Sari Botton | Longreads | July 2017 | 18 minutes (4,600 words)
In 2007, when a writer going by the pseudonym of “Jeremiah Moss” launched the blog Vanishing New York lamenting the closure of one iconic small business after another due to rapidly escalating rents, I was instantly hooked. It wasn’t long after, though, that I started to notice some major publications dismissing Moss as cranky, overly nostalgic, and naive about the inevitabilities of gentrification. I remember disagreeing with those assessments, and wondering whether I was missing something, or the writers of those pieces were.
It wasn’t until I read Moss’s new book, Vanishing New York: How a Great City Lost its Soul, that I fully put it together: the difference between those writers and me was that I had lost my place in New York City. In 2005, when I was evicted from my apartment in the East Village so that a famous filmmaker could pay four times my rent, my foothold there, well, vanished. As a casualty myself of New York’s rising rents, I heard Moss’s message loud and clear.
Now I’m living in Kingston, New York, where, as was entirely predictable to me, a new tidal wave of what Moss calls “hyper-gentrification” threatens to displace me once again.
Last week I met with Moss — who recently came out from under cover in a New Yorker profile as psychoanalyst Griffin Hansbury — at a Cafe in the East Village, to talk about his book (we have an excerpt), and how artists and creatives like me can hang on, and play a different role, when outside money starts rolling in to the depressed areas we move to.
So, should I be talking to you as Griffin or Jeremiah?
I think Jeremiah.
Is the main reason you used a pseudonym, and didn’t go to your own demonstrations, that you’re a therapist?
Not really. The time I started to blog I was working as a social worker at a LGBT community clinic and I was doing copyrighting and copyediting freelance on the side to make ends meet, and I was just starting to get my private practice off the ground. So that’s where I was. When I started to blog, I didn’t put a lot of thought into it. I was sitting on my bed one night and was like, “Oh, I could do a blog. I have all these pictures and journal entries and why not?” And I had written this novel that’s not published about a guy named Jeremiah Moss and I liked writing in his voice. I wanted to keep writing in his voice.
Is his voice very different from yours?
No, not really. But it’s distilled . I just put the blog and the book in his name to kind of keep it separate and not have to worry about. It’s just easier.