Artist and programmer Emil Choski says he bases much of his work off of nightmares. So when he pictured what New York City might look like in 2017 for Envision New York, a public art project that asked artists to imagine the future of the metropolis, he saw one in which technology-enabled inequality had pushed the city to new extremes.
In Choski’s vision of New York, human police officers have been replaced by police UAVs patrolling public housing projects. The idea, Choski says, came from a suggestion made by former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, when he recommended fingerprinting public housing tenants for building entry. Choski also imagines a future in which city resources have been funneled into deals with luxury developers intent in Manhattan. Meanwhile, the piece shows trash drifting across a neglected Queens waterfront.
Choski designed the interactive piece a few months before Bill de Blasio won the mayoral race on a campaign message of reducing inequality. At the same time, Mayor de Blasio is new on the job. Rents are still soaring, and price-gouging runs rampant through what used to be affordable neighborhoods in the outer boroughs.
“It’s kind of turning into a feudal city where you’ve got the castle and the moat, and all of the serfs living outside it,” Choski says.
But Choski hasn’t always envisioned horror stories. When he lived in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Williamsburg seven years ago, he got involved with community organizing around public space, and drafted up renderings for what Bedford Avenue might look like without cars. Oddly enough, Choski’s vision did come true, partially–after he published the renderings, Janette Sadik-Khan became Bloomberg’s transportation commissioner and turned a number of traffic-clogged streets into bike and pedestrian-friendly plazas.