Time to Flee NYC, is Philadelphia the Next Big Thing?

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A few years back the tide of trendiness washed the unwashed, creative masses ashore in Williamsburg, then Greenpoint and then Bushwick. Nowadays that’s one big neighborhood of fabulousness, but there is a growing feeling that the best days are over. Soaring rents are driving the artists and other creatives out and there goes the neighborhood.

The impending closing of the L train makes the dream look more like a nightmare. Already, the hood is inundated with condos and baby carriages and the talk is of what, or rather where could be next. Of course the natural move follows the L train to the already gentrifying Bed-Stuy, but the thought of commuter buses when the L train tanks is off-putting. There is nearby Ridgewood, but it’s a hop, skip and yet another bus away from the action. Some are talking the Rockaways, while others say LA. LA’s booming economy and predictable weather becons. Some say it isn’t so bad anymore with Venice, kind of cute and trendy Echo Park, Silver Lake, Highland Park, Downtown and all that, but most I know would rather slit their wrists rather than follow Horace Greeley. I am tossing Philadelphia into the equation.

WC Fields on his way to the gallows in the ’40s comedy My Little Chickadee, was granted the customary one final wish. He pleaded, “I’d like to see Paris before I die,” and the crowd growled. He lowered his expectations saying, “Philadelphia will do.” As it turns out, Philadelphia will do. I’ve been spending a lot of time in the “City of Brotherly Love” and have found for the most part that to be true, as people are truly friendlier and it’s a nice place to live. First off the rents are cheap by NY/Brooklyn standards with nice rooms to be found in the $600 range and great one bedrooms, starting around $1500. Drink prices at the countless trendy bars are way cheaper than NYC. There are raves, warehouse parties, a thriving live music scene, a DJ scene and a thriving art scene. Restaurants and foodie culture abounds and design is world class.

Without a celebrity/model base, the bottle service clubs fall short by New York standards, but for me and mine that’s a good thing. The 2 a.m. liquor curfew has people coming out early and retreating to house parties late. All in all, it’s more than survivable and Philly folks tell me there is a wave of ex-New Yawkers moving into trendy hoods like Northern Liberties and Fishtown. A walk around these neighborhoods reveals people that look exactly like the people I rub elbows with on Graham Avenue. The kicker is that Amtrak will whisk you from Philly to NYC Penn Station in an hour and a half, and by car it’s a dependable 2 hours near. You can get your NY fix with minimal effort.

In the mid ’90s at the behest of my girlfriend’s housemates, I joined forces with Philly nightlife heroes Barry Gutin, Larry Cohen, Joe Grasso and John Frankowski to create Shampoo, the first Philadelphia joint to feature a pick-and-choose door jam. The club lasted more than a decade and helped define global nightlife, there. I brought down Grace Jones, RuPaul, Joey Arias, Lady Bunny and some NYC DJs to help out—the place was a hit. At a reunion party in late November, Shampoo was recreated for one night. Major Domos Dan Cantarino, Michelle Bozzi and Nigel Richards (and most of the old gang) reveled in the past, but also the fabulous present and future of Philly nightlife. I came down as their guest—the designer and person who originally named the joint.

I ended up staying, but not just overnight; I got myself a loft. I currently commute up to NYC three or four times a week and stay over from time-to-time. I haven’t missed a beat and don’t miss much of the rat-race as Philly has all that I need to thrive. I am planning on moving back to the Big Apple in a month, since my business demands it and I truly believe NYC is the greatest city in the world. I consider Philadelphia the 6th borough, but I hope my Philly friends don’t take offense.