Maxwell’s, the nightclub once called “the best club in New York” by New York magazine, will close in July and end decades of being a world famous venue for top bands from around the world. It’s hard to tell how many people are left in Hoboken who care or understand the importance of Maxwell’s, but the New York Times, Rolling Stone, Spin magazine and many others have paid homage to the club that “altered the music scene and Hoboken,” according to the Times.
The artistic community that supported Maxwell’s in its day moved into Hoboken after the crash of the shipping industry and lived in the cheap lofts and apartments that were available when the city was in a deep depression. It was an important component of what resurrected Hoboken from a slum and established a population base that made it viable for businesses to move back in and rebuild the community. Eventually the city population gained critical mass, people caught on to Hoboken’s many advantages as a small town that was a transportation hub for New York. Real estate values soared and the city became a gold rush for the real estate industry.
The closing of Maxwell’s is a bellwether that shows where Hoboken is heading and what is being lost. After decades of development that has produced too many condos for our sewer system to handle, the developers are pushing hard to obliterate rent control and any obstacles preventing them from making the fortunes that are possible here. The developers group MSTA pushed an initiative last fall to further weaken an already weakened rent control law. They say only the free market should control rents. Let them go sky high, it’s what the market dictates. Many accept that the market always knows best. But where we are headed is that Hoboken will be only an enclave for the rich. Big corporate brands will displace local businesses and we will lose much of the personality of our community.
MSTA lost their initiative, but there isn’t much that big money can’t do. MSTA challenged the election and won a rematch. Before the election one of MSTA’s driving forces, developer Steve Silverman, bought a two-page ad in The Reporter in support of the initiative to peel back rent control. He expressed indignation that anyone would think any landlord would unfairly lean on tenants to move out just because they could make a fortune by doing so. I question whether all landlords would be so virtuous as to be impervious to the temptation of fortunes to be made. But even if you accept his premise, he is advocating replacing tenants one by one as they move out with higher paying tenants. And gradually the result would be to turn Hoboken into a one-dimensional community only for the rich.
It’s too late to save Maxwell’s. But Hoboken residents should take a reckoning of how their city is evolving. We do have some say as to what our city will become.