Name, age, occupation, where do you live and where are you from.
Zoe Schneider, 34, writer and clothing designer - the kids line has launched - lots more to come. Much of my clothing is NYC-themed - all handmade stuff. See my not yet ready web site: www.zoelou.com and visit my design co-op: Mark Montano, 434 East 9th Street, between 1st and A). I live in Harlem, moved from Soho, grew up in midtown Manhattan - Tudor City, with five sisters, one brother and my dog, Smudge.
You run a monthly gathering called NYC Magic Garden (the next installment is tonight) for those that are from New York City, what's that about?
It's a party only for people that grew up in the five boroughs. It kind of started as a joke. Whenever I went out to a bar or to see music, I'd so rarely meet anyone who was from NYC. I wondered where all the natives were; did they move away or were they just not boozing and seeing rock shows like I was? Organizing my 10 year high school reunion (LaGuardia High School) reinforced how cool the people I grew up with were, so I decided to throw a party for those of us that were still in NYC - the townies. The diehards. The people who felt nowhere was better than NYC, so why leave. It's now five years later, and every month I just keep throwing the party. I also have monthly fundraisers at the party - say you're involved in some charitable organization - well we help you raise money and do a raffle. I also promote native artists, musicians, and businesses. The party rotates locations, but is always held at a bar owned by a native New Yorker. You need a password to get in. The password is emailed to the people who have "joined" the MAGIC GARDEN. It feels like old school NY. We serve really inexpensive drinks, there's an awesome DJ (DJ SLY from LaGuardia) and it's a groovy night out with lots of interesting hooligans. The party has evolved tremendously. When it started, it was really just a party, a celebration for those of us who are still here. Now the party is deeper for me. Being a native and staying in NYC is bittersweet. While it's the best damn city in the world, it's nothing like it was even 10 years ago. We're losing pieces of NYC every day - people, places, mentalities. Natives are the people who built this city, for better or for worse. Our parents, us, we're the ones who paid taxes, voted, and are the fabric of this city. There is something in our blood - maybe from the water. It's embedded in our soul. A landmark being torn down or a lousy mayor in office affects natives differently - it's more heartbreaking. The tunnels and streets and avenues of NYC are my veins.
Since NYC Magic Garden is just for New Yorkers, what are your New York credentials, if we may ask?
Born in NY Hospital. Raised in Tudor City - never moved my entire childhood. Public school educated (PS 59, JHS 104, LaGuardia HS). Father was born on Avenue B and grew up on Grand Concourse. Mom was raised in Queens. I was also a park ranger in Central Park. And I wrote a book about NY history. And I have a line of clothes that spawned from my love of old New York. I admit that I left for college (University of Michigan and Sydney University, Australia) and then lived in Seattle and Alaska, where I was an archaeologist.
Do you feel that people that move to New York can ever become a "real" New Yorker, or does someone have to be born here to be able to say that. For example, Mayor Bloomberg was born outside Boston, is he a New Yorker?
Native New Yorkers are an entirely different breed, or beast, than a New Yorker. Anyone who lives here can officially say they are a New Yorker, but what gets me pissed off are the people who ... wait - let me say this in the dialogue form - this is a real conversation that took place in a bar in Brooklyn, with a guy who said he was a New Yorker:
Asshole Guy: I love it here. I've been here 15 years. But I'll definitely leave NYC when I have kids. I would never raise my kids in NYC.
Me: But you just said how much you love it here.
Asshole Guy: I've already learned everything I came to learn, and made my art contacts. I've taken everything I need.
I love that people want to move here - immigration is what created NYC - but only if they stay and contribute. This guy represents the savage jerks that I don't want here. Don't take take take and give nothing back. Stay a while and be part of a community. That's what MAGIC GARDEN is - a community. I think that native New Yorkers in general are much kinder and softer than the people who move here and try so hard to call themselves New Yorkers. If you have to call yourself something, label yourself, you doth protest too much. They think they have to be hard to fit in. A real New Yorker is someone who lives here and truly cares about the city. I don't think it's determined by how long you've been here. Many true New Yorkers, dare I say this, move to other parts of the planet. Hey, I think about moving to a farm or a village in Europe, and that sure as hell doesn't make me a non-New Yorker. There are people who move here from Arkansas and know that New York City is what they want to call home, forever. Those are the people I welcome. The most distressing thing to me is people moving to NYC and ordering Dominos. We have the best friggin pizza outside of that boot shaped country, and people are ordering cardboard. A disgrace. Those people will never be New Yorkers - they don't know how. It's important to support the locals and contribute as much as you can. It kills me to see these chains. Don't get me started on chains. The Greek diner is lost. The coffee shop is lonely and deserted. New York is not the same as it was. I'm sure people were saying this in the 70s and 80s when we were in a fiscal crisis. But that's what I grew up with and that's what I miss. It sickens me that I don't even notice the subway announcements alerting us that our bags may be checked. New Yorkers have an amazing ability to adapt. We are like cockroaches. But prettier.
Mayor Bloomberg, yawn.
What are your memories of the city while you're growing up? How do you feel New York has changed since then and has it all been for the better?
Dark, gritty, fun, alive, comforting, safe, loving and nurturing. Memories seem to be in black and white and slow motion. "Summer of Sam," "Dog Day Afternoon." I think I was reincarnated twice - once from the turn of the last century, a woman in lower Manhattan. When I walk around by the Seaport I get this sense that I lived an entire life down there. And I also think I was a 40-ish year old man in the 1940s, enjoying libations at dark bars, and saying things like, "Now see here." I was a character from John McNulty's "This Place on Third Avenue." New York has changed a ton, and little of it is for the better. It's lost a hell of a lot of charm and dignity.
Who do you think is the greatest New Yorker of all time? Most overrated? Underrated?
My mom was the greatest New Yorker of all time. She's what I miss most about New York. She's in all the memories, somewhere. She died four years ago. I have an amazing photo of us that appeared in the Daily News on Mother's Day in 1975. We were in the Tudor City Park together. The best thing about the photo is that while it appeared in the Daily News, my mother is clearly reading the widely spread open NY Times. I love that the caption was about mothers spending quality time with their kids - a real New Yorker, my mom: quality time=reading the NY Times. I think Teddy Roosevelt was incredible. Most overrated? Giuliani. And I'm really tired of hearing about Hilly Crystal from CBGB. Sure, I practically lived at CBGB when I was 16, but I used to try to sell him beer when I repped beer companies, and he was an asshole. Underrated - my sister Alice, whose band Alice Texas is the most amazing unfamous band in NYC. Bands move to NYC to get signed. Natives bands, well ...
Best/worst Brooklyn gentrification trend?
Worst: calling Williamsburg "Billyburg."
What place or thing would you declare a landmark?
That changes daily. Today, McHale's Bar on 46th and 8th - it's slated to close on January 1st. A damn fine establishment with great burgers. Perfect after seeing a show at Roseland, Supperclub, or getting a fake I.D. in Times Square. Oh wait, now you can only get a Lion King I.D. in Times Square.
What advice, if any, would you give to Mayor Bloomberg?
You sure like to ask about Bloomberg. He just isn't worth my thoughts. But I like him more that Giuliani.
When you just need to get away from it all, where is your favorite place in NYC to be alone?
take a bike ride. Biking across bridges is an incredible high. I just love bridges. It amazes me that they were built with human hands. And they seem to be the one constant in NYC. I don't think they're going anywhere.