Jeremiah Moss at his ‘Vanishing New York’ Book Signing and Reading [RECAP]
We hear it often. Our city is losing its soul. In the hyper-gentrification that has sped up since the turn of the millennium, those of us who pre-date this era, frequently – and too often rightly – lament the closing of favorite local businesses, the loss of scale when high rises replace beloved older buildings, the anonymity felt when you no longer know the names of neighbors and their dogs.
Many of us commiserate on social media or in person with friends. We have also found a sense of community in hyper-local blogs like, well, this one.
There is an irony here in the creation of new communities – albeit frequently virtual ones – that have arisen as a response to the loss of old ones.
In this new type of community, a favorite blog of ours is Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York. We have been fans since it began. Cultural commentator and blogger Jeremiah Moss (aka Griffin Hansbury) has spent the past decade observing and painstakingly detailing the changes around our city, which many of us feel are truly happening before our eyes. (He was also a main inspiration behind the genesis of Bowery Boogie.)
Jeremiah Moss has taken things a step further with the publication of a new book, Vanishing New York: How a Great City Lost Its Soul. An analysis of what the book jacket calls “contemporary urban renewal” and a eulogy for “unofficial treasured landmarks,” Moss chronicles the shocking transformation of our beloved city.
We went to a reading and book signing by Moss at, fittingly, Housing Works Bookstore on Crosby Street last week. It’s an indicator of the level of concern that people had to be turned away at the door.
Moss started the reading by saying, “This book is filled with absence.”
There was a feeling of kinship in the packed room. When Moss said, “I am against forgetting,” the entire room cheered and applauded.
Moss came to New York City in the early ’90s. It was, he admitted, the worst time to arrive because things would not stay the same for long. As he writes in the introduction to the book, “It was like falling crazily in love with a 93-year-old, too blind to see that she was fading. I was Harold and New York my Maude. The city looked so alive – filled with creative vitality, still untamed and rough around the edges. How could I not believe it would last forever?”
The closing of one of the last remaining icons of old Times Square, Café Edison, in 2014, left him in tears and was the motivation for a new effort of his: the Save NYC campaign. Where Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York was an individual endeavor, #SaveNYC is a crowd-sourced grassroots platform to raise awareness of the ongoing loss of “diversity and uniqueness of the urban fabric of NYC.” It encourages taking action.
During the talk, there was a slideshow behind Moss. He asked to stop the slideshow because people were getting emotional seeing images of places that have now closed, and there were audible sighs as each slide appeared.
This is about more than missing what we had, more than resistance to or an inability to accept change. “This book is not a nostalgia trip,” Moss said, “but it IS about history.”