ARCHIVE FOR March, 2014

Brooklyn’s Brand Ambassadors6

Posted by Deirdre // 03-07-2014

The Brand of Brooklyn

The Brand of Brooklyn

About a week after my post about Ditmas, the NY Times published this article about “the Clubhouse,” a sort of modern day Bohemian boarding house / studio, nestled on a quiet street in that very neighborhood. But Ditmas is just a bit player in the piece, which is really about the roommates and their…work. Musicians, video artists, tech stuff, you know the drill. It’s hipster to the H degree for sure, but there’s more: the house has a sponsor. Or as the NY Times refers to it, the house is “closely aligned with a new media company called BKLYN1834, which is dedicated to selling the borough’s image beyond its borders.” Um, yeah. And 1834 refers not just to the year in which Brooklyn was incorporated, but to THE AGES OF THE TARGET CONSUMER to which all the projects will marketed.

The article seemed to offer zero acknowledgment that this premise was ridiculous or at least vaguely laughable. So I immediately went to twitter to enjoy the spew of disgust that surely was being vented and add my own version of a Spike Lee-esque rant, as someone who admittedly never lived in any less than gentrified part of Brooklyn and definitely appreciates the good restaurants and shops, but who is still grossed out beyond belief by this. Yet all I saw were accolades and cheers from “friends” of the Clubhouse.

Were these people being paid? It is not an out of the question question. Is it all the more gross to me because I’m in marketing and have been a part of the conversations in conference rooms about that elusive demographic? Perhaps. Am I just really old and jaded? This too, could be the case. Thankfully, a few days later I learned that The New York Observer felt pretty much the same way and so much so that they claimed Brooklyn was “over”. The $10 latte played a part, as did the $8 million condos and all the other Brooklyn is so expensive and also just so Brooklyn that it’s become a parody of itself news of late. Look, it’s not that I moved to Brooklyn to be an artist or even pretend to be living an alternative lifestyle. And while I don’t think of “consumption as an art,” I do feel that the whole foodie/etsy/flea movement was at least interesting to behold and experience as it became a part of and helped shape the culture here. At least before it just became too much.  

“The borough’s creative class has long focused its talents and energies on producing pickles and artisanal doughnuts, bespoke blue jeans and exquisitely renovated brownstones rather than a creating definable school of art of [sic] literature, music or social movement.”

Ouch. It is selling the borough and all that’s happened here in the last ten or so years a bit short I’d say, as well as the efforts of all those who wanted to be pickle makers because they were good at making pickles (or t-shirts or jewelry), not writing novels. That’s not their fault or the borough’s fault that this is who lives here and more importantly, who has made it here. And remember what our friend Moby said about New York no longer being where artists can feel free to fail, and in this piece David Byrne (who admits he is one of the 1%) rails on about New York — at least Manhattan and much of Brooklyn — only being a playground for the rich.

I don’t want to get too off track as this was not meant to be a we-are-the-99% piece. I don’t know what it’s supposed to be. I guess I’m having an issue with the fact that there are people selling the brand of Brooklyn and not just on a t-shirt on a person but the person himself, and he’s basically cool with that. Maybe it’s just The Real World coming full circle?

This is combined with the the fact that this rise in artisanal appreciation and cool factor, along with the money that’s infiltrated Brooklyn, has come the astronomic rise in the price of these things. I’m glad that people who make things are making money but it’s gotten so ridiculous that to buy provisions for a cheese plate and dessert at the local (grass-fed, organic) cheese shop for a night in with friends, now costs what it would to go out to dinner in more normal cities. New York has always been expensive, of course – you make more money here, you live in a shoebox and that’s the way it is and always has been. Yet it has gone beyond farcical. Pickles and $10 loaves of crafted bread and up-cycled wood furniture were a bit pricier but we happily paid for the stuff because it was real and made here in our beloved borough. And we could chuckle at the Brooklandia aspect of it all because we could kind of afford it. But something seemed to have switched. And now the moneyed are not just buying up brownstones for cash but happily paying not $10 but $15 for loaves of crafted bread and then swooping in from midtown to take whatever vestige of real cool that’s left and sell it as “content” that makes it feel almost beyond repair.

Am I just too poor now that I’m a freelancer to enjoy the spoils? Is it our age? Is it another one of those exhausting conversations about Brooklyn that are now just over too? I’d love to know what you think.