Gentrification is taking its toll on the city’s cultural fabric. Artist and photographer Clayton Patterson throws his weight behind the #SaveNYC campaign.

Gentrification is taking its toll on the city’s cultural fabric. Artist and photographer Clayton Patterson throws his weight behind the #SaveNYC campaign.

Artist, photographer and local historian Clayton Patterson isn’t afraid to put his finger on what made New York City one of the most creative and culturally innovative places on the planet: cheap rent and an inexpensive lifestyle. “Coming out of that you have Jackson Pollock, Rothko, Jimi Hendrix, Madonna, Lou Reed,” he told Huck last year. “One way or another, the advantage of low rent gave them all the opportunity to become who it was that they are, which is the genius behind America.”

Ever since the big money started flowing across Canal Street during the 1980s and into the cultural melting pot of the Lower East Side – which he’s called home since 1979 – Clayton has noticed the creep of gentrification slowly destroying what made the city great. What were once mom and pop shops or avant-garde music venues like CBGBs have increasingly become bland chain stores that suck money out of the community.

As the pace of change intensifies, affecting more and more neighbourhoods across the city, Clayton has been joined by a growing number of dissenting voices – from community activists to filmmakers to rap group Ratking whose track ‘Protein’ yells: “The world is fucked, the city is gone.”

Perhaps the most concerted effort yet to fight the ongoing gentrification comes from the #SaveNYC campaign, with its two-pronged strategy. Firstly, it seeks to raise awareness through photo and video testimonials from New Yorkers who want to see their city’s heritage and culture protected. Second, it’s developing a political strategy that kicks off with attempting to pass the Small Business Jobs Survival Act.

Clayton has thrown his weight behind the campaign and submitted his own video in which he declares his own personal story of survival on the subcultural fringes would not be possible in today’s New York. “The whole American idea of pulling yourself up by the bootstraps and finding your own place in the world doesn’t exist anymore,” he explains. “[Successive mayors] have changed [the city] and made it impossible for the little guy to come and be here. The American dream is starting to not exist anymore.”

Find out more about the #SaveNYC campaign.