David Byrne says that pricey NYC ‘doesn’t make things anymore’

David Byrne
David Byrne performing with St. Vincent at the Greek Theatre. He’s written an essay decrying inequality in New York City.
(Mariah Tauger / For The Times)

New York, David Byrne loves you, but you’re bringing him down.

In a long and impassioned essay published by Creative Time Reports and cross-posted by the Guardian, the Talking Heads frontman and NYC gadfly takes a page out of Occupy. He lambastes contemporary New York City as a place that’s no longer livable for working-class artists and losing its heart in the process.

“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,” he writes. “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.”

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Although Byrne admits that he’s part of the 1% he’s chastising, he can credibly say that he’s given most of his adult life to art and culture coming out of New York City. From his Talking Heads years to writing a book about the mechanics of music to his well-documented bike adventures, he’s has a street-level view of the city’s culture scenes for decades. And he appreciates many of the strides that the city - like other major towns including Los Angeles - have made in reducing crime.

“I don’t romanticize the bad old days. ... I have no illusions that there was a connection between that city on its knees and a flourishing of creativity; I don’t believe that crime, danger and poverty make for good art,” he writes.

But now that Manhattan real estate has become an unoccupied investment vehicle for the global elite and people moving to the city can do so only on a financier’s salary? “This city doesn’t make things anymore,” he says.

Instead of decamping to the Hudson Valley and calling it a day, might we suggest a move west, Dave? It was a heck of weekend to ride your bike across L.A. and head back to your magical cottage for the price of a couple of dinners at Babbo.



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