Monday, May 14, 2007

Musician Marc Ribot Says Real Estate Is Squandering Culture

As an activist for the preservation of avante garde institutions in New York city, and in opposition to the growing condo culture, musician Marc Ribot was recently arrested for 'trespassing' and taken away in handcuffs from the Tonic club for insisting on playing music and staying put at the then-popular music venue. Tonic, perhaps the last independent 90's music venue was being vacated by the operators due to financial problems. And sharing the same fate as so many other small performance spaces, Tonic caved in to the inability of competing in the downtown rental market. Later, Ribot, along with musician Rebecca Moore formed and organization called Take It To The Bridge to encourage and demand the city to provide way for a new venue for the Lower East Side’s avante-garde community.

A portion of an interview by Ribot to, Found and posted by Indie Rob Leddy on the CIUSA board, says: And part of the reason it's a desirable market location is because these neighborhoods have had 10 years of places like Tonic and the Mercury Lounge making it desirable.

MR: Right, everybody says, "go somewhere else and be the shock troops for real estate again." Forget it! These places should be able to stay in the neighborhoods long enough for the people in the neighborhoods and the clientele to get to know each other. The second reason involves heritage. Four or five extremely important social movements and attendant art movements were born within a 20-block radius of CBGB. That question is being ignored to a shocking degree by the city. Let me put it this way: my job is that I travel around and play music. I go a lot of places. This past weekend I was in Paris and Brussels and a few places in Holland and Belgium. Over here, I see that within the last two years, the Second Avenue Deli has shut down without landmarking, which was the last physical remainder of the Yiddish theater scene. CBGB is shut down. It's amazing that that was allowed to happen. Now they're shutting down Coney Island, and they shut down Tonic, too. I said "I've had enough!" I travel all over the world, and Paris has social problems. Vienna has social problems, plenty of immigrants, and there are developers there that would certainly like to build in desirable neighborhoods. But they don't knock down their opera houses just because the real estate value has gone up and somebody wants to put up a condo. It's simply not done. In Copenhagen, they don't knock down the famous old amusement park area because some rich guy came along and wanted to put in a hotel. It's not done! They value continuity, and they value their heritage, which is why people from all over the United States are willing to go a night without sleep so they can afford to go visit these places in the summer. Opera is not our contribution to world culture. CBGB is. Tonic is. This is our cultural capital. We should be protecting it. New York is squandering our cultural capital.

In the post, Indie Rob Leddy writes:

“This article pretty much sums up my feelings about what is happening to this city.“

Poster NewYorkDave writes:
“Funny thing... After I moved to the suburbs, I used to feel like I was missing out on the action and I'd come into the city as often as I could. But I don't really feel that way anymore.”

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