Is Detroit the New New York? Ask Patti Smith

All you creative young things eager to make it in the big city, Patti Smith has a suggestion: get out.

“New York has closed itself off to the young and struggling,” Ms. Smith said. “New York City has been taken away from you … So my advice is: Find a new city.” She suggests Detroit.

In a sign of just how bleak things have become, the Center for an Urban Future felt the need to hold a conference yesterday called “Time to Be Creative.” Capital writer Katherine Jose has a detailed play-by-play of the conversation, which she notes was pretty much all about real estate. (Ms. Jose is a former managing editor of The Observer.)

CUF director Jonathan Bowles said, “The city is facing new threats to its longtime dominance in the creative fields,” in large part because “artists, arts organizations and creative entrepreneurs” have “found it increasingly difficult to find affordable space in the five boroughs to work, live, rehearse and perform.”

One of the more interesting questions reportedly addressed at the conference was whether, in fact, the recession, by driving down rents, may actually have helped in this regard. Of course, as plummeting rents go, we’re still being handily beaten by Detroit. Real Estate Board of New York chair Mary Ann Tighe even weighed in, advocating we give artists and art organizations a tax voucher to offset the cost of their rent.

Of course, such a proposal has been bandied about since before many of these kiddies were born, and isn’t going to happen any time soon.

One thing that Ms. Smith also didn’t have to contend with is the relentless media exposure they have already had to artists dabbling in their craft in sprawling, yet strangely affordable lofts, a dream that anyone who lives here realizes is long dead–if it ever existed at all.

That said, let us also beware the irresistible pull of nostalgia. “I think the light in the city was more golden back then,” said choreographer Tommy Tune, who arrived in 1957.

Maybe not, but to indulge that sentiment for a moment, here’s a glimpse at where some of the city’s budding creative types crashed before they made it.

SLIDESHOW: The Way We Lived. Is Detroit the New New York? Ask Patti Smith