I ponied up the dough for Alphabet City, because, hell, you're only young once. Although I felt totally gouged by the soul-eating corprophile who called himself a real-estate broker, I've since learned that people are paying brokers' fees in such far-flung localities as Astoria and Bushwick.

Yes, that's right. Bushwick.
posted by Afroblanco at 11:36 AM on November 20, 2006


Well, this might make sense if you don't distinguish between old money, new money, new new money, and California trash. The UES is still pretty central and the quality of the buildings still exceeds the lego-block luxury of the new buildings that pop up overnight in downtown. If anything's killed the UES it's idiot gossip rags like nymag.

Anyways it's good to know a lot of people still hate rich. Of course complaints about the soulless, shallow rich sound pretty hollow coming from soulless, shallow middle class.
posted by nixerman at 11:45 AM on November 20, 2006


Is this something I'd have to live in New York to care about?

Nope. You might also care about it if you used to read McInerney back in the day, kind of enjoyed him, and wish to read something from him now.
posted by vito90 at 12:27 PM on November 20, 2006


DenOfSizer:

Manhattan is the new Upper East Side; Park Slope is the new Village; Queens is the new Brooklyn; and the Bronx is the new Queens.

That's very apt.

The weird thing about NYC is that gentrification is now a mostly invisible economic process. I.e., gentrifying neighborhoods don't necessarily look much different from non-gentrifying ones, because the landlords know that they can raise rents and sale prices without actually improving their buildings, and the market will bear it.

NYC is afflicted with a severe and chronic housing shortage, esp. for the middle and lower classes. There is a mini-building boom going on at the moment, but it's mostly condos for the upper and upper middle classes.

It's great that so many people want to live here. I have a hard time thinking about moving anywhere else, because I enjoy the density, the pedestrian/transit orientation, the cultural and intellectual climate, and the smart, cool people I know. But the cost of living is a killer.
posted by Artifice_Eternity at 1:39 PM on November 20, 2006


is puffy's still open?</em

God damn you. Thanks for ripping open an old wound. Next you'll be asking about Tin Pan Alley. (And no, I don't mean the music building, you whippersnappers.)

posted by languagehat at 2:53 PM on November 20, 2006


How the fuck did that happen? See, everything's going to hell!
posted by languagehat at 2:53 PM on November 20, 2006


McInerny is vile, that much has been clear for a while now. He managed to parlay a couple of mildly entertaining novels of status obsession into his present washed-out life of a bon vivant, swilling wine and acting, in general, like a foul little twit.

When you compare him to his peers, such as Bret Easton Ellis who has proved to be a considerable talent, McInerny is a nothing.
posted by jayder at 6:59 PM on November 20, 2006


Manhattan is the new Upper East Side; Park Slope is the new Village; Queens is the new Brooklyn; and the Bronx is the new Queens

And Staten Island is still just Staten Island.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:02 PM on November 20, 2006


When you compare him to his peers, such as Bret Easton Ellis who has proved to be a considerable talent, McInerny is a nothing.

McInerney's washed up, but Ellis is a twat, too.
posted by jonmc at 7:54 PM on November 20, 2006


All Manhattan is well on the way to upper-class gentrification.

If I didn't already own I'd be looking at Harlem right now, for many of the same reasons I moved into the East Village in the Early eighties. Though it's not particularly 'arty'. I think the recent 'artISTs' are too chicken shit to deal with that.
posted by HTuttle at 8:22 PM on November 20, 2006


Williamsburg isn't even part of Brooklyn anymore. It's a theme park for Rich Kid bohemians, BrooklynLand!...(actually, it's merely Soho East. Stay outta Queens, hipsters!)

Not to seem like I'm stalking you from thread to thread, jonmc, but I think you can do better than this.

This particular line of resentment is so tired. I know you'd like to portray Williamsburg as one reeking congeries of fixie-ridin', Spock-haircut-havin', trustfund-enjoyin', peacoat-wearin', Pitchfork-trollin' poseurs, so you can prop up your self-esteem by sneering at them (and for all of that, even my weak attempt at pastiche is probably five years out of date).

As it happens, though, I spend a decent chunk of my time there, and I rarely if ever see anyone resembling your "rich kid bohemians." Not to deny that any such exist, just to point out that the neighborhood would more honestly be characterized as being full of great books, great coffee, great food, (occasionally) great clothes, legitimate design innovation*, and real conversations.

(*While so much of the New Brooklyn Aesthetic (as epitomized by the kinds of things you're likely to see at Maiden, Brooklyn or The Future Perfect) personally leaves me cold, you can't argue that there isn't a real design sensibility there.)

I'm not troubled in the slightest if you personally find Queens more to your taste than Williamsburg - for that matter, there are neighborhoods I like better. I wish, though, that you would more often express your affinity for Queens life as a positive statement of what it offers you that you can't find elsewhere, rather than as yet another chance to reaffirm your sense of Regular Proletarian Joe superiority.

Put another way: I prefer old Jil Sander to anonymous flannel, Bruno Latour to Jim Goad, and Tanqueray No. 10 to any kind of beer, and I'm an actual person in your environment. Jay McInerny may well be insulated from having to reckon with me as such, but you're going to have to make room for me. I'm not going away and I won't let you dismiss me in two cheap lines.
posted by adamgreenfield at 6:37 AM on November 21, 2006 [1 favorite]


heh heh... greenfield, tell 'em, bro!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:43 AM on November 21, 2006


but Tanqueray No. 10? Man, you gotta get into single malts. They'll blow your gin outta the water.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:44 AM on November 21, 2006


Put another way: I prefer old Jil Sander to anonymous flannel, Bruno Latour to Jim Goad, and Tanqueray No. 10 to any kind of beer, and I'm an actual person in your environment. Jay McInerny may well be insulated from having to reckon with me as such, but you're going to have to make room for me. I'm not going away and I won't let you dismiss me in two cheap lines.

Nor would I want you to. I know you only casually, but you hardly seem like a cookie cutter hipster.

My distaste for the current state of Williamsburg is kind of complicated. Two of my uncles grew up in the area back in the 50's and 60's when it was a very different place and I lived there briefly in '91 before the transformation had begun. So a little resentment of gentrification is probably part of that.

And FWIW, as a person who's been accused of looking and acting like a 'weirdo' by all kinds of people, I can appreciate the value of a place where at least putatively, individuality is encouraged.

But I've spent my time around too many self-proclaimed non-conformists who seem to have no patience with anyone unlike themselves, too many people who think individuality=trendiness. Too many eyes rolled at me. Too many smirks. When people always seem to be judging you, it puts a damper on having a good time. Sometimes it's nice to sit in a bar with some retired plumber or firefighter and hear different stories for a change. It's more interesting to me at least, to hear a guy describe surviving Vietnam or the Depression or about immigrating from Jamaica or seeing shows at the Fillmore or the Brooklyn Paramount, than about how nobody back home 'understands' them or the latest YeahYeahYeahs album. And surprisingly, none of them have ever snarked at my appearance or tastes. Hell, these guys love when I come into the bar and put music on. And there's plenty of younger, artistic types in the neighborhood as well, but for the most part, they seem content to become part of the neighborhood and respect the people already there, rather than remake the place in their own image, which is what happened in Billyburg, to my eyes.

Basically, that's a long winded way of saying I fit in better in Queens than I do in Williamsburg, I guess. (It also kind of irks me that a lot of the stuff the hipster kids appropriate as ironic shtick: heavy metal, old TV, etc) is stuff I sincerely enjoy, which makes me feel vaguely like I'm being made fun of.
posted by jonmc at 7:19 AM on November 21, 2006


I wish, though, that you would more often express your affinity for Queens life as a positive statement of what it offers you that you can't find elsewhere,

Well, when I do that with music around here, I usually get the rolled-eyes dismissal, so maybe I'm a little defensive about stating affection for things.
posted by jonmc at 7:34 AM on November 21, 2006


What, rolled eyes hurt so bad? Grow a skin, man! Fly your freak flag freely if freak flag you'll fly!

Not only that, you know damn well you've never gotten any such response from me. But then, I deeply and unironically love Sabbath. B.D.
posted by adamgreenfield at 7:49 AM on November 21, 2006


Maybe rolled eyes is the wrong phrase. It's more the pat-on-the-head 'isn't that cute? the little retard is trying to be all smart.' that I seem to get from people. Even people who seem to like what I do seem to think I'm just doing some kind of psychotic standup comedy. (and while I like kidding around, I can assure you that I'm not just some sideshow act). If it was only occasional, the 'grow a skin' would be appropriate, but it isn't. It's pretty much how the online, and a lot of the real world sees me. My cross to bear I guess.
posted by jonmc at 9:11 AM on November 21, 2006


johnmc: I'm not just some sideshow act
posted by StickyCarpet at 6:18 AM on November 22, 2006


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