The Death of a City

Last month I went out to a fancy dress shindig for a friend's birthday. My costume as hastily thrown together and oh so last minute. But the venue the outing was at, The Flapper in Birmingham, is due to close at the end of this month.

The initial plan for a block of luxury apartments has fallen through but this has no bearing on the closure of the premises. A new developer is welcome to come in and propose essentially the same plan.

In the future, archaeologists digging in Holland Park, London may unearth a JCB. Why? Because when you spend millions kitting out the basements of your London townhouse (guidelines prohibit building upward), why spend money to retrieve aforementioned diggers? Build around them and leave them down there. It's someone else's problem.

I thought of Birmingham, London and other places when reading this article today in Harpers on the gentrification of New York.

"Almost everything of use has gone. There was Oppenheimer Meats, a butcher shop whose founder had reportedly fled Nazi Germany and, I was told, brought his business down to our neighborhood from Washington Heights sometime in the Forties. A large, imposing man with a bristling mustache, he would strut behind his counter like a Prussian field marshal, but he hired people of every color from the neighborhood and left them to run the shop when he retired. Then, a few years ago, according to its new owner, Oppenheimer’s rent was tripled. Out it went. Over on Amsterdam, between 97th and 98th Streets, was a whole row of enterprises: an excellent fish store, a pet shop, a Mexican restaurant named for Frida Kahlo, and a laundromat we used to call the St. Launder Center, thanks to how part of its name had been torn out of its awning. Then they were all gone, too, without warning. Soon after, I ran into Shirley, doughty little Asian abbess of the St. Launder Center. She said the landlord had upped the rent from a hefty $7,000 a month to $21,000, which is a hell of a lot of laundry."