Brian Boggess Commentary on New York City 2018

It’s now 2018 and I have to get this off my chest, because the decline of New York City culture is out of control and nobody seems to notice, nobody seems to care.

What follows is a commentary about New York culture by a New Yorker and is strictly an opinion piece that does not reflect the views of any member or industry associate of The Brian Boggess Group, but only that of its eponymous group member.

If you are oversensitive to reading a gritty commentary by a sardonic and misanthropic New York musician, singer, and songwriter, then I suggest that you stop right here and return to your regularly scheduled Spotify playlist while you hump a medicine ball.

I flipped through the January 3-16, 2018 “Time Out New York” magazine, and it is disturbing to note the physical changes of the magazine reflect the abysmal changes in New York City culture.

It’s getting out of control and something needs to be done.  Something real.  Something serious.  Something immediately.

This British “travel” magazine used to have glossy pages, and it used to be thick and dense with page after page of diverse cultural event listings and reviews for New York City.

Now the magazine is published using cheap tabloid newsprint, and it is incredibly thin with paltry suggestions for inane corporate slime.

Notwithstanding incomprehensible editorial changes, it’s an understatement to say how discouraging it is that the physicality of “Time Out New York” reflects a withered and hollow city browbeaten by institutional corruption in overinflated real estate.

How are the two related, you might ask?

NYC culture has disintegrated into a pile of sanitized suburban mall vomit largely as a result of institutional corruption in government that supports and protects price-fixing in overinflated real estate.

Average lifelong New Yorkers and small business owners cannot even begin to afford obscenely overinflated rent – residential or commercial – in an extremely corrupt real estate market today, which the City of New York inherently fosters in collusion with international big money finance, developers, equity groups, fronts for money laundering entities, and insufferable real estate agencies.

How can New York City sustain the vibrant cultural intelligence and diversity it has been known for when the likes of international finance and money launderers are being allowed to buyout the entire city and manipulate overpriced rent?

For well over a decade, New Yorkers have experienced the decimation of cultural diversity that made New York what it was.

Where’s the balance?

It’s not a “fair market” playing field.

Huge equity groups and international capital is buying out everything to the detriment of local affordability.

Long-standing and historical rock and roll clubs, bookstores, theater groups, musicians, artists, long-standing restaurants and small business owners of all stripes: Going, going, gone.  It’s like we are being picked off by equity group snipers every single day and it absolutely must stop!

The primary reason?  Outrageously overpriced rent that is fostered and protected by institutional corruption in New York government which entirely ignores the widespread financial squeeze that overinflated luxury residential development puts on all real New Yorkers.

This is what has directly caused the collapse of New York City culture and which also perpetuates the ongoing affordable housing crisis, the surge in homelessness, and the difficulty for freelancers or the self-employed to obtain affordable and decent health care in spite of inviting TV commercials you see for a flash once a year that pretend that insurance companies, doctors, or the unnecessary third party New York “Health Exchange” gives a scheisse about your health.

More than one third of New Yorkers now spend half of their income on wildly overpriced rent.  And let’s get something straight: we are not talking about rent that is valid “what-the-market-will-bear” market rate rent, but rather manipulated, engineered, contrived, price-fixed, overinflated, overpriced rent.  We are taking about corrupt price gouging rent.

And if anyone that lives in New York disagrees, then he or she is clearly not from New York and late for their overpriced yoga class.

It is astonishing that no meaningful affordable housing advocacy group has formed and come forward with an analysis that shows how institutional corruption by the City of New York aids and abets the ongoing affordable housing crisis in conjunction with shameless city and state sponsored support of big money residential developers, equity groups, and real estate agencies that do absolutely nothing for real New Yorkers in spite of the existence of a hollow city housing program and political posturing.

Institutional corruption in New York government which myopically panders to big money finance, equity groups and luxury real estate developers puts a real economic squeeze on the vast majority of true lifelong New Yorkers.

The proliferation of obscenely unaffordable “luxury” condo skyscrapers along with wildly overpriced commercial and residential rent is so incongruously overinflated in comparison with the national average, not to mention incompatible with decades-long stagnant wages, runaway inflation, and the ongoing unabated “Great Recession,” that such outlandish New York City real estate development necessarily reveals an entirely separate economy which is protected by the City of New York against the interests and opportunities of all honest New Yorkers.

Such institutional corruption caters to a small cartel of international finance, equity groups, project developers, and genteel money launderers that need a “legitimate” place to park their billions upon billions of dirty money high in the sky in vacant “luxury” apartments.

Who else do you think has the kind of silly money to buy wildly overinflated faux luxury condos in the sky and keep them vacant?

On March 27, 1987, the New York Times profiled a practice of New York City landlords that deliberately kept upwards of 40,000 rental apartments vacant and withheld from the market for a variety of “business reasons” which indisputably contributed to New York’s perennially deliberate housing shortage and ever-increasing homelessness.

Can you imagine the well-oiled machinations to deprive New Yorkers of affordable housing 31 years later which simultaneously increase the coffers of international finance, equity groups, and big money real estate developers by employing a longstanding practice to artificially manipulate market conditions for overinflated rent?

Disingenuous boorish bobbleheads like Bill de Blasio like to set up cheap cardboard signs in front of media cameras to show how much they are doing to make housing in New York affordable, but anyone that has ever seriously looked into the paltry lists of shady housing developers that are veritably allowed to police themselves, and the so-called “available housing” within the ridiculous artifice known as “NYC Housing Connect,” knows that the structure and reality of obtaining affordable housing in a legitimate and timely manner in New York City, and especially in Manhattan, is a freaking joke, ein großer verdammter Witz, une grosse blague!

In 2017, according to Coalition for the Homeless, more than 129,803 different homeless men, women, and children slept in the NYC shelter system, which includes over 45,000 different homeless New York City children.

Elsewhere, I read that 10% of New York City public school children are homeless, or more than 100,000 public school children.

The number of homeless New Yorkers sleeping each night in shelters is now 78 percent higher than it was ten years ago.

So, clearly New York politicians are full of it whether they cackle and squawk about how much they are doing for affordable housing either immediately right now when it is needed the most, or whether they cackle and squawk about their insulting diversionary “future target goals” to provide “affordable housing,” which is undoubtedly nothing less than disgusting political chicanery to make them look progressive for future elections, even though enough time has gone by and statistics prove that New York government perennially spews lies and hollow promises regarding “future goals” within their modus operandi of institutional corruption.

The future is now, motherfucker.  And by “motherfucker” I mean every elected official in New York City and state.  You are disgrace and you should be taken outside and summarily shot in the kneecaps.

Research consistently shows that the primary cause of homelessness in overinflated New York City is lack of affordable housing.

What research consistently fails to show is what causes a lack of affordable housing in overinflated New York City, which is a central point in this commentary.

An unaccountable “affordable housing lottery system” and mysterious “tenant selection process” with absurd income eligibility requirements that punishes the middle class, and which does not otherwise work effectively whatsoever, is outrageously insulting to each and every lifelong New Yorker in every single borough.

I encourage anyone to evaluate “NYC Housing Connect” listings and its “don’t call us, we’ll call you” housing lottery farce to confirm the absurdity of the minimum and maximum income eligibility requirements which entirely cut out the middle class, among other “median area income” eligibility inconsistencies which in several instances actually favor applicants that earn annual incomes that are substantially more than the median area income.

Furthermore, “NYC Housing Connect” employs other discriminatory criteria like “application preferences” given to certain city employees, and ridiculous bureaucratic hoops like development groups that ask for potential applicants to snail mail them a postcard to request a physical application without any other mode of contact options, all of which make the “official” New York City affordable housing scheme nothing less than double-dealing chicanery, which it has been for decades.

Clearly, “NYC Housing Connect” is an “affordable housing” machination and an artifice so that elected New York politicians and City Council members can pretend like they are doing something about the affordable housing crisis afflicting real New Yorkers as Council Members give themselves a big fat pay raise that is close to $150,000 per year like they did in 2016; and as meatheads like Bill de Blasio abandon their office and mayoral duties to fly to Germany as he did in July of 2017, so he could hypocritically join G20 protestors and give one of the most inane, arrogant, self-serving speeches in world history while homelessness and the opioid addiction epidemic became increasingly worse in New York City.

What clowns decided that a dysfunctional “housing lottery,” or any kind of lottery at all, is a responsible way to fulfill the urgent need for affordable housing in New York City?

What is this, a fucked-up joke of a Michael Bay movie like “The Island”?

There is in fact one correlation between the lottery in Michael Bay’s “The Island” and the New York City affordable housing lottery: both lotteries are a lie.

Don’t even get me started about how the infamous New York City Council vote in 1994 allowed for the evisceration of rent stabilization, which was the largest source of affordable housing; and how the city and the DHCR consistently turns a blind eye to corrupt and dishonest slumlords that unlawfully harass, intimidate, and evict rent stabilized tenants in all five boroughs so that they can jack up the rent and deregulate their apartments for free market rents through “vacancy decontrol,” which was the key element in the Machiavellian anti-New Yorker 1994 New York City Council Member vote.

And let me tell you.  The New York City Council jadrools are no different today: indolent, worthless, corrupt, and self-aggrandizing schmucks, just like the current mayor that formerly came from the City Council.

Since 2007, at least 172,000 apartments have been deregulated from their rent stabilization status.

I would venture to estimate that close to 90 percent of all deregulated apartments in New York City were accomplished under institutional corruption between unscrupulous landlords with a complicit housing court system that is entirely unaccountable regarding unlawfully deregulated apartments largely as a result of slumlord harassment, unlawful evictions, and deceitful registration of rent increases with the DHCR that does not bother checking the legitimacy of any landlord vacancy rent increase registration claim whatsoever.

There is literally zero scrutinization by New York City housing agencies over whether landlord rent increase registration claims are valid and strictly in accordance with rent stabilization increase laws and rules.  Zero.  Zip.  Zilch.  None.  Nada.

If the last rent in a rent stabilized apartment was $1,200 per month before becoming vacant, for example, how many scumbag landlords do you think submit vacancy rent increase registration claims to the DHCR that the rent for such an apartment is now suddenly and inexplicably $2,500 per month?

Two things happen: 1. The DHCR does not scrutinize any landlord vacancy rent increase claims whatsoever.  2. Some out-of-town transient resident schmuck that signs the next vacancy lease accepts the rent without knowing they are even in a rent stabilized apartment and has the right to request a free rent history report from the worthless DHCR to check if the rent (increase) is valid.

Meanwhile, over the years, New York City did nothing to inform tenants about their rights regarding rent regulated apartments.

So many years and untold layers of landlord and city agency corruption has transpired that it becomes difficult to unearth the scope of unlawfully decontrolled apartments once they reach the high-rent vacancy deregulation threshold, or the Deregulation Rent Threshold (DRT), which for 2017 was $2,700 per month (as if anything near that amount is “affordable” rent in the first place for some shithole studio apartment that is about 250 square feet with a miniature Playskool oven).

But the DHCR knows (the New York State Division of Housing and Community Renewal).  They have all the records.

Indeed, institutional corruption by landlords, housing court, city housing agencies, and New York politicians all directly contribute to a lack of affordable housing and homelessness.

New York City’s Public Advocate Office showed that between January 2013 and June 2015 alone, owners of private properties filed more than 450,000 eviction cases citywide.  Less than 10 percent of all identified landlords were responsible for 80 percent of the cases.  90 percent of landlords had attorneys compared to 10 percent of beleaguered tenants.

In 1994, the median rent across the city was under $600 per month.

Today, about 40 percent of working-age, unmarried, or un-partnered adult renters are in “doubled-up” households with roommates or family members, according to the Zillow real estate database.

Both corrupt slumlords and the city housing court system greatly contribute to homelessness.

Just two months ago, the New York Post exposed an apparently unscrupulous landlord, Paley Management Corp., that attempted to evict a 100-year-old tenant from her Upper East Side rent controlled apartment on spurious grounds.  Meanwhile, the century-old tenant never missed a rent payment in 50 years and while convalescing after a bad fall in the apartment which broke her hip.  The landlord claimed she no longer used her apartment as her primary residence while the law clearly states that being away from home for medical leave and convalescence does not apply whatsoever for such devious eviction grounds.

New York media are continuously rife with tip-of-the-iceberg reports about corrupt scumbag landlords that end up in court as criminal defendants only because the media shed some light on their despicable behavior, and not because the City of New York or relevant city agencies did anything to protect vulnerable and innocent tenants in the first place, a city which should have effective procedures, protections, and rules in place to catch and punish unscrupulous landlords in advance in order to prevent beleaguered rent stabilized tenants from ever stepping foot in a stinking courtroom.

Again, see the New York Daily News report merely three weeks ago about one solitary sleazy corrupt landlord, Steven Croman, who was taken into custody and put in jail for systematically harassing and defrauding rent-regulated tenants and for tax and mortgage fraud.  Now this Croman fellow owes harassed tenants an $8 million settlement according to a “consent decree.”

Meanwhile, the housing courts are largely complicit in siding with corrupt slumlords that unlawfully harass and move to evict long-term rent stabilized or rent controlled tenants, unless the media happen to shine a light on a specific case that embarrasses specific players within the institutional corruption endemic in New York City real estate and housing.

And when the media spotlight goes out, the rats and cockroaches immediately return to swarm every inch of the New York City real estate landscape.

One New York City resident, Maritza Henriques, who works with the non-profit group called Housing Court Answers, was asked what she thought was the cause for the rise in New York City evictions especially in poor neighborhoods.

Ms. Henriques said, “The way New York’s Housing Court was started in 1973 was, in theory, to be a place that can aid tenants.  But it is actually a collector agency for landlords.  The government is enabling this to happen and the government has its interest in doing that. The people who control the government are the corporations.”

You don’t say.

All of this is directly relevant to why “Time Out New York” cultural event listings have shriveled up into a wasteland of uninspired corporate suburban shopping mall chain store sludge.

Institutional corruption that perpetuates overinflated rent for tenants and local businesses alike is the biggest factor that has caused the decimation of New York City culture, unless you would like to do a walking tour of pharmacies, banks, faux luxury residential skyscrapers, and Starbucks coffee shops.

“In this spot, ladies and gentlemen, imagine if you will, was a lovely prewar building that exemplified architectural flourishes consisting of high gables, dormers, terra cotta spandrels, niches and balustrades that gave it a German Renaissance character which echoed a Hanseatic town hall.  Now, as you can see, it’s a big-ass Duane Reade pharmacy.”

Less than 10 years ago, the music and nightlife section in “Time Out New York” used to go on forever, breaking down listings by music genre that would be several pages in each genre in small font so it could cram all the music events and bands and clubs that were happening that week.

The music and nightlife section in this week’s print edition of “Time Out New York” is a scant two pages of garbage listings with about five listings per page in large font.

I’m familiar with “Time Out New York” as I am with all the Manhattan weekly cultural publications, because I have been frequently listed in them and reviewed by them for live rock shows I have performed over the years (and will continue to be if I can get my goddamn second album out, which I finished recording back in 2016 at Little Steven Van Zandt’s private Renegade Nation recording studio in Greenwich Village with the talented and affable Mr. Geoff Sanoff at the board).

Don’t ask me why I have not yet independently released my second record and first full-length vinyl album as the follow-up to the BBG’s “Debut EP.”  Depression?  Money diverted to overinflated rent?  Depression?  You bet.  The Final Mix still sounds fantastic and the overall production is killer.  Not only does the newly recorded album still hold, but it has grown into something even more impressive and increasingly relevant, now more than ever.  It’s awesome, so why don’t I release it?  I will release it come hell or high water, and it looks like living in New York, both have arrived.

I digress a little.  Or do I?

Less than ten minutes ago, “Time Out New York” used to publish listings for tons of rock music, jazz, alternative, pop, experimental theater, mainstream theater, poetry, scene parties, independent films, independent art, mainstream art, public appearances by edgy novelists with a noble purpose like Andrew Vachss, and book reviews, among many other cultural events.

Where has it all gone?

Now it’s a scant and intellectually disabled compilation about pretentious food, and yoga, and more pretentious food, and health clubs, and beer week, and comedy, and pretentious food, and yoga, whimsical yoga, and naked yoga, and fitness, and comedy, and warehouse clothing sales, sample sales, health insurance ads, the latest cocktails, and of course now a half page devoted to “LGBT” which lists where to go for comedy, pretentious food, beer, and sanitized dancing to Britney Spears with “top queens” as if they are imported from a Walt Disney Amazon Prime drag queen warehouse distribution center.

Remember when a real drag queen would hit on you at a “Motherfucker” scene party and put her hands down your pants to wiggle your walnuts in a drug-infested rock and roll sweatbox pumping with live music, punks, anarchists, intellectuals, poets, artists, dommes, and other assorted intelligent countercultural life?

Of course a video game smartphone anti-protein yoga transient resident zombie would not remember those bitchin’ salad days.

Brian, did you say “bitcoin”?

No, Adderall junkie.  I said, “bitchin’.”

Institutional corruption in city government that exclusively panders to international finance and big equity development groups has turned New York City into a counterfeit world filled with cross-eyed transient residents that don’t know the difference between a Beatle and a dunghill, between a Cadillac and Willy DeVille, or between a whole tone and Dee Dee Ramone.

Institutional corruption in city government that exclusively panders to international finance and big equity development groups has transformed New York City into a cesspool of unrefined sanitized corporate hedonism typified by self-absorbed entitled ill-informed unpatriotic transient residents.

This town has arguably turned into a pathetic hypocritical plastic corporate poseur shitland of out-of-town imbeciles run by institutional corruption in city government that brazenly ignores the ongoing affordable housing crisis; that ignores price-fixing and rampant price gouging in overinflated rent; that ignores the root cause surge in homelessness; and that also ignores the fact there is no functional access to affordable and decent health care, all of which directly contributes to the rapid decline in the quality of New York City culture, to say the least.

Indeed, “Time Out New York” reveals that New York has taken an enormous “time out” from being a city that used to be the shit, to a city that’s merely full of shit when it comes to institutional corruption in government that gives lip service to affordable housing while elected officials do little else than service themselves and big finance real estate developers.

Nevertheless, it’s my town, as it is for all real New Yorkers that know the real reason why the cultural decimation and economic implosion of New York City is because institutional corruption in city government is focused on one thing and one thing only: self-aggrandizement in whatever form it takes that allows for, in effect, a zoning law moratorium, so that big finance equity groups and developers can blight the city with wildly overinflated faux luxury skyscrapers where their international finance and criminal money laundering brethren can park and warehouse their dirty money.

Has anyone seen that atrocious mixed use/residential structure in Astoria which is the Durst Organization’s “Hallets Point” project at 1-02 26th Avenue being built on the bank of the East River?

If you’re anywhere on the east side of Manhattan above 59th Street near the river, you can’t miss it.

That monstrosity now bifurcates and blocks the iconic view and architectural lines of the Triborough Bridge, part of which was funded by the federal government during the first Great Depression.

This is brazen visual evidence that corrupt New York City and state government has absolutely no regard for the purpose of zoning laws and historical aesthetic preservation.

Developing instant new urban blight is clearly available to the highest bidder.

Evidently, New York politicians could care less if an ugly building rises up to gratuitously block the view of an iconic 82-year-old New York City bridge.

If you visit the halletspoint dot com project website, you will see a giant color photograph of all the named elected officials awkwardly breaking dirt that “support” this huge private Astoria waterfront development which will offer “exclusive waterfront views of the Manhattan skyline” consisting of “approximately 2,400 rental residents in seven buildings including at least 483 ‘affordable’ units.”

Yeah, sure, there will be “at least 483” easily and legitimately obtainable “affordable units” from this “exciting waterfront project” in Astoria by the Durst Organization.

And, yeah, sure, the City of New York is totally going to monitor and ensure that in exchange for whatever tax breaks the Durst Organization might be getting to build this Astoria waterfront “project,” that “483 affordable units” will be easily and legitimately obtainable in any event.  No doubt.  Absolutely.

Yeah, sure they will.  Of course they will.  No problem.  Piece of cake.

All you need to do is fill out a “New York City Housing Connect” application (just like I did eight months ago for the stinking building beneath the vehicle entrance ramp to the Queensborough Bridge at 321 East 60th Street in Manhattan) to join the “housing lottery”; and don’t call them, because they will surely call you if your application “ping pong ball number” comes up during the New York City “drawing” for “affordable housing” at the new “exciting waterfront project” in Astoria, or for any “exciting housing development project” around New York City that evidently needs the “groundbreaking” support of the mayor, the borough president, a congresswoman, a councilman, a senator, an assemblywoman, and, of course, just a couple of treacherously politically correct “community groups.”

New Yorkers need to organize and band together in greater numbers to effectively stand up against the rampant institutional corruption in city government that has turned this town into an obscenely exclusive landscape of unaffordable private residential skyscrapers where criminal international finance, foreign capital, and refined money launderers can park their stinking dirty money and collusively manipulate overpriced rents through a mere handful of exclusively loathsome real estate agencies that serve as the haughty and corrupt gatekeepers to all apartments.

“It’s a playground to the rich, but it’s a loaded gun to me.”

It is high time to revamp the structure of affordable housing in New York City, to institute serious rent controls and balances, to rollback years of corrupt overpriced residential rent to make it on a par with the national average and stagnant wages; and if they want to build luxury condos, to make international finance, equity groups, and big developers significantly contribute to making New York City affordable for your average lifelong New Yorker that pays an overabundance of city taxes in exchange for nothing.

Institutional corruption in New York government has supported incongruous luxury residential development for decades to the detriment of real New Yorkers, and it perpetuates and fosters unaffordable housing and homelessness.

Furthermore, for whatever bogus city housing programs are in place, in this writer’s experience, they are nothing less than a public relations artifice for politicians and a joke when it comes to a functional process that effectively makes decent affordable housing a reliable, fair, timely, and obtainable reality.

Elected New York officials need to be compelled to put a stop to overinflated and overpriced rent in a very much manipulable, corrupt real estate market.

Elected New York officials need to be compelled to stop supporting the sellout of New York City to foreign investors, equity groups, and big money development companies that contribute to manipulating overpriced rent.

Too many lifelong New Yorkers are being forced out of their own city.

You got a problem with this commentary even though you’re not from New York, but you live here like a truffle-sniffing pig?

Do everyone a favor.  Go back to Virginia or California or France, or whatever parasite wagon you rode in on, because if you’re not a part of the solution, then you’re definitely a part of the problem that perpetuates the affordable housing crisis afflicting lifelong New Yorkers, which in turn fuels the rapid disintegration of intelligent New York City cultural life.  And take your stupid bicycle with you.

New York City government is plagued by endemic institutional corruption in overinflated real estate which has caused the decline and virtual decimation of vibrant, diverse New York City culture, because there is absolutely no other explanation however you slice it when decade after decade, lack of affordable housing methodically gets worse in the face of obscene overinflated luxury residential development that methodically proliferates around the city to the detriment of real New Yorkers.

Juxtaposed with decades of stagnant wages, runaway inflation, and the comparative national average for residential rent, these incompatible ugly urban monoliths of obscene luxury are a testament to institutional corruption in New York government that artificially drives up rent for real New Yorkers and eviscerates the opportunity for New York City to be the vibrant diverse culture that used to inspire and influence people around the world.

New York City needs to be taken back by those who pay for it: We the People.

Attached photo: Brian Boggess goes to see composer and jazz pianist extraordinaire Jon Davis perform at Knickerbocker Bar & Grill in Greenwich Village on December 22, 2017.  The Knickerbocker was established in 1977.  Mr. Davis appears on the Brian Boggess Group’s second independent vinyl record and first full-length ten song album yet to be released, recorded on analog tape at Little Steven Van Zandt’s private Renegade Nation studio with Grammy-winning engineer Geoff Sanoff and drummer Brian Wolfe.


Listen to the Debut EP by the Brian Boggess Group Now!