The closing of Oxcy Mart

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This is Jay. Until very recently, he was the owner and sole shopkeeper of Oxcy Mart, a mini-mart/liquor store on Armadale and York Boulevard. Occidental College, in an effort to expand it’s presence on the constantly changing and gentrifying York Boulevard, acquired the building and all of it’s storefronts at 4750 York Blvd., putting Jay, the tenant, out of a job. Legally speaking, the transaction occured between the college and the property owner, making Jay a powerless middleman who had no choice but to vacate the property. This, of course, puts Jay out of a job.

We attempted to interview Jay about the process by which his store was acquired by the college. He informed us that many occidental students had already questioned the college administration on the purchase, and had brought up a desire to have some kind of opposing action to try and help Jay in the process, or maybe stop the purchase altogether. Now, my assumption here is that the administration, in retaliation, has told Jay that if he permits, facilitates, or is aware of any sort of action or discussion against Occidental College or the property owners, legal action would be taken against him. I assume so because Jay, very promptly and nervously, refused to be officially interviewed.

All that we could extract from our conversation with Jay was this portrait of him and a gradually emptying rack of shelves behind him. Most of the shelves in the store are also empty, and Jay spends most of his last evenings at the store sitting at the corner of Armadale and York, waiting to leave. His immediate plans are to figure out a way to move his wife and child into a new rented apartment, and possibly join another liquor store business in Orange County.

This post does not intend to initiate a protest or any kind of action against Occidental College or the store-owner(s) at 4750 York Blvd. Rather, all this portrait and write-up intends to do is to make college students, the college and residents of North East LA familiarize themselves with not just the disappearing businesses, but also the disappearing faces from the neighborhood, as more and more property is bought over, and local/poorer shopowners are displaced and left without work in the process.

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York Boulevard Soundwalk

seeing as how the critical making studio is based out of occidental college, we decided to do a short sound walk on the notoriously gentrified york boulevard. as i mentioned in our first post, the newly constructed park on york and ave. 50 is a much-needed change in scenery from the empty lot that once was. the childrens park consists of a reptilian-themed jungle gym/play area, chess tables, open library and most interestingly, playable instrument installations (xylophone, mallets, bongos), created by FreeNotes Harmony Park. it was a fascinating example of using sound art as public installations so as to enhance urban experience and the aesthetic of a space in general. making such instruments allows the public to interact with the space on a deeper sensorial level than just the visual, and thus feel a deeper connection to the space and community in general. such initiatives are common elsewhere in the world as well; last semester, i studied in Brighton, where the train station had a publicly accessible piano, the melodies of which reverberated throughout the station forum and allowed respite from the monotonous announcements over the PA system. This quote from a paper written by Charles Morrow says it all:

Sound art should be integrated into the architectural and landscape process to shape the sonic environment, directing the visitors’ perception of scale, balance and intimacy. Sonic environment design includes portals and transitions between environments.These transitions are dynamic by their very nature of changing perception step by step.One test of a sonic design is its effectiveness for a blind or blind folded person

afterwards, we visited Cafe De Leche, seeking shelter from the punishing heat thanks to an ice cold drink. cafe de leche is often crowded with young professionals, musicians, new residents in eagle rock (read: gentrifiers) and is very much a business that is at odds with the local-ness of older establishments. we also ran into a journalist from KPCC and discussed eagle rock and the presidents visit. listen in for what it feels like to hear sound on newly gentrified york boulevard.

 

North East LA Art Gallery Night/Highland Park ArtWalk

we are all perfectly aware that highland park, in north east los angeles, home of occidental college, is one of the fastest gentrifying neighborhoods in the city, state and country. over the last decade or so, what was once a majority hispanic residential area has seen an incredible influx of boutique clothing stores, cafes, craft beer pubs, parklets, bike racks, record shops, and pretty much everything else that’s part of that good ol’ fashioned hipster urban palette. change is good, yes, but the rapid rate of these changes has been both welcomed and vilified. as more and more creative types from around the country move into two bedroom houses along york and fig, local residents part of North East Los Angeles Alliance (NELAA) continue to discuss, criticize and protest the forced facelift of their neighborhood.

gentrification is on almost everyone’s mind in los angeles, and is a highly complex issue affecting architects, business owners and residents alike. it has manifested in different forms across our four major streets (colorado, fig, york, eagle rock). bearing this in mind, a holistic media-based documentation of gentrification @ highland park will be one of the major focuses of this online media/narrative archive. this is our first post, and welcome to digitalstoriesla!

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a significant and tangible product of gentrification is reimagined public space. as the 3rd los angeles project is currently initiated, los angeles residents can hope to see many of the drearily empty lots across the city turn into fun, accessible areas for pedestrians, bike riders, skaters etc. such spaces already exist (pershing square, various parks), but the extensive widespread nature of the city makes it hard for these spaces to form a cohesive identity.

at the monthly artWalk in north east los angeles on saturday night, while perusing all the new additions to york from the last six months (i was away for a semester), two such spaces caught my attention: the newly opened MorYork gallery, and the new park on York Boulevard/Avenue 50. The latter made for a rich and comforting soundscape, which will be discussed in a later post.

the MorYork gallery (see pictures above) was at one point the right side of the korean church on york boulevard. now, it has turned into a large and finely detailed art exhibit, displaying works by Clare Graham. he works with recycled materials, and a pastiche of odd vintage household items, taxonomy and furniture that is (much like gentrification!) aimed to be welcoming and sort of familiar yet very very unsettling and creepy.

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more light shall be shed on highland park, art, and gentrification in the posts to come. stay tuned! pictured below is campbell scott enjoying a potato taco outside the hermosillo, and a hazy summation of the bright lights and crowded streets that took over highland park for one night and one night only.

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