June 11, 2019

Food for Thought

I live in the Lower East Side which has changed dramatically in the last few years. The large vacant lot and the abandoned subway station underground by the foot of the Williamsburg Bridge suddenly became available for development. It was a rare event in Manhattan. The Essex Street Market that originally began as an indoor space for pushcart vendors in the 40s has now moved into the brand new, modern building, complete with a large dining area. It is strange to see some of the same vendors in this hypermodern setting. It’s like someone who has been wearing farmer’s clothes suddenly began wearing Prada.

Many of the blocks are still under construction and the plywood walls are decorated with large posters of the 3D renderings. What I immediately noticed is the discrepancy between the types of people who are placed in the artist renditions and the types of people who actually walk the streets here. Many of the buildings in this neighborhood are homes to the retired seniors who have been living here for many decades. Many of them travel either with a walker or on a wheelchair. Not a single person with a walker in these posters, even though they are commonly seen around here. The oldest I can find are parents of young children, which would mean somewhere in their 30s.

To make these marketing materials look attractive and exciting, they had to hide the real people who live here. I have to wonder how these seniors feel when they see these posters that clearly communicate that they are not wanted in these beautiful new spaces. Most of them probably are used to it by now, but the transition from their old routines to the new routines must be hard as the retail landscape is rapidly changing.

The pace of change globally has increased so much that it has reached the point of pointlessness; change for the sake of changing. Nobody actually enjoys this rapid pace. Even if some still do, given the current rate, sooner or later, no humans would be able to, because our capacity to adapt to change has a definite ceiling, just as we cannot keep running faster. How exactly are we going to control this rate of change in the future?