The 20th Century belonged to New York. Louis Armstrong, Woody Allen, the Velvet Underground, disco and punk, cheap hotels full of drug-addict artists, dirt and decay, newspapers and magazines loaded with real writers, Times Square full of grainy pornos and grindhouse. So when a currently popular cable TV personality talked about "our generation's Patti Smith," everybody who cares about such things immediately dropped into a deep depression.
Maybe there's something going on in the Bronx or Newark. But cultural revolutions come out of cheap rent and garbage strikes, not Urban Disneylands for the children of Russian mobsters and other Wall Street types. Williamsburg is just a nice suburb full of people making $80,000 a year who can't figure out how to dress as an adult. Downtown is just fragrance boutiques and "New American" bistros with 1,976 Yelp reviews. Hip hop is a career path to high finance and rock 'n roll is a lifestyle shop utterly ignored outside of its shrinking, aging "indie" demographic.
It's a very nice place to live, as welcoming to fresh-faced Ivy League grads as it is to Chinese billionaire's kids shipped off to NYU and their own lofts. Drunks rarely get rolled, no matter how late and how empty the street, and audiences are well behaved when attending their pricey amusements at Barclay's.
The problem is this: The next punk rock or pop art or hip hop or minimalist composers or whatever thing that's going to happen—and that will not be any of those things previously mentioned—needs not just a shitty run-down part of town. Because America is mostly shitty run-down parts of town, but it's all crumbling 1980s malls boxed off by eight-lane boulevards to developments with names like Adobe Meadows and Clusterpluck Farms, with ever-more-decaying inner rings of equally hideous sprawl and mini-storage concrete blocks and "casual dining" chains and 12-screen multiplexes showing Giant Robot spectacles, and a mile beyond that are the tattoo shops and food banks and Del Tacos and KFCs, up the road from the Social Security benefits offices and VA hospitals where so many of the teeming tattooed underclass reports for duty to collect pills and EBT cards.
So, where are the potentially compelling, trouble-causing New Yorkers? Somewhere hidden away in the city? Are they doing something other than playing with their phones or taking pictures of their dinner?