Don’t BroLibs Me If You Don’t NoLibs Me: This Moment In The Continuing Growing Pains Of Northern Liberties
For the most part, What We Talk About When We Talk About Northern Liberties is, at this point, a known quantity. How it is, due to police districting, a perfect petri dish for opportunistic crime. How rapid development there is a mixed blessing. How the art-based communities that had settled there a decade or so ago have mostly been completely priced out of the area. Et cetera. But what we don’t talk about is the back end of a lot what we do talk about: How circumstances have gathered in such a way that Northern Liberties is, sociologically, a city divided within itself (to say nothing of the poverty that presses against from the north and west sides).
Today, there are two populations living at odds with one another in Northern Liberties. There is the landed gentry who speculated there well before the boom in the mid-2000s and regard the place as Society Hill II, with all of the sense of entitlement that would suggest; and there are the BROS, post-collegiates who live inside the paper thin walls of Bartland and its outlying provinces and regard the place essentially as college without the rules. There is NOLIBS, which generally specializes in saying “NO,” and there is BROLIBS, which specializes in… bros.
And while both communities carry deep flaws, we’re going to have to side with NoLibs, as opposed to BroLibs, every time. Sure, the NoLibs side is quick to complain about most everything on the NoLibs message board (devil’s advocate: that’s what it’s there for?), these people will never ever get over that the SuperFresh is not a WholeFoods, and they generally have a somewhat deluded sense of what they bought, and where. But we’ll say this for them: They are an actual community. They are home to one of the strongest neighborhood associations in the city. And they basically willed themselves into the once-laughable Society Hill II status that they now almost legitimately have. And all of it in basically two decades: from blight to might. It’s crazy; have you ever seen anything like it? And to their eternal credit, they’re even having their own Take Back BroLibs Rally this weekend. It’s gonna be great. Everyone you know will be there.
On the other hand, the Bros are basically the antithesis of community. They treat the city as a theme park, and when shit heads south, they’ll be the first to go. In the meantime, they’re fucking ruining everything. They’re tourists with leases. Take last weekend, for instance: Big Bro-Fest in the Piazza for one of those 104.5 FM free concerts, in which the Bros In Residence convened with their bro-thren in the bro-burbs. And how did it go? A total mess. A shitshow. (That it was headlined by an Icelandic Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros cover band is kind of funny, when you think about it; it is a universal bro irony that bands that bros like are almost invariably populated by people bros would totally fuck with if they saw them on the street.) The complaining on those two threads we just linked to is only just ramping up, but we already know what will come of it: Exactly nothing.
See, in the NoLibs VS. BroLibs war, at the moment, the Bros have this thing on lock. They’re an economic force unto themselves, and they have untold numbers of reinforcements lying in wait just outside the city limits. They can turn a bar from new to completely unfuckingbearable in 20 minutes. They have the upper hand. And for the moment, we must live beside them. But it will not always be like this. Like the favored dog of the bros, the bulldog, each generation of bros has a short life span. The bros that are currently living in My First Apartment In The City In The Piazza are, as we speak, morphing into other creatures: Many will become fathers and beat a hasty retreat back to the broburbs; still others will come out of the closet and be reborn as Mainstream Gays; and some will, God bless them, take notice of their surroundings, learn some things about the world and about themselves, and become our very favorite variety of post-Bro byproduct — The Reformed Bro. And that quick, a new generation of bros will come to the city, where it will become bro de rigueur to settle in, say, Fishtown, where they’ll simultaneously do better than the hipsters did there while also realizing how much work they really will have cut out for them there.
Our point in all this? Why, it’s simple: Hang in there, NoLibs. All bros must pass.