Last night, as most people in the neighborhood were dodging raindrops, a modest street party formed to protest the overly gentrifying East Village—a "LET EM EAT CAKE/EAT THE RICH/NO COMFORT ZONE street party," if you will. In lieu of making a cogent, forceful statement against a specific enemy, it was an opportunity to weird out the B&Ters pounding the pavement to make their 9:30 at Momofuku.
The event was organized by longtime local activist John Penley, who caused a stir a few years ago guarding his neighborhood against Republicans and the now-shuttered Bowery Wine Co. But don't worry—targets also included President Obama, nicknamed "O-bummer" by musician David Peel.
The group, including Penley, Peel, Yippie Pie Man Aaron Kaye, comedic storyteller Our Lady of Perpetual PMS, and members of hacking group Anonymous, assembled in front of the freshly de-scaffolded Economakis Dream Mansion. With that tenement having been turned into a sprawling single family residence, the group chanted in protest and joked about publicly hanging the infamous landlord.
They then headed one block down and sauntered through the front gates of the BMW Guggenheim Lab, where they issued their elegies for a once-vibrant and inexpensive neighborhood. Divisive (and often drunk) poet L.E.S. Jewels bemoaned the small turnout and read a poem that included lines like "You demolish our buildings to put up condos and gentrify our home / You spill your wine off terraces, as us lost and wayward roam." Clearly a reference to Jack "Steady Glass" Kerouac, who never spilled a drop.
Penley daringly lit a cigarette—in defiance of the often-unenforced park smoking ban—and threatened to occupy the space until the police were called. But in what was surely a brilliant reference to the East Village's ever-changing personality in the face of brute capitalism, the group left peacefully and triumphantly. Compromise: catch the fever!
The Lab itself greeted the protest with a mixture of appreciation and utter annoyance, sympathizing with its cause but finding its aggressive tone objectionable. "This space is meant for dialogue," said Lab team host Kristian Koreman, who has roots as a squatter in Rotterdam. "If they had acted in a way where they wanted an answer to their questions, we would have answered." Art lab, shmart lab: NOTHING will make us forget the old East Village. Except $10 apartments.