Every so often I get the urge to write a letter to an editor. It happened the other week when I read an article in The Guardian about Bob Dylan and the Volkswagen van that appeared on the cover of one of his early albums, The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan. The reporter, Billy Heller, had tracked down the owner of the van, a Greenwich Village butcher whose shop, Florence Prime Meat Market, was (and still is) on Jones Street, where the album cover was shot.
Heller's opening sentence was an outdated cliché that described the Village as a magnet for creative types. I'll let the letter (text below) speak for itself.
Your article (Freewheelin' to fame – the untold story of Bob Dylan's iconic VW van, 24 March) begins: "New York City's Greenwich Village has always been a magnet for outsiders, artists and poets." That sentence cries out for an update. Greenwich Village used to be a magnet for such people.
I'm a writer, my wife is a singer-songwriter, and we've lived in the area for well over 30 years. Yes, some of us have been fortunate enough to weather the changes that have made this neighbourhood (as well as much of Manhattan) unaffordable to most. But I can now report that the Village has become a magnet for bankers, brokers and trust-fund tragedies.
If a young Bob Dylan were coming to New York today, he'd be lucky to find an affordable place in the Bronx or Staten Island.
New York City, US
I could have added three more categories of newly arrived Greenwich Village denizens: hedge-fund managers, corporate lawyers, and weathy divorcees. Creative types, of course, still do move here on occasion, usually after they've made their first couple of million.
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