By Bennett Kremen
The Lost Village is an alarming documentary that uses engaging interviews and strong visuals to show us the slow death of that unique treasure called Greenwich Village. You’d have to be deaf and blind not to notice that dismayed Villagers everywhere are profoundly baffled by a cancerous disease known as hyper-gentrification.
The film is not a nostalgic historic rendering of the Village we remember. The images of our great artistic, cultural and political influences have already been stamped onto the entire world. Rather this is a story of the 21st Century Village facing systemic profound changes. The emerging artists of yesterday are long gone and are now replaced by Wall Street hipsters residing in the former artist’s pads that have morphed into million dollar condo’s.
Roger Paradiso’s The Lost Village bravely turns the spotlight on an oligarchy of billionaire real estate moguls who rape and plunder the hallowed ground of this historic district driving even the most hardy and resourceful Villagers into despair. This is not ranting, clichéd, radical agitprop but the considered thoughts of objective professionals with well-earned reputations.
Michael Hudson, a classical economist with traditional, even conservative views, fears the growing imbalance in the economy. created by this real estate hyper-gentrification, bodes ominously for a future of neo slavery and serfdom. Journalist Sharon Woolums takes us past the sad, empty stores along Bleecker Street showing us that this bone chilling future is already upon us. The real estate speculators use their powerful influence to collude with politicians to ensure the devastating status quo. Historian Anthony Gronowicz brings us back to ancient Rome with an arresting description of how similar corrosive forces ate away at the Roman Empire, laying the groundwork for its demise. James Drougas struggles to keep his Unoppressive Non-Imperialist Bargain Book store going by creating a human and unique environment. Drougas is the living DNA of the “Old Village.”
Professor Mark Crispin Miller speaks of the striking social costs of young students in the Village selling themselves to pursue ironically, the eternal virtues of knowledge. We hear a spokesperson for Seeking Arrangements, an online “dating” site, speak of “sugar babies” , both men and women. She dares to call these young women “the ultimate feminists”, She even suggests that the “sugar daddies” are “chivalrous gentlemen” who pay for tuition in return for a “date.” NYU has close to 1400 student members on this dating site alone. There are a dozen of these sites across the country and thousands of students who go on “dates” to pay for their high tuition. The movie reveals this utterly disgusting decadence in grueling but necessary detail that should shake us to the bone.
Not a day goes by when I don’t take a leery look at the luxury glass towers that real estate hustlers continue to erect onto the precious oasis of our Greenwich Village. I originally came to New York, as so many others, for that now “lost village.” I have watched it decline with a broken heart. The Lost Village is opening the curtain on this heartbreaking story of high rent, eviction and the young student’s loss of innocence in pursuit of a degree from what one student calls a “predatory university.” This multi-award winning documentary is a must see film.
Bennett Kremen is a former writer for the New York Times Book Review who has written a novel set in Greenwich Village called “The Performance” which is available on Amazon.