Friday, August 16, 2013

What I Don't Miss About New York City

Continuing on my series of ruminations, I am going to follow my piece on what I miss about NYC with this post about where I think the city's gone very wrong.

I don't need 10 points for this.

1. NYC Has Become WAY Too Expensive: This plays out in a million ways. The $20 hamburger. The $10 Cronut, whatever that is. The $80,000 parking space.

As the city became safer in the mid to late 1990s all the moneyed fradycats finally felt it was okay to move in. The energy of the city, since then, has changed enormously, and in so many ways, for the worse.

Whereas before it was a haven for artists and creative types, those folks have been pushed and driven from where they used to reside. I can't think of another city that has seen so many of its legendary marquees closed in such a short period of time: CBGB, Mars Bar, various iterations of the Knitting Factory, Tonic. The creative, wild heart of the city has been shuttered because the rent was too damn high.

The Village has become a place poisoned by enormous buildings that don't fit with the neighborhood, and act as a sort of cultural pesticide wherever they are dropped.

In short I've seen an unhealthy number of things that were quaint, charming, quirky, idiosyncratic, and authentically cool replaced with the designer boutique version of itself. The difference is history, and culture. NYC has done am amazing job catering to the obscenely rich as it continues to ignore the very poor. The only cost has been, in many cases, it's soul.

I know, I'm living in the past, all that. Sure, I guess I am. But The City was always a welcoming haven for the strange, the misfit, the useful creative outcast. Now I feel that is no longer the case. Simply because no one can really afford to struggle there anymore. It's get rich or go home.

Do I love New York? Of course I do. I miss it every day. But I don't love the way decades of its cultural ecosystem have been clear-cut to cater to the pampered, hipster crowd. The crowd that consumes far more than it creates.

The rise of foodie culture epitomizes so much of this for me. Whereas before the hallmarks of the city where that it was a place to go out, maybe see some kind of unique, amazing show, or, better still, be in one, now so much magazine ink is spilled over the world of extremely expensive locovore culture. Food is essential to life, I fully understand, and appreciate this. But what a thoroughly safe way to spend your cultural calories. And it's all done for you. All you have to do is eat.

Is there a place for great foodie culture? Of course there is. In fact it's essential to any city that hopes to be world class. But I feel it's grown exponentially while cheaper, more vital forms of expression and culture have been slowly drained from the city.

I don't have an answer to all this. But I long for the city I knew, where half the kick was finding a good, cheap place to do whatever: get a meal, yes, see a show, get a drink. I just am not as thrilled by the high-end retail experience as so many now seem to be.

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