A billboard that boldly states “NEW YORK IS DEAD. DON’T COME BACK.” now stands in surprisingly, Los Angeles. The black-and-white signage is less PSA and more ironic commentary, as its creators — two idealistic (or self-important) Williamsburg artists — declared proudly on NBCNewYork. But what exactly makes this statement so controversial?
“Honestly y’all coming back probably got COVID so it’s best you just don’t.”
— Matt’s kindly asking you to Wear a Mask (@MatthewWalkerNY) January 27, 2021
“New York is Dead.”
The “NEW YORK IS DEAD” message first appeared streaming overhead in Miami, Florida, as a mysterious banner attached to a plane. This Los Angeles location now sits on the bustling Sunset Boulevard and has become an object of national fascination. Both messages are the work of Graham Fortgang and Samara Bliss, two hipster artists representing the Brooklyn art collective, The Locker Room NYC.
The phrase “New York is dead” gained attention — and notoriety — last year after Brooklynite venture capitalist James Altucher wrote that New York City would never bounce back from the economic crash and mass exodus, resulting from the rise of the Coronavirus pandemic. New York legend Jerry Seinfeld then responded to the “putz” through a scathingly true-to-form op-ed in the New York Times, “So You Think New York is Dead.” He wrote, “Real, live, inspiring human energy exists when we coagulate together in crazy places like New York City.” Along with effectively roasting the “enervated, pastel-filled” life found in Florida, Seinfeld’s tirade effectively ended all conversations regarding the so-called death of New York. Until now.
What the New Billboard Means
I’ll be up-front: I did “flee” New York at the height of the pandemic I was a college senior living in Manhattan when my school shut down in-person learning and evacuated the dorms. And no doubt there is a complex and respectable story behind everyone who remained, as billboard co-artist Graham Fortgang told NBC, in the “cramped” (and overpriced) real estate that makes up the crowded city. Shelter-in-place certainly has a different meaning to those renting with two, three, four roommates. Or to those with children, now forced to burn their energy inside small apartment walls.