File this under "terrible ideas that someone should probably have stopped before they happened": On Thursday, real estate developers Somerset Partners and Chetrit Group hosted a star-studded party dubbed "Macabre Suite" at a warehouse in the Port Morris neighborhood of the South Bronx, which centered around an installation by artist Lucien Smith. His work apparently took inspiration from some of the borough's darkest days (it's macabre, get it?!?), with burned-out, bullet-ridden cars and trash-can fires placed throughout the space. Partygoers used the hashtag #bronxisburning on Instagram and Twitter, a clear call-out to the period in the 1970s when fires ravaged the poverty-stricken borough. And to add insult to injury, the party was attended by a bevy of celebs and socialites—Kendall Jenner, Naomi Campbell, Baz Luhrmann—along with Bronx boosters like Bronx Museum of Art executive director Holly Block and, allegedly, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. Which, again: Who thought this was a good idea?
Lest we've forgotten, Somerset Partners and Chetrit Group are the developers behind an ambitious plan to turn the South Bronx into "Williamsburg meets Dumbo," via a new waterfront development that will have both luxury residential units and retail. Somerset head Keith Rubenstein has been bandying around the name "Piano District" for the neighborhood for months, and just last week a billboard went up near the Third Avenue Bridge and Bruckner Boulevard touting that new moniker, along with the area's "world class dining, fashion, art + architecture." Thursday's party, it seems, was yet another attempt by the developers at making this rebranding happen—if an arty warehouse party can attract celebrities and models to the Bronx, surely the crowds willing to pay dearly for luxury condos will follow, right?
"Tonight is an amazing opportunity to introduce a whole new world to the South Bronx, and celebrate its heritage," Rubenstein told WWD. But the whole thing comes off as incredibly tone-deaf; as Ed García Conde of Welcome2TheBronx noted in a lengthy blog post, "income inequality couldn't have had a better show" than this event, which brought many one-percenters to an area that remains one of NYC's poorest. Photos that have surfaced of the event show a lot of young white people smiling and posing in front of models of burned-out cars, which is its own special type of terrible. And, well, maybe we should just let City Council speaker Melissa Mark Viverito take it away for us:
Trivializing legit community concerns not welcome. Neither are attempts to erase neighborhood's culture & history. https://t.co/k3BisgvPD6— Melissa MarkViverito (@MMViverito) October 31, 2015
Plus, what's up with burnt out cars used as props at this event? Would like to hear thought process behind that.https://t.co/k3BisgvPD6— Melissa MarkViverito (@MMViverito) October 31, 2015
Lack of empathy & basic awareness are signs of an ailing society. Who thought "Bronx is Burning" theme a good idea? https://t.co/k3BisgvPD6— Melissa MarkViverito (@MMViverito) October 31, 2015
· Developers, Celebrities Celebrate a Tale of Two Cities At a 'Macabre' Halloween Party in The South Bronx [Welcome2TheBronx]
· Chetrit, Somerset throw A-list blowout for Mott Haven warehouse blowup [TRD]
· Real Estate Developers' "Bronx Is Burning" Rave Criticized For Tone-Deafness [Gothamist]
· Gigi Hadid and Naomi Campbell Party in Lucien Smith's 'Macabre Suite' [WWD]