Quote : "The city also has lost some of the edginess that gave it character. In the erstwhile Meatpacking District, you’re more likely to find vegan menus and cruelty-free handbags than to slip on entrails. And in SoHo, lofts have gotten too expensive for starving artists; these high-ceilinged spaces are increasingly occupied by investment bankers and white-shoe lawyers."
The ‘New’ New York – MSN Travel Articles
As you know I just returned from New York and stated that the city was not the same as I had remembered it (having traveled there many times pre 9/11). The author of this article, John Rosenthal is listed as having lived in New York for 30 years until 2003 when he moved to California, returning to the city annually. There are some inconsistencies and subliminal messages I found in this piece and wish to share them with you.
From the beginning of the article he is drumming up the excessive salaries and money flowing through the city from the financial district. It sounds like an endorsement for ‘trickle down economics’ and anyone from the Regan era will know that this never benefits the bartenders and waitresses as much as he claims in the article (yes the bar tabs may be triple figures but does that mean the tips are 25% of that?). He praises the rebirth of the money making machine while solemnly describing the displacement of local ‘mom and pop’ shops for banks, luxury apartments and office spaces. He admits the Big Apple is losing its identity in the obsession with low cost goods and services in the likes of Best Buy and Home Depot and other ‘big box’ retailers.
He continues with the absurd references to New York always looking to the Europeans for its identity and flavor??? New York IS the quintessential American city. It IS the example of America that is why it was singled out to be attacked, not because it was all starry eyed over London, Paris, Barcelona, and Venice. New York is the original melting pot of our country and the place many people still get their indoctrination to American lifestyle and values. Yes you can hear a hundred different languages on the sidewalks going from here to there, see faces from across the globe, smell food you have never smelled before, see thousands of different styles, but they all still have the same thing in common, they came to New York to see and be part of America at its best. New York has never looked to the east for its identity, it has always exuded its identity from deep within, from its Puritan, Italian, Irish, Polish, and Latino roots to create a unique spirit and independence that was purely American. New York is not trying to be another Paris or London by any means and to suggest so is not being a New Yorker by any stretch of the imagination.
He points to the same thing I did, the city is different, slightly deflated, like a week old helium balloon after that birthday party. It is still shinny and still floats, just not as high and looks a bit worn out. The city used to have an electricity that was tactile everywhere in the city. Going to Broadway you could be caught up in the excitement along the way. People were projecting this from everywhere, sidewalk cafes, small city parks, stoops, you name it, the energy could be felt. The bar scenes were incredible in the 1990’s, now they are stale and hollow. It is not the ‘no smoking’ ban in most places that he mentions being the culprit, but it does add to the oddness of the atmosphere. The air of New York seems different because the attitude of the people has changed. People have become detached from the city more then they were. From the bars and discos to the coffee shops and art studios. The politicians are pumping new growth and ideas into the city (a good thing) but they can not pump in the old attitude, that is left to the citizens themselves.
I think it is perfect Rosenthal uses an example of Soho having its art sector apartments gobbled up by the rich investment tycoons and financial lawyers. This shows the example of how the city is losing its atmosphere and uniqueness. As the real-estate prices skyrocket to meet the money people have in their pockets (its not about demand as much as it is people are willing to pay 5 figures a month for an apartment now) the real characters and backbone of the city is forced off the island. While the rich devour every square inch of Manhattan those who have to cook their food, waitress their tables, serve their drinks, clean their homes, walk their dogs, bag their groceries, wash their cars, dry clean their clothes, deliver their flowers, and hundreds of other jobs now have to all be imported from further away. The raising prices makes long time residence flee to the shores of the other 4 boroughs as well as New York’s larges suburb, New Jersey. Renting an apartment there is not cheap either, and as people displaced by the new rich in Manhattan flood into the surrounding areas the wave in increased housing will follow like a storm serge ahead of a hurricane. This serge floods out the local shop owners as the business cases for the ‘big box’ retailers mentioned gobble up the market share and price dump the local shops out of business. This is how a community looses its identity and flavor.
The inconsistency I mentioned in the beginning is that praise of the return of the high spending times on the lower east side and how that makes the community feel better while at the same time complaining the starving artists can no longer afford the run down lofts and the common man and homeless have disappeared from Columbus Circle. He can identify the same missing element I did, but he tries to cover it up by stating New York has a new swagger and bounce in its step. He touts the rich and their ‘trickle down’ benefits to the community while sadly stating the bank outlets and chain stores and "dime a dozen food chains" are replacing the unique shops and cafes the city had for generations. He claims New York is the Paris of America, when in actually, New York is the New York of the world. New York is not an imitator, it is an originator, and an example of how to get hundreds of different cultures to live in coexistence and harmony no other region of the planet can claim, even London and Pairs. He knows New York is different, but instead of honestly trying to place a real finger on the problem he does what the rest of America has become addicted to, he distracts us from the real issue by painting too many pictures to divert our attention away from the ugly truth. New York is a deflated helium balloon, its spark and shine are not the same but she has endured worse in the past and always come back. I hope the rebirth of New York is sparked by the influx of projects the government promised as well as the unique attitude that was always New York, and not a continuation of the hollow and empty artificial Christmas tree feeling the city has now.