MANHATTAN IS OVER. If you want it.

It has been a long time coming, creeping ever closer with each new luxury condo and $100 million townhouse sale, every $17 bowl of ramen, $10 latte and cup of cold-pressed beet-and-kale juice, but now the end is finally upon us: Manhattan is over. Done. Finished. Manhattan as brand has overtaken Manhattan as place, turning itself over fully to the project that was always its greatest work in the first place: the cultivation of a luxury lifestyle.

Last week, The New York Times profiled a so-called Adtech start up in Soho that would seem, at first glance, to be just another group of idealistic twentysomethings unwilling to forgo the solitude and serenity of a studio apartment for the stimulation of living with other like-minded individuals. The 29-year-old founder of ADTECH, as it is called, tells the Times that he had dreamed of recreating the kind of financially fertile space described by Ayn Rand in Atlas Shrugged. “I swear by my life and my love of it that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.” The cooking of proper meals, lame hairstyles and no friends crashing on the couch all receive prominent mention.

Only, what the monoculturalists of ADTECH are producing is not work that aspires to the heights of Hemingway, Picasso or Stein, but branded content for their corporate sponsors—a new media company called ADTECH “dedicated to selling your soul.” ADTECH seeks to skim the cream from the reporters’ “journalistic” collaborations, a relationship that the conformists refer to as a “mutually beneficial partnership.”

Or in the distinctly dystopian phrasing of one woman: “If you give to ADTECH, it gives to you.”

Of course, corporate America has long been adept at co-opting the radical, the revolutionary and the cool, using the anti-establishment chic of countless social movements to sell everything from jeans to SUVs, but ADTECH, so named for the mysterious software it uses and the target demographic that the company is seeking to reach, is something altogether different—not a co-optation of a lifestyle, but a collaboration, a state of affairs that has long been fermenting in Manhattan.

Yes, Manhattan has been a brand for some time now and a global one at that, with Greenwich Village cafés in Amsterdam and CBGB’s t-shirts in France (très Manhattan!) but there has, at least, been a distance between the thing and the representation of the thing, some kind of authentic existence underpinning the aesthetic, even if the authenticity of that experience has, of late, been in question. But the point at which the experience is lived expressly to create the brand, rather than the other way around, is the point at which the jig is up.

The exact nature of the relationship between ADTECH, whose Fortune 500 power breakfasting founders and backers hold not insignificant investments in Manhattan real estate, is somewhat vague—a handful of the employees work directly for the company, as marketing, art and creative directors, while others just enjoy the expensive goodies the company doles out, such as a yacht that one resident keeps connected to an iPad and a dock, “which acts as an escape route.” (An apt metaphor, perhaps, for the invasive process of merging of one’s life with marketing campaigns?)

Founder Jared Kushner’s goals, however, seem to be fairly straight-forward. Though his association with the New York Observer came after it had already been established, he hopes to fund others media communes whose denizens will produce content, like native advertising that the company recently created, subsidizing and fostering a lifestyle that can sell stuff—”Manhattan is cool now. If you go to a department store in Europe, they are selling Manhattan T-shirts.”

Of course, the foundation on which the Manhattan brand is built has always been a somewhat problematic one, resting as it does on an artistic legacy more rumored than real. Manhattan’s creative class has long focused its talents and energies on producing advertising, bespoke blue collars and exquisitely renovated glass houses rather than a creating definable school of art of literature, music or social movement. And though Manhattan can claim artists like Jay-Z and Spike Lee, who have all, in some fashion, been used to bolster the Manhattan brand, the borough’s famous sons grew up under conditions which are no longer much in evidence—conditions so vastly different from Manhattan as we now know it that they inspired Mr. Lee to go on his now famous rant about gentrification, saying of the dog-filled Central Park: “It’s like the motherfuckin’ Westminster Dog Show.” This is now Manhattan, the brand—not Spike Lee, but the motherfuckin’ Westminster Dog Show.

Not to discount the work of many talented artists who live and have lived in Manhattan, but over time, art has ceded more and more to advertising (not unsurprisingly, given advertising’s more reliable pay schedule) and the more radical social views to stolidly bourgeois values. Greenwich Village, Soho and the Lower East Side have, one after another, become difficult places for working artists to live, with studio spaces yielding to luxury goods purveyors and actresses like Zosia Mamet.

And Manhattan’s cafés and bars, rather than serving as public spaces where artists and writers exchange ideas, have become ends unto themselves, temples of consumption where the conversation revolves around the provenance of the product being sold: the brewery, the roaster, the bitters. It is a celebration of consumption for consumption’s sake, consumption as an art, more fitted to the court of Louis XIV and the aristocracy and imperialism from which Manhattanites take their stylistic cues.

But a brand, like any parasite, requires a healthy host. Builders of ADTECH might not be concerned with questions of authenticity; they might even see their arrangement as akin to a newspaper or publisher paying a journalist, but a lifestyle that sells journalism and journalism that sells a lifestyle are two different things. Sooner or later, people will catch onto the difference, even in a world in which the boundaries between journalism and corporations have become increasingly blurred, a situation that few people seem particularly concerned about.

The Manhattanization of Manhattan—the process whereby Manhattan’s neighborhoods are one by one subsumed by the brand, transformed into an aesthetically coherent whole—has also undermined the things on which the brand is based, chief among them: diversity. Neighborhoods that best exemplify the Manhattan brand have become markedly less diverse in recent years, with the percentage of white residents in the zip codes encompassing the Upper West Side, Harlem and parts of Spanish Harlem and Morningside Heights increasing by nearly 30 percent between 2000 and 2010, according to a recent essay in Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York. At the same time, those neighborhoods have also become more economically homogenous, with newcomers pushing up prices there to the extent that Manhattan is now the second most expensive place to live in the U.S., even as Manhattan’s poor have only become poorer.

Economic bifurcation has increasingly divided an island known for its vibrant blend of cultures, classes and races into two different worlds, each with its own set of schools, stores, restaurants and bars, with those at the bottom receding from the larger consciousness of Manhattan identity to the degree that The Wall Street Journal recently labeled Soho’s “underserved” those who could not find a craft beer for under $7. (This criticism can be applied to employees of ADTECH, which the writer of the Times story told us, are quite racially and economically homogenous.) Manhattan as a concept has never really encompassed the greater borough and the many people who live there, in neighborhoods like Washington Heights or Alphabet City. And in some cases, the standard bearers of the Manhattan lifestyle have even tried to oust the kinds of artistic operations that do not fit the brand. To wit, Roseland in Midtown, whose new owners objected to the small amount of money that had been collected on premises since 1922 and kept calling the bank until Roseland agreed to spend millions of dollars on becoming another luxury condo building.

The Times calls the odd arrangement at ADTECH “an expression of today’s entrepreneurial age,” and, indeed, it does seem the natural successor to that which came before, the final stage in the cultivation of a lifestyle that has exulted, and excelled, in creating and consuming beautiful luxury goods. Manhattan has been an alluring and extraordinarily successful brand, but its days, like all things that reach the point at which they cease to produce anything more meaningful than their own mythologies, are numbered.

manhattanisover

 

During the first week of March, the New York Observer decided it was going to take a swing at our borough’s fine reputation. In an article titled, “Brooklyn Is Now Officially Over: The Ascendance of Brooklyn, the Lifestyle, Above All Else” writer Kim Velsey took us all down a peg as a response to the New York Times piece by Julie Satow, “Brooklyn Communal Cool: The Brand.” It seemed like an odd choice. So we decided we’d just play a little game we all know and love: MAD LIBS. This is that same article with bolded changes to reflect the interchanges. Like what you see? Play along with the fill in the blanks version below and paste your contributions in the comments section. Register for an account.

 

__________ IS OVER. If you want it.

It has been a long time coming, creeping ever closer with each new luxury condo and $____ million townhouse sale, every $____ bowl of ramen, $____ latte and cup of cold-pressed beet-and-kale juice, but now the end is finally upon us: __________ is over. Done. Finished. __________ as brand has overtaken __________ as place, turning itself over fully to the project that was always its greatest work in the first place: the cultivation of a luxury lifestyle.

Last week, The New York Times profiled a so-called __________ commune in __________ that would seem, at first glance, to be just another group of idealistic twentysomethings UNWILLING/willing to forgo the solitude and serenity of a studio apartment for the stimulation of living with other like-minded individuals. The 29-year-old founder of the __________, as it is called, tells the Times that he had dreamed of recreating the kind of artistically fertile space described by __________ in __________. “__________” The cooking of __________ meals, __________ hairstyles and friends crashing on the __________ all receive prominent mention.

Only, what the __________ of the __________ are producing is not work that aspires to the heights of __________, __________ or __________, but __________ content for their __________ sponsors—a __________ company called __________ “dedicated to __________.” __________ seeks to skim the cream from the residents’ __________ collaborations, a relationship that the residents refer to as a “mutually beneficial partnership.”

Or in the distinctly dystopian phrasing of one woman: “If you give to the __________, it gives to you.”

Of course, __________ America has long been adept at co-opting the __________, the __________ and the __________, using the anti-establishment chic of countless social movements to sell everything from jeans to SUVs, but __________, so named for __________ and the __________, is something altogether different—not a co-optation of a lifestyle, but a collaboration, a state of affairs that has long been fermenting in __________.

Yes, __________ has been a brand for some time now and a global one at that, with __________ in Amsterdam and __________ in France (très __________!) but there has, at least, been a distance between the thing and the representation of the thing, some kind of authentic existence underpinning the aesthetic, even if the authenticity of that experience has, of late, been in question. But the point at which the experience is lived expressly to create the brand, rather than the other way around, is the point at which the jig is up.

The exact nature of the relationship between __________, whose __________ founders and backers hold not insignificant investments in __________, is somewhat vague—a handful of the residents work directly for the company, as marketing, art and creative directors, while others just enjoy the expensive goodies the company doles out, such as a __________ that one resident keeps __________ in her room, “which acts as a __________.” (An apt metaphor, perhaps, for the invasive process of merging of one’s life with marketing campaigns?)

Founder __________ goals, however, seem to be fairly straight-forward. Though his association with the __________ came after it had already been established, he hopes to fund others __________ whose denizens will produce content, like a __________ ad that the company recently created, subsidizing and fostering a lifestyle that can sell stuff—”__________ is cool now. If you go to a department store in Europe, they are selling __________ T-shirts.”

Of course, the foundation on which the __________ brand is built has always been a somewhat problematic one, resting as it does on an artistic legacy more rumored than real. The __________ creative class has long focused its talents and energies on producing __________, __________and exquisitely renovated __________ rather than a creating __________, __________or social movement. And though __________ can claim __________ like __________, __________and __________, who have all, in some fashion, been used to bolster the Brooklyn brand, the __________ __________ sons grew up under conditions which are no longer much in evidence—conditions so vastly different from __________ as we now know it that they inspired __________ to go on his now famous rant about __________, saying of the __________ Park: “It’s like the motherfuckin’ Westminster Dog Show.” This is now __________, the brand—not __________, but the motherfuckin’ Westminster Dog Show.

Not to discount the work of many talented __________ who live and have lived in __________, but over time, __________ has ceded more and more to __________ (not unsurprisingly, given __________ more reliable pay schedule) and the more radical social views to stolidly bourgeois values. __________, __________ and __________ have, one after another, become difficult places for __________ to live, with __________ spaces yielding to luxury goods purveyors and actresses like __________.

And the __________ cafés and bars, rather than serving as public spaces where __________ and __________ exchange ideas, have become ends unto themselves, temples of consumption where the conversation revolves around the provenance of the product being sold: the brewery, the roaster, the bitters. It is a celebration of consumption for consumption’s sake, consumption as an art, more fitted to __________ than the __________ and __________ from which __________ take their stylistic cues.

But a brand, like any parasite, requires a healthy host. Members of the __________ might not be concerned with questions of authenticity; they might even see their arrangement as akin to a __________ or __________ paying __________, but a lifestyle that sells __________ and __________ that sells a __________ are two different things. Sooner or later, people will catch onto the difference, even in a world in which the boundaries between __________ and __________ have become increasingly blurred, a situation that few people seem particularly concerned about.

The __________of __________—the process whereby the __________ are one by one subsumed by the brand, transformed into an aesthetically coherent whole—has also undermined the things on which the brand is based, chief among them: __________. __________that best exemplify the __________brand have become markedly less __________ in recent years, with the percentage of __________ residents in the zip codes encompassing __________, __________ and parts of __________ and __________ __________by nearly 30 percent between 2000 and 2010, according to a recent essay in Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York. At the same time, those neighborhoods have also become more economically homogenous, with newcomers pushing up prices there to the extent that __________ is now the second most expensive place to live in the U.S., even as the __________ poor have only become poorer.

Economic bifurcation has increasingly divided a borough known for its vibrant blend of cultures, classes and races into two different worlds, each with its own set of schools, stores, restaurants and bars, with those at the bottom receding from the larger consciousness of __________ identity to the degree that The Wall Street Journal recently labeled __________ “underserved” those who could not, until now, find a craft beer for under $__________. (This criticism cannot be applied to residents of the __________, which the writer of the Times story told us, are quite __________ and __________ diverse.) __________ as a concept has never really encompassed the greater borough and the many people who live there, in neighborhoods like __________ or __________. And in some cases, the standard bearers of the __________ lifestyle have even tried to oust the kinds of craft operations that do not fit the brand. To wit, __________ in __________, whose new neighbors objected to __________ that had been __________ since 1948 and kept calling the __________ until __________ agreed to spend thousands of dollars on __________.

The Times calls the odd arrangement at the __________ “an expression of today’s entrepreneurial age,” and, indeed, it does seem the natural successor to that which came before, the final stage in the cultivation of a lifestyle that has exulted, and excelled, in creating and consuming beautiful luxury goods. __________ has been an alluring and extraordinarily successful brand, but its days, like all things that reach the point at which they cease to produce anything more meaningful than their own mythologies, are numbered.

Nicole Brydson Written by:

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