"you want old stuff? go to europe."

I learned today that CBGB, that Bowery institution where I discovered... oh, a lot of stuff... will likely close next year. It's a complete wonder that Hilly Kristal's palace has managed to survive so long, and it's not surprising that it has finally come to the end of the line after 32 years. (It does make me feel a little old, but that's ok.)

I gleaned this NYC tidbit from an Op-Ed in last week's New York Times City section, called "Go To Brooklyn, Punk", which I traced back to Tony Fletcher, who I confess I had never heard of before.

Fletcher's piece is about New York's ever-changing - some would say ever- disappearing - music scene, forever forced to discover new neighborhoods as areas become too pricey.
And then there's CBGB. When Hilly Kristal opened his Bowery bar in December 1973, the neighborhood was too dangerous to draw an audience for the club's promised country, bluegrass and blues. Instead, a new generation of downtown rock musicians, attracted by the neighborhood's cheap loft rents, talked their way onto his stage. The Ramones, Blondie, Talking Heads, Patti Smith and Television duly started punk rock and made CBGB internationally famous; the club has continued to champion underground music ever since. CBGB's lease expires this summer, and Mr. Kristal says he won't meet a proposed doubling of his rent to $40,000 a month.

Mr. Kristal doesn't glorify the days when the club, below a flophouse, was among the neighborhood's only functioning storefronts. A recent Village Voice story about the Bowery's gentrification found him remarkably sanguine. "A lot of this neighborhood could be nicer and cleaner," Mr. Kristal said. "So things are gone, places are gone. You want old stuff? Go to Europe. This is New York."

Precisely. Besides, as Mr. Kristal knows, success does not guarantee survival in this city. The factors that enable a music club to become a going concern - cheap rents, low prices, a poor but avid customer base - are certain to change when the neighborhood becomes popular, the venue makes money or the lease is up.
He's right, of course, in one sense. New York is all about change. New York is change. The city exists for profit, not to subsidize fledgling art and music scenes.

Yet I wonder if New York risks losing the constant influx of young adventurers that add so much to the city, as the slum-to-art-to-gentrification cycle turns faster and faster. One day I read that Red Hook, Brooklyn is the new frontier, and it seems the next I'm reading about development in that neighborhood that only the very rich can afford.

Yet... the next day I read about an arts boom in the South Bronx. Yes, the South Bronx. And it just keeps spinning.

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