You kids are rushing the gates to live in the same tenements our parents were trying to get the hell out of.
My father was born and raised just north of the Harlem River, in the once was Jewish/Irish enclave of the Highbridge neighborhood in the Bronx. He would reminisce about simpler times, when the stadium was Mecca, the river, a swimming pool and kids could run wild without crippling parental apprehension. Back then; youth was king and the city, their playground.
As time went on, neighbors moved out, buildings fell apart and entire neighborhoods were gutted by fire or road systems. Like the momentum of age, innocence was lost and the panging realization of change set the community into free fall. Yet far from the spires on Ogden Avenue, there was a development being built beyond the borough of Queens. It was Levittown, Long Island and it would be called Suburbia. A place created to ease these new pioneers from the clutches of urbania with the substitute of sprawling green foliage and starched white suits. Up came the fences and the garages, the front yards and fabricated kindness. It was a success, apropos a change in lexicon. The idea of neighborhood was out and town was in; community was discreetly nuclear and privacy was the new governing body.
Fast-forward a few generations and we are now watching the sons and daughters of our suburban trailblazers clamoring to escape the white wash confines of their towns. Awash with debt and a damned economy, they have poured back into the neighborhoods our parents were so eager to leave; an exodus gone full circle. Low on cash, high on hopes, millennials live three or four to an apartment as they actualize the progress of their American dream.
It’s the reawakening of community, a direct product of the internet age and the generation’s vigilant defense of transparency. The tight-lipped and taciturn nature of a town represents the exclusionary secrecy of high institutions such as our banking system.
So as the millennials rush back to the tenements of our ancestors, we are left with the question of why. The answer is simple: every millennial has heard the stories from parents and grandparents about a simpler, better time, when the kids ran wild and wages were built on sustainability, not excess; before the era of “stuff.” The youth are reinventing culture by going back to these better times; popular culture is saturated in the vintage mores, from the style of facial hair to taking pictures that ironically look aged. The youth are now the holder of our future and the first order of business is to redefine a better tomorrow. For those who do not learn from history are doomed to not repeat itself… Or at least that’s how I think it goes.