The movement to save the High Line started as a grassroots operation, localized in Chelsea and the Meatpacking District. From the very early days, the neighborhood newspapers of Community Media (The Villager, Gay City News, Downtown Express, and later, Chelsea Now) have carried some of the best coverage of the project.
Chelsea Now was launched in 2006 to focus exclusively on the recently-rezoned and rapidly-changing neighborhood. Larry Lerner was hired as a reporter for the paper and quickly promoted to Associate Editor. (Community Media's Associate Editors are its papers top editors). During his time at Chelsea Now, in addition to many, many other valuable Chelsea stories, Larry wrote some of our favorite High Line articles. (He also took some compelling photographs.)
Larry was the first journalist to note the High Line's threatened status at the Rail Yards. In December, the paper carried an extensive interview with Robert Hammond about the Rail Yards, and a forceful editorial making the case for the High Line at the Rail Yards.
He's also covered many of our public programs, including the High Line Cell Phone Tour.
A more complete list of Larry's articles for Chelsea Now can be seen here.
Along with two other editors and a creative director, Larry was laid off in late January. I sat down with him briefly to chat about his time at Chelsea Now, and what's coming up next. Our conversation is after the jump.
KL: What did you see as the role of a community newspaper in a changing neighborhood like Chelsea?
LL: Documenting that change, and capturing the dynamism and energy of the area. The story of "change" that kept jumping out at us, not surprisingly, was gentrification and tenant displacement, taken in its myriad forms. But there's a pretty clear trajectory to follow here: Much of that stemmed from the West Chelsea and Hudson Yards rezonings combined with the red-hot real estate market, which wrought transportation and pedestrian-safety issues, the Hudson River Park and Pier 40, the High Line, and the Hudson Yards development project. Throw in issues like affordable housing, changes in many of Chelsea's schools, the liquidation of the neighborhood's artist community, and shifts at the public housing complexes, and there's no end to the stories that need to be told.
KL: While you were at Chelsea Now, what was something you learned about the neighborhood that really surprised you?
LL: Just how incredibly diverse it is, topographically, demographically and culturally. There's an incredible mix here. In fact, many people whom I interviewed for stories said that it was Chelsea's diversity that first attracted them to the neighborhood. During my time at Chelsea Now, I came to understand exactly what they meant, and why many of them fear that this diversity is being lost.
KL: What was your favorite story you covered as part of Chelsea Now?
LL: Oh gosh, there were so many great stories I got to cover. One of my favorites was a feature that I did in the wake of the Michael Richards incident on how stand-up comics handle hecklers, which I set at Chelsea's Gotham Comedy Club. One of the most moving, for me personally, was a profile I did on a man living with HIV/AIDS. I felt incredibly privileged that he let me into his life, and humbled by his resilience.
KL: What will you miss most about covering the neighborhood for Chelsea Now?
LL: The people. Chelsea and C.B. 4 are stocked with a disproportionate number of sharp, wonderful people from all walks of life.
KL: What would you like to do next?
LL: Answer a phone call from editors at The New Yorker or The Nation asking me to write about socio-political issues. Short of that, take the next step up by writing, and perhaps editing, for a mid-to-large-circulation newspaper or magazine here in New York City.
More of Larry's work is on his Web site.