Neourbs and Death’s Ironic Scraping

The fantasy of the neourb (the new urbanist): “I have had a most rare vision. I have had a dream, past the wit of man to say what dream it was: man is but an ass, if he go about to expound this dream. Methought I was—there is no man can tell what. Methought I was,—and methought I had,—but man is but a patched fool, if he will offer to say what methought I had. The eye of man hath not heard, the ear of man hath not seen, man’s hand is not able to taste, his tongue to conceive, nor his heart to report, what my dream was. I will get Mailer’s ghost to write a ballad of this dream: it shall be called Brooklyn’s Dream, because it hath no Brooklyn; and I will sing it myself at the end of the bridge, upon the walkway: peradventure, to make it the more precious, I shall sing it to our death.”

You don’t hear much of the death of Brooklyn, of the death of our cities–not any longer. There’s a new dream replacing the nightmare demons of black encroachment (now contained in stop-and-frisk and visions of chokeholds and tasers). We, no “they” dream themselves to safety, guns and batons no longer visible during their cloudwalks to vegan markets and galleries whose brick walls flatter themselves into an urban rawness not the experience of anyone involved. Not even their parents. They open their arms to their black brethren–so long as they went to the right colleges, speak the right dialect, and work the right jobs. The rest–white, black, brown, yellow, whatever–are swept away and no longer signify.

But Brooklyn is dying, really, gasping for air, rattling its throes to a beat mistaken for rhythm, sounds mistaken for melody. Sandy warned them, but was passed off as a matter of luck–as though nothing else is, as though Gerritson Beach and Breezy Point died for their… protection (they have no sins). They, the neourbs, the children of the suburbs and entitled educations and trust funds, step into an urban paradise of their own creation, a bespoke Brooklyn crafted from artisanals out of the residue of the pushed behind (left behind? That would be a relief), the people who can no longer afford to live in New York City, let alone Brooklyn.

“Silver heels above me! I watch you pass my face; Climbing above the rest! near there half a step high! I see you turn from my face. Crowds of men and women attired in the usual costumes! how curious you are to me! In the limousines, the hundreds and hundreds that cross, returning home, are more curious to me than you suppose; And you that shall cross from shore to shore years hence, are more than me, and more in our imaginations, than you might suppose.”

Only the dead… only the rich know Brooklyn. Brooklyn… it cannot sustain the weight of wealth–no, its people, its soon-to-be former people can’t. No longer can they live here, or in urban centers anywhere across America where the once wilds of Mafia and blackman myth have been tamed to nothing more than trophies of once everyday use. The African restaurant replaces the African; soul food remains though the soul is gone. The servers crash eight to a room out the LIRR while the cook, the landscaper, the contractor have self-styled themselves craftspeople, doing it all alone, those toiling for them simply replaceable parts like all of what once was the working class. They have the luxury of seeing working-class heroes in the mirror for they don’t have to work at all or sleep in smelly rooms in illegal roominghouses near a Long Island station. They are moving farther and father out: “What happens when they can’t come in at all? Can you really prepare those meals alone? Mow all that grass, trim? Install that oak flooring (bespoke)?”

That’s the death. Those who do the real work of Brooklyn are shoved, with no consideration, to the far periphery by neourbs who flatter themselves that they can do it all, all by themselves. They don’t need servants, they don’t need helpers, they don’t need anything but maybe their machines (though those, too, are probably redundant).

But they do. They are walking naked now into the water in their imagined splendid robes. Soon, they will not be waving, but drowning.

“I saw the least minds of my generation corrupted by Wall Street, stuffed hysterical bankers, dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fee, self-proclaimed hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of money, who pompously flatters his greedy eyes and high sat up smoking in the supernatural darkness of million-dollar flats floating across the tops of cities contemplating jazz…. ”