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Jimmy Askew

Jimmy Askew

Posted: November 16, 2010 06:50 PM

Moe's Closes

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Jimmy McMillan's campaign was a sideshow and a joke, but his message is all too real: the rent is too damn high.

In a recent Facebook posting (since deleted), longtime Fort Greene institution Moe's (at the corner of Lafayette and South Portland) announced that it would be closing in February due to a rent increase that it could not afford. I'm hopeful that the removal of the post means that the owners of Moe's are working with the owners of the building to keep the bar open.

Look, I get the irony of bemoaning the gentrifiers becoming the gentrified, but Moe's is a uniquely Fort Greene institution: in a city where so often neighborhoods are clearly balkanized into ethnic enclaves, and where even in mixed neighborhoods the bars will fracture along ethnic lines, Moe's is a place where everybody rubs elbows. You are as likely to find yourself sitting next to transplant art students as you are to be next to a crowd of regulars who grew up in the Fort. Black, white, gay, straight: nobody seems to notice. It's unpretentious, welcoming and diverse. At the same time, Moe's is unique in that it is a bar of the now, unlike so many "dive" bars that feel like exercises in class tourism or nostalgia. It's named after a TV show, they have DJs and their drinks are current without being oppressively so.

In short, Moe's is what a New York City neighborhood bar should be.

It would be a real shame to lose this in favor of another small-plate New American restaurant, or an upscale lounge selling rigorously fussy recreations of Prohibition-era drinks at $12 a pour. It would be a shame to see a place that reflected the best of Brooklyn's potential turn into a boutique selling $300 dresses, or a high-end cupcake shop, or a franchise hamburger stand.

The New York of the Bloomberg era has seen far too many neighborhoods move from affordable to prohibitive, much to the detriment of us all. And when a popular business where we can all come together to celebrate our uniqueness and our commonality disappears because the rent is too damn high, it's a sign that our priorities are starting to go off the rails. I'll keep an eye on Moe's and make sure to celebrate it in style - and to support the places in our city that are similarly special.