I arrived in New York in 1979 when giants like Donald Judd and Richard Serra still walked the streets. That’s over. People often say Brooklyn now plays the role that SoHo, the Village, and TriBeCa played for earlier generations of artists. But I think it marks a change, in that New York has always depended on a compressed verticality and the collision of radically different types and classes of people. If young artists are ghettoized across the river, it becomes a very different New York. You can’t deny the city has been transformed, largely for the good, in the past 25 years. It’s a clean, safe, decent place to bring up children. At the same time, New York has lost some of its vital energy. It’s becoming more of a city of historical culture, like Paris, where contemporary art is dead, to be perfectly blunt. There’s still a lively literary world in Paris, and I think there’s a renaissance in French filmmaking. But the particular kind of life that persisted there from 1800 to 1950 is gone."
Gopnik’s latest book, Through the Children’s Gate: A Home in New York, was recently published by Alfred A. Knopf.