Lower East Side “Authentrification” Explained

Posted on: October 4th, 2011 at 11:18 am by

“Authentrification” is a new descriptor coined to explain the phenomenon of gentrification demolishing the old, then marking it with a gravestone tribute.  Or, in other words, kill the real deal then pay homage.  Case in point – John Varvatos and its treatment of the CBGB legacy post-mortem.

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Author Alexandria Symonds over at This Recording has a piece about the so-called “authentrification,” featuring write-bytes by yours truly and our esteemed neighborhood scribes EV Grieve (nay, Mr. Grieve) and Vanishing NY. Here are some highlights.

DBGB’s décor — and that of a number of other area businesses making similar design choices — represents an homage, then, to what the Lower East Side and East Village once were. Similarly, the John Varvatos store in the space formerly owned by CBGB, which has kept some of the graffiti from the rock club’s interior intact, is just offering its respects. “It’s something that I’ve noticed that’s existed for a while — there was just never a term that summarized the phenomenon,” said Lower East Side resident Elie Perler, who runs the neighborhood blog Bowery Boogie.

In their quest for authenticity, they’re seizing on elements that represent the area’s past and repurposing them as a design scheme. The tendency of new East Village businesses toward authentrification is less than popular among Mr. Perler and fellow observers of the neighborhood, who view the phenomenon as insincere.

The East Village resident who keeps the popular blog Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York, and goes by the name Jeremiah Moss, sees it as something of a class issue. “You can think about it as imperialistic, this sort of, like, ‘We’re going to come in and we’re going to take over, but we’re going to decorate our spaces with totems of the culture we just destroyed,’” he said. “It’s sort of like, ‘We came, we saw, we conquered, and now we own this stuff.’”

“Something about it is kind of unsettling to me; I find it kind of ghoulish,” says Mr. Grieve of the efforts made by the John Varvatos boutique to preserve the spirit of CBGB. “In a somewhat strange way, God forbid, I’d almost rather have it turned into a yogurt store, or something completely different.”

How do you feel about “authentrification”?

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