The Desire to Be Hip Is Making All Our Cities the Same

Monday, March 04, 2013

A taco truck in New York City. (David Woo/flickr)

Cities like New Orleans and Pittsburgh have benefited from major economic investments and new business models. But writer Chuck Thompson thinks this isn't always a good thing. He's the author of "Better Off Without 'Em." His latest article in The New Republic is called "Take this Microbrew and Shove It."

In it, he argues against things like craft breweries, kimchi taco trucks, boutique clothing stores, and made-over industrial zones with resident celebrity graffiti sprayers. For all their charm, he says, these "hip" things are making all our cities the same. Does prosperity always come with homogeneity?


Chuck Thompson

Produced by:

Mythili Rao

Comments [5]

Larry's comment is fantastic! I've lived in Greenpoint for 8 years and have seen it transform. His trajectory in New York from the 80's is something I've followed (not him personally). I understand what it's like to be from a place that's "cool", only to have it usurped by the cultural-less.

I'm from Portland, OR. Growing up there, it wasn't at all the cool place. Being a young teenager in the 90's there was, looking back, a utopia. Clean, calm, temperate. Art everywhere, food everywhere, bikes the 80's. It's just how we grew up. There was no "scene".

Sorry "Grooveman" (comment above), but kids in Portland now don't drink PBR's as an homage to anything but their own scenesterism.

Now I live in Greenpoint. You can't get more yuppie-hipster douche than that, except I moved into Greenpoint Jan, 2005 from school in Boston. Franklin Ave is unrecognizable from only 5 years ago.
All this is to say the migration is natural. Any real estate person will tell you the artists make the place cool, before the people with money come in.

We all have to get used to it.

Mar. 04 2013 04:08 PM
Alice20c from New York

Why did you completely sidestep the class conflict? That's a huge, salient point. In NY, working class neighborhoods have been colonized by upper and upper-middle class 20-somethings from wealthy suburbs, who enable real estate developers to erode whole populations. That's why northern Brooklyn is losing diversity at the fastest rate. That's why articles are being written on the death of the middle class in this city. The street life has become monotone and passive-agressive. Artists, who gave NY it's cultural identity for a century, are no longer considered valuable citizens. Successful small business that have existed for decades are being evicted and put out of business by real estate developers assisted by the city government. Five in the past week alone (see Jeremiah's Vanishing NY). Don't minimize this. Or do that acknowledge-then-ignore trick that upper-middle class people do when they want to pull rank on a conversation, but still appear fair.

Why can't rich people live with anyone but other rich people? Why do hipsters have to treat ethical decisions as competitive consumption?

If Portland or any other "creative class city" thinks they're immune to this, they're in for a hell of a shock. NY is your future, and it's ugly. This is the flip side of Robert Moses and redlining, and it will be just as destructive in 10-20 years.

Mar. 04 2013 04:04 PM

I live in Portland and am pretty surprised that this guy doesn't know that hipsters drink PBR or Miller High Life here. They do so as a nod to working class and the blue collar roots of this region... Only old people like myself (40) drink good beer....because we make the best beer in the world here (should we be ashamed?). I lived for a while in Denver CO....chains galore there (as with most cities). I'm quite proud of Portland's conspicuous lack of chain stores. Oregonians come from a history of farmers and/or loggers... I don't believe that making great products is snooty, it's something to be proud of.

Mar. 04 2013 01:35 PM
Carrie Beveridge from Vancouver WA

What's this guy's problem? He hates cupcakes and brew pubs, so give him air time? Portland is a bastion of small businesses selling artisan and handcrafted items, and this is a problem, why?

Mar. 04 2013 01:20 PM
Larry Fisher from Brooklyn, N.Y.

Homogenization is about feeling safe in an unsafe world.
Trust Fund Kids or Trustafarians have helped Real Estate Brokers and Landlords homogenize neighborhoods where poor artists originally moved in to create their work.I went from the lower east side in the eighties, to Greenpoint in the nineties, to Bushwick in the last decade and now...
I am in Bed-Stuy and many new ugly, poorly designed, mold growing buildings go up all the time. My girlfriend asked me,"Who wants to move into these horrible looking, expensive apartments?"

I answered,"Parents with money whose kids are moving to New York to go to expensive Art Schools, see these new structures, and just think, 'Well, no black people will be living in there. My kid will be safe.'"

No Starbucks in Bed-Stuy yet, but it will come here soon enough and knock out the little mom and pop place where I can get a good coffee for a buck.

Those same people who need the security of hiding behind their racism in these new buildings, also need a place like Starbucks because they need to feel safe about what they are eating.
I have spent my life trying to go into territories that weren't safe, both physically and artistically. It's been good for my art...every know and then I got beat up. I lived to write this...I'm sure I'll have to move again.

Mar. 04 2013 11:39 AM

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