Select Page

Documentary film maker Marc Levin made a ‘must see ‘ film entitled Class Divide (2015)  about the gentrification of the West Chelsea area of Manhattan ( 23rd street around 9th and 10th Avenues). HIs former documentary, Hard Times: Lost on Long Island (2012) followed four individuals who lost their financial sector white collar jobs after the 2008 Wall Street housing bubble burst. Viewing the film was disheartening, as we watched how devastated people who still believed in the false narrative of The American Dream can become. In Class Divide we learned  that the western  part of Chelsea, NYC  became  the fastest growing real estate sector in the entire city of New York. What was once mostly a low income working stiff neighborhood became a high rise and townhouse nirvana that catered to the super rich… not even just the 1%, rather the 1/4 of the 1%! Imagine a townhouse across from a Chelsea public housing project that sold in 2015 for $ 10 million .For real! The sad irony to all this is that in 1937 director William Wyler made a film called Dead End, based on Sidney Kingsley’s play of the same name. In the story a high rise apartment building catering to the 1/4 of the 1% of that day was built at the dead end of a really poor neighborhood in Manhattan ( perhaps even the same Chelsea area). And they wonder where anger and rage against the super rich can come from.

In Levin’s Class Divide there is a private school called Avenues :The World School right in the heart of West Chelsea, a few steps from where very poor people live. The tuition was around $ 40,000 a year… more than two or three times what those in the housing project earned… if they even had a job. In other apartment buildings on that street, the ones that the poor and low income have been living in for generations, landlords were making concerted efforts to get those folks out . There is gold in them there hills! In the spirit of Noblesse Oblige, the school did offer free tuition for low income kids. Let’s see , from a student enrollment of 1,200 they allowed 40 such kids in for free… which is around 4%. The rest of the neighborhood kids went to the usually underfunded and underequipped public school nearby. Levin interviewed some of the rich kids who attend the Avenues school, and one can see how naive they  really were concerning income polarization in Amerika. Nice kids who obviously never had to deal with what the poor kids must deal with every day. Shades of Wyler’s Dead End.

The real sad reality of both of these films is the lack of understanding of how things should be. A nice couple in Dead End , he an unemployed  architect and she a factory worker on strike, assumed that one had to accept the fact that there must be super rich people. Ditto for many of  the poor residents of West Chelsea and the rich kids attending the Avenues school ( none of their parents were interviewed by Levin… one wonders why ). Everyone just sends out the vibes that ‘ These are the cards we are dealt, and we can only play the hand the best we can.’ There are many steps that us working stiffs and unemployed working stiffs must take in order to really ‘ take back ‘ our country from the 1/4 of 1 %. The primary step is perhaps to come to the realization that NO ONE should be earning mega millions of dollars each year while the rest of us are one or two or maybe, if lucky, three or four  paychecks away from being forced out on the street. We who ‘ know better ‘ should teach our young that Socialism is not totalitarianism, or fascism. Rather, it can be a solution to this terrible and deadly income polarization our nation has been operating under.

A viable solution has been taking ( too ) slow shape and that is for a UBI or Universal Basic Income for all American citizens. Imagine if all of us were to receive a monthly stipend from the government of let us say $1200, the way our seniors receive their Social Security check. Parents of children would get an additional $500 per child up to a limit of two children per family. Do the math and see how many mega millions of our fellow citizens would be able to not only stay ‘ above water’ financially, but be able to finally ‘ swim’ in it. Attorney Ellen Brown, a Public Banking Advocate and UBI supporter, has written extensively on this subject. A Universal Basic Income Is Essential and Will Work | WEB OF DEBT BLOG (

PA Farruggio
March, 2024