Honored with the Key to New York, Patti Smith urges city to “save historic streets, gardens and trees” – The Village Sun


BY LINCOLN ANDERSON | The mayor of Blasio on Monday awarded punk rock icon Patti Smith the key to the city.

Meanwhile, Smith, proudly accepting the honor, in turn offered the mayor and other city leaders some heartfelt Jane Jacobs advice. In short, the singer-songwriter urged the mayor and his colleagues to place more value on the “little things” that make the city so special, from its historic built fabric to its sparse green spaces, community gardens and trees.

De Blasio, who is now in his last week in office, said Smith’s music, especially his song “Ghost Dance”, had a huge influence on him as a young man, affecting him until his time. “core”. He noted that his 1975 “Horses” is considered one of the best albums in rock history.

“For each of us who came of age in the 1970s and 1980s, there were many, many voices, many artists, many musicians, but there was only one Patti Smith,” said he declared. “To me, Patti Smith had an authenticity and authenticity that you just didn’t find, in my opinion, in a lot of other places – an ability to cut through all the hustle and bustle around us and speak the truths. deeper.

“The punk movement in general, for me, was a bastion of truth and something that helped fight hypocrisy in our society,” the mayor added. “Some have called Patti Smith the godmother of punk. … [She] inspired so many people, helped shape a whole movement – an artistic movement – and, in many ways, a political movement as well. “

“It’s awesome,” said a beaming Smith as he received the key at the ceremony at Town Hall.

She later added, with a smile, “I know we don’t work to collect accolades, but I’m the type of person that if I get one, I really like it. … I like the key.

In another warm gesture, the mayor also celebrated the 75th birthday of Smith and Lenny Kaye, guitarist of the Patti Smith Group. Monday was Kaye’s birthday and Smith’s birthday on Thursday. They each received a cupcake with a single candle to blow out, with Smith calling it “awesome” again.

The mayor presented Patti Smith and Lenny Kaye each with a cupcake topped with a candle for their birthday this week.
Patti Smith was touched when she received both the key to the city and a birthday cupcake from the mayor.

Ironically, in his remarks, the punk rock legend spoke about the importance of protecting the “little things” in New York City, from its historic buildings to its beloved community gardens and trees.

On the contrary, however, to the horror of many indignant locals and environmentalists, the limited term mayor of Blasio, in one of his latest acts, recently began to totally destroy East River Park. The city plans to cut down all 1,000 mature trees in the park to pave the way for a contentious coastal resilience project. Calling this a literal exaggeration, critics argue that flood protection for the surrounding area could have been achieved without suffocating every living thing in the park. Already, however, around half of the park has been clearcut, in what some compare to a brutal ‘scorched earth’ assault.

Meanwhile, a housing development backed by de Blasio is also expected to destroy the Elizabeth Street Garden, despite overwhelming community and political opposition. (Only de Blasio and outgoing council member Margaret Chin among local politicians support the plan.) In fact, in September, Smith, Kaye and Smith’s daughter Jesse Paris Smith performed in the garden at a rally to save the threatened green oasis of Little Italy. .

In September, Patti Smith and Lenny Kaye performed at Elizabeth Street Garden in a rally to save Little Italy’s beleaguered green space from the wrecking ball for a city-sponsored housing project. (Photo by The Village Sun)

In his remarks Monday, Smith spoke of coming from rural New Jersey to the city “with nothing” and facing the daunting test of trying to survive and thrive here.

In Jane Jacobs’ tones, she acknowledged that while New York City is about “growth” – both for individuals and for the city itself – preserving the “little things” is also a key part of it. which makes the city such a special place for its residents.

“With all of its challenges and difficulties, it remains – and I am a frequent traveler – the most diverse city, for me, in the world. [and] the city that has so much room for growth, ”the singer-songwriter said of the Big Apple. “But also, as we grow and, once again, evolve as a city, I pray that we also protect our city, its history, its historic streets and architecture, its community gardens, its trees. All of these things that we need – we need them because they are part of who we are as New Yorkers. Also the Empire State Building, the new skyscrapers, progress – but also the little things. It’s part of our big city, the little things. So let’s all do our best to protect these little things.

Speaking of challenges, she assured New Yorkers will overcome the current health crisis. Just as previous generations went through world wars, “their own pandemic” and the Great Depression, she said, we too can overcome our present difficulties.

“We are sailing on rough seas,” Smith said. “We can do this if we stay strong and grateful…. We are resilient people. And who is more resilient than a good old-fashioned New Yorker?

De Blasio asked him what his message was to encourage some people who might feel “hopeless” in the midst of the pandemic.

Again, she repeated, it’s the ‘little things’ and ‘little things’ that ultimately make a difference – whether it’s just a smile or ‘tending a community garden’, let soup to a sick neighbor, pick up trash or “do whatever you can to reduce their own waste, to reduce their use of fossil fuels.”

“This is what it is about ‘People have the power’,” she said, referring to her uplifting activist anthem. “Artists, politicians, scientists, we can all inspire people. But it’s the people who are making the change. And they make a difference by voting, by helping each other, by fighting for the things they believe in. So, I would say, start with the little things…. Find something every day that you are excited about, that you feel encouraged to do.

Smith noted that although his father read the Bible and other important foods, like Socrates and Carl Jung, he firmly believed that the most important thing in life was simply to be happy.

“He always said, ‘Be happy,'” she said, “because if you feel happy it will spill like blood through your veins, it will magnify the spirit.”

Smith and Kaye then performed the song “Ghost Dance” from the 1978 album “Easter”. Smith said that she and Kaye wrote the haunting tune – with her chorus “We’ll Live Again” – specifically for the song. Hopi tribe, but also as a message of “collective hope” to everyone.

After the performance, a grateful de Blasio said, “Without a doubt, one of the coolest things to ever happen at New York City Hall.”

Patti Smith and Lenny Kaye performed a three song set at Elizabeth Street Garden in September to cheering crowds. (Photo by The Village Sun)

One person who was encouraged by Smith’s example, and who was comforted by his words on Monday, is Joseph Reiver, the executive director of Elizabeth Street Garden. In September, the city informed the garden that it was going to evict it next month, but has so far taken no action. Meanwhile, a lawsuit to save the unique green space adorned with statues continues in court.

Reiver told the Village Sun, “I couldn’t think of a better person to receive the Key to New York than Patti Smith. Listening to her acceptance speech reminded me of what a magical moment it was when she played in the garden in September. That day was one of the truest New York moments I have ever experienced and it definitely inspired me to keep working to protect what makes our city so special. It is an honor to have Patti’s support in saving Elizabeth Street Garden.


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