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.