There Goes the Neighborhood Haircutter

Eight years ago this month, I moved to Long Island City with my girlfriend-at-the-time, Sarah. Having lived only in Manhattan since I left Santa Barbara six-and-a half years earlier, I dreaded the thought of ever moving to Queens as it signaled reverting to a sub-urban existence, except that the weather was a lot better in Santa Barbara than in Queens. However, as we deliberated over neighborhoods to live, we chose Long Island City as an ideal locale. It was very convenient to our jobs—and my softball games, and it had thus-far escaped the attention of Annoying People that were overrunning trendier neighborhoods in Brooklyn and in Manhattan. We also knew a tight-knit community of artists that were scattered throughout the neighborhood.

Although there were no full-service grocery stores, drug stores, or hardware stores, it felt more like home than any other New York neighborhood I had lived. There was a cheap Chinese place, a great local bar that would let us store our apartment keys for the inevitable lockout, and, crucially, a place to cut my hair. A Colombian native, David the Haircutter owned the shop below our apartment. When I visited every four-to-six weeks, he chatted with me in Spanish and asked about my family. He also accepted and held my mail from Sarah that went to my old apartment after we split up. Over the years, I also configured his Wi-Fi router and helped him sell a shampoo bowl on Craig’s List. Perhaps, most flatteringly, he honored the 2008-era price of $20, years after he raised his base men’s cut to $25. Even after I moved across the Pulaski Bridge, I still returned to David’s Haircutters on Vernon Boulevard.

The financial crisis of 2008 only postponed the inevitable, and, eventually, those Annoying People found Long Island City to be an ideal place, too. Renters were priced out, property owners cashed out, and another cycle of gentrification pushed out the earlier wave that I had ridden. Overwhelmingly, talk of real estate replaced impassioned discussions of art.1

On Saturday, though, I went there for the last time. He told me that he had sold the remaining ten years of his twenty-year lease, called it quits, and packed up for Florida. He leaves tomorrow, and a nail salon will take over the space in the coming months.

While I’m happy for David—and a tiny-bit annoyed that I have to find a new haircutter, I’m sad for Vernon Boulevard and Long Island City. It has finally arrived as a true neighborhood in the Manicure Capital of the United States.

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  1. To be fair, almost every blog about Long Island City has ever really been about real estate, and the artists were usually solitarily too holed up in their structurally deficient studio spaces to actually debate aesthetics. 

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