They Paved Paradise



( words)

They paved paradise and put up a parking lot Starbucks.

This week brought distressing news. No, I am not talking about Taylor Swift being named the ambassador of New York City, although that is a symptom of the disease on which the news is based. Yet another iconic New York business is being forced out of existence because of the new economy. Cafe Edison, the broadway landmark that won the hearts of Neil Simon and August Wilson as well as many of the actors they fed for free when times got tough, is closing. Not because they couldn’t make it but because the Edison Hotel has refused to renew their lease. If that wasn’t distressing enough, they have also chosen to not renew the leases of The Rum House and Sofia’s. The Rum House is one of my favorite NY secrets - a small time portal to the 1930’s where you can catch live swing and ragtime jazz for only the cost of a couple of well made cocktails. Here comes another Starbucks.

You might say that Cafe Edison is just an aging theatre district coffee shop that serves adequate polish food. And that would be true. And you might also say that your best friend is a bit of an ass at times and that would also be true. It doesn’t weaken your friendship; You love things dispite their flaws.

I know some of you will argue that the Edison should be able to charge fair market rent and that it is survival of the fittest. But it’s not fair market when the only businesses that can afford the rent are national chains that write off the cost and subsidize the failing location because it becomes a marketing flagship. How much do you think Ralph Lauren and Michael Kors pay for those nice little storefronts down the block from Magnolia Bakery on Bleeker Street so that the throngs of tourists who are on the Sex in the City tour can view the marquee brands as they walk by? They too, used to be independent businesses. The same small businesses that American Express is asking you to support in their November campaign. Who will American Express support when all of the independent businesses are gone? The closing of the Cafe Edison is but another erosion of the uniqueness of the city. We’ve passed gentrification and are entering full blown gated community status.

I’ve watched in the last few years as independents, mom and pop stores, and vital neighborhood spots have been forced out due to 100% increases in rent. My favorite butcher had his rent go from $15,000 to $35,000 per month and had to give up. How much meat can a man sell? Even the ubiquitous bodegas that Taylor Swift defines for the uninitiated in her New York primer are being eradicated. And once where we had Jay Z and Billy Joel as our theme songs, we now have a glossy, candy sweet song that removes all danger, grit, and reality from New York. Even the hook, "welcome to New York, its been waiting for you", says a ton. New York does not wait for anyone. It only exists for those willing to make it their own. Or, now, buy it.

I came to New York to live in the city, a city that was diverse, vibrant, and real -- not an outdoor mall filled with national chains and a food court.

If you want to sign the Save Cafe Edision petition at change.org, click here. And tweet using the #SaveCafeEdison hashtag.