Clock Ticking

I love open houses.

Scanning the web pages for an apartment my boyfriend can afford in a neighborhood he likes is pleasure for me.  Especially these days, with the added excitement of price reductions.  Look how long that thing has been on the market, I will say to him, they need another price reduction.  So when I saw a place in Chelsea he could swing, I was more excited than the circumstances really deserved.  And so off we went,  over to that hip neighborhood, now with a park and a bicycle path rather than piers and illicit sex, Chelsea, the neighborhood that was gay way back when I lived in New York, the neighborhood that's still gay, sort of.

The building wasn't bad.  Not bad at all really, even had a doorman.  We took the elevator, clean, reasonable, upstairs to the unit with the open house.  We walked in, the only ones there, looked around.  Wow, I thought, this place is pretty nice.  Renovated, good windows, great sun.  Hard to believe, I said to my boyfriend, I guess the market has really changed and you could afford a place now in Chelsea.

We spoke with the realtor.  He was breezy, as the realtors always are, great place he said.  Yeah, we said, asking a few questions.  We investigated all the closets, the bathroom, looked in the kitchen cabinets.  Its a great deal, he said.  Yeah, we answered.  There's one thing I need to tell you, he added as we waited, yes, just one thing.  The building is on a land lease and will be torn down in thirty years.  We paused.  "So," asked my boyfriend, a little puzzled I suppose, "so how much will you get for the place then?"

"Nothing," he said.  "It won't be worth anything."

I remember Chelsea in the old days.  That was about thirty years ago.  It was mostly Hispanic, bodegas on the corners, and gay.  That's how I remember it.  But not gay like it is today.  I mean, today there are gay bars and a couple of sex shops, and there are definitely gay boys on the street, but its no longer gay as in, well, like where the gays live.  You can't really say that about anyplace anymore.  I remember that the West Village, Christopher Street, Sheridan Square, moving slowly on up into Chelsea, I mean these were where the gays lived.  I don't imagine many young gay men rent apartments in Chelsea any longer after moving to New York, not at three thousand or so a month.  You find them in Williamsburg and you might find them in Astoria and any other of a number of neighborhoods, but I don't suppose there's any place you'd say, that's where the gays live.  Its all changed, its opened up, the old gay places have gotten expensive and maybe no one feels like they need to be all jammed in together.

But I don't know.  Walking around Chelsea, walking around the South End in Boston, even walking around the Castro in San Francisco, its not quite the same.  Something's been lost.  And I missed it.  But that was thirty years ago, that's a long time, things change.

And in another thirty years things will be different again.  I mean, the building you live in may be torn down.  Of course, if its that building in Chelsea with the nice apartment at the reasonable price, it won't be worth anything when it is torn down.  Nothing.  Its an odd concept, an odd wrinkle of some kind in this market economy of ours.  The clock is ticking on that place, better get it now while you still can.

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Damian McNicholl said...

Changes in the old places where gay people lived is called moving into the mainstream, Paul. Upsides and downsides--mostly upsides, though.

I've also linked to your blog on my sidebar.

Paul said...

Mostly upsides, yes, probably, but losses nevertheless, related, I think, to changes we all feel in the larger society. Sometimes I wonder if there won't be a backlash against these losses, the loss of gay bookstores and gay bars and queer public spaces, an effort to reclaim physical as well as virtual community.
And, thanks, Damian for the link. (His novel is a great read, by the way!)

Tom said...

Just thought I'd chime in with a tidbit because the story reminded me of the Castro.
Of course the end result is different. Short story is: A man called 'Uncle Don' move from New York to San Francisco in the 60's. He lived in the castro and took a bunch of photos.
Last time I emailed him I didn't receive a response but in previous email's he explained to me how he had to leave the castro. The 'the gays' cleaned it up and made it profitable. Only to see property values go up and commercial interest step in. Of course the prices skyrocketed and, as in Don's case, force the residents out to the suburbs.
Check out for a tribute to 'the castro' and the work of Uncle Don.

paul said...

What a great resource. Thanks for the link, Tom!

Tom said...

You're very welcome Paul.

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