New York City

One Percenter David Byrne Rails Against Rich New Yorkers

|

Please, more songs about building, and food. |||

Former Talking Heads front man and multimedia nerd-star David Byrne is very worried that people as rich as he is are ruining his adopted home town of New York City:

[T]he cultural part of the city—the mind—has been usurped by the top 1 percent. […]

One would expect that the 1 percent would have a vested interest in keeping the civic body healthy at least—that they'd want green parks, museums and symphony halls for themselves and their friends, if not everyone. Those indeed are institutions to which they habitually contribute. But it's like funding your own clubhouse. It doesn't exactly do much for the rest of us or for the general health of the city. At least, we might sigh, they do that, as they don't pay taxes—that we know.

Many of the wealthy don't even live here. In the neighborhood where I live (near the art galleries in Chelsea), I can see three large condos from my window that are pretty much empty all the time. What the fuck!? Apparently rich folks buy the apartments, but might only stay in them a few weeks out of a year. So why should they have an incentive to maintain or improve the general health of the city? They're never here.

It's hard out here for a prematurely gray Vogue model! |||

Why, it's almost as if these goddamned 1 percenters go on year-long world tours or something!

Maybe Bryne is just trying to be a good dad, channeling the pain of his struggling-artiste daughter. But this extended Bill de Blasio endorsement makes me shudder for the political future of the five boroughs.

Private philanthropy "doesn't exactly do much for the rest of us or for the general health of the city"? Tell it to the happy and economically diverse crowds at Brooklyn Bridge Park, which I hope can finish its ambitious development before the anti-park-conservancy movement gathers more steam. Rich people—especially the real targets of Byrne's wrath, those who work on Wall Street—definitely do not pay taxes? Tell it to, I dunno, the City of New York:

[T]he financial sector…provides a disproportionately large share of the City's income. The securities sector alone, while only five percent of the employment in the City, accounts for over 20 percent of the City's annual wage earnings. 

Byrne claims "This city doesn't make things anymore," which would certainly come as news to the DIY entrepreneurs making stuff all over Brooklyn. He says that "most of Manhattan and many parts of Brooklyn are virtual walled communities," despite a notable lack of physical walls, and the presence of the most-used transit system in the country. But the best inversion of all may be his threat to go reverse-Galt:

If young, emerging talent of all types can't find a foothold in this city, then it will be a city closer to Hong Kong or Abu Dhabi than to the rich fertile place it has historically been. Those places might have museums, but they don't have culture. Ugh. If New York goes there—more than it already has—I'm leaving.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

35 responses to “One Percenter David Byrne Rails Against Rich New Yorkers

  1. The revolution is not over as long as the rest of the country continues to receive communications from New York City.

  2. Good points some bad points.
    But it all works out, I’m a little freaked out.

    1. He’d better find himself a city, find himself a city to live in.

  3. May Snake Plisken save us

    1. Two s’s in Plissken, you idiot. Got a smoke?

      1. I thought they got you in Cleveland?

  4. It’s a goddam tragedy, it is.

  5. Remain in Light is still a damn good album.

    1. I still champion Naked (not as their best, but as a fine album) … though I may be the only one who thinks so.

      1. I wish you had told me last week. I saw an affordable vinyl copy of Naked in a record store last Friday.

        1. I have one, thanks.

          1. Wasn’t that album mostly unused “B-side”-type songs thrown together to fulfill a contractual obligation?

            Give me any of their first four albums, it’s hard to say which one I like best. Guess it depends on what mood I’m in.

            1. If it is, it has a shockingly consistent sound.

      2. Yeah, honestly I would expect more from the same mind that produced Nothing But Flowers.

  6. Byrne claims “This city doesn’t make things anymore,” which would certainly come as news to the DIY entrepreneurs making stuff all over Brooklyn.

    You had me until the artisinal mayonnaise.

  7. What difference, at this point, does NYC make? F em.

  8. Rich people?especially the real targets of Byrne’s wrath, those who work on Wall Street?definitely do not pay taxes?

    Why, it’s almost like he doesn’t realize that they pay property tax on their co-ops, or that taxes are part of rent and hotel stays, or that the city’s 4.5% sales tax applies to basically everything, or that commuters pay state income tax, the majority of which ends up back in the city.

    1. It’s like there’s no corrupt, bloated and rotting, spendthrift corpse at the center of city gubmint or something.

  9. My first visit to the city wasn’t until the Dinkins lame-duck period in December of 1993, so I know Byrne has a much longer memory of how things were before gentrification. Also, those galleries in Chelsea make for a cheap happy hour, and sometimes the art’s good, so I don’t know what he’s complaining about.

    1. You can get your vinyl records made right there in the city, too.

  10. One would expect that the 1 percent would have a vested interest in keeping the civic body healthy at least?that they’d want green parks, museums and symphony halls for themselves and their friends, if not everyone. Those indeed are institutions to which they habitually contribute.

    I want them to give money to things *I* like, damn it! How dare they exercise agency!

    I’ll presume that David Byrne doesn’t itemize or reduce his taxes in any way, since he’s no kulak.

  11. Apparently rich folks buy the apartments, but might only stay in them a few weeks out of a year.

    This is not my beautiful house!

    Sorry, but someone had to say it.

  12. Loved his past music catalog, but christ, what a mishmash of confused thinking.

    He admits being rich, living abroad and moving to nice areas of the city, then proceeds to slag and bemoan the same activity in others.

    Like Matt Damon & school choice, it’s ok if he does it, but not when everyone else chooses to do it.

    1. Same as it ever was.

    2. It seems to perfectly encapsulate cocooned, big city, limo-liberal thinking. How can he not know the Bankers are all that keeps the hipsters alive.

      What it must be like to be a Wall Streeter and know everybody hates you but still wants your grubby money – on their terms.

      DeBlasio’s term will be interesting times.

  13. Am I supposed to know who the model in grey is?

    1. No, but you might make an inference from the text immediately at the left, and also the alt-text underneath.

    2. Malu Byrne, his daughter.

  14. If you haven’t heard the David Byrne/St. Vincent album, i would highly recommend checking it out.

  15. Those places might have museums, but they don’t have culture.

    Hong Kong doesn’t have culture? What an ass.

    1. Of course not. They’re dirty foreigners, and they’re more capitalist than we are. How could there be any culture given those conditions?

      Everyone knows that most of America’s culture comes from lilly-white hippie communes in Massachussets.

  16. Bill de Blasio

    You know every time I see his name I imagine him being the love child of Freddy Blassie and Ted DiBiase.

    [I’m also rather bemused that I recall these names from my foolish youthful enthusiasm for wrasslin’.]

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.