Friday, June 03, 2011
Steaming Masses of New York
I'm going to tell you a few things most New Yorkers are not going to admit to outsiders. Many of the bad things you have heard about this city are true. People move out, are happy to leave and don't come back. I am not talking about dabblers, I am talking about tried and true, dyed in the wool, born and bred, loved it to death, New Yorkers. And many who visit here often or commute here daily, love the city and have the means to settle here do not chose to do so.
Why am I telling you this? Because this site is not a foil - it is not a veiled marketing campaign for New York City. There's a stoic pride in surviving here. Many New Yorkers hate the city as much as they love it - it's a love/hate thing.
New York is touted as one of the safest cities in the United States, on a per capita basis. This is misleading since crime rates are averaged across all boroughs and neighborhoods. In reality, many neighborhoods have very high crime rates. Many a suburb or smaller city is unlikely to see the tremendous disparity in crime rates across neighborhoods and thus averaging rates outside the big cities gives a better indication of what someone might experience than doing so in a place like New York. Also, big cities under report crime and many laws are not enforced here that would be elsewhere. Vandalism and theft is a constant.
I personally have come back home to see Bleecker Street cordoned off because of a murder with open firing on the streets. I have witnessed someone pulling a gun out and firing it. I have been burglarized more than once. I have been held up at gunpoint. I see drug dealers daily. I witnessed a fight on Broadway in daylight between a man with a knife and one with a chain which was fortunately stopped by an attorney carrying a gun. I have had my car broken into with the entire rear window of a hatchback smashed into pieces. Meaningless anecdotal evidence? Hardly. The sarcasm and cynicism of New Yorkers, seen in comics like David Letterman or Woody Allen, are testimony to the fact that edgy is a word based on the harsh reality of the city life, not just a term used to describe style.
Most people who have made a large personal investment coupled with self sacrifice are not eager to own up to New York City's shortcomings, failings and problems. Because in a way, to do so is an admission that perhaps a person has made a poor decision to live here - who is courageous enough to admit that? Don't believe the politicians who have an incentive to promote New York and are often chaperoned, escorted or chauffeured daily.
I am also not going to bring out the cliches like New York is the greatest city in the world. Saying it does not make it so. I would not want to engage in a contest with cities like San Francisco, Paris, Venice or London. The city has become too expensive for most. Much has been over gentrified. National chains dominate retail - one has to hunt more to ferret out the special places that made New York great.
And then there are quality of life issues, one of the biggest reason that many leave. The city is crowded, dirty and noisy. See one woman lose control in my story Mad as Hell. Natural oases have to be sought out. Although culture, restaurants and services abound, many of life's simple chores are extraordinarily difficult - laundry, biking, transporting things too large to carry, driving, parking, grocery shopping or even having to walk up six flights of stairs several times per day to get home. Services and conditions in many of the city's apartment buildings can be abominable - steam heat that can not be adjusted, inadequate ventilation, the roar of window air conditioners and intercoms that never work. This is not necessarily the realm of the low rent tenant - many very expensive apartments have the same poor conditions.
New York is fundamentally a town where everyone has to walk to some degree. There are those who love walking and those who don't. I have stated personally and on these pages how walking is one of the great joys of New York City, however, not in blistering heat with high humidity. Our recent heat wave is evidence of one of the grimmest times in this city. I look down Broadway and I know that many in that crowd are very uncomfortable, angry and in more ways than one, are members of the Steaming Masses of New York...
Related Posts: Hell, Mad as Hell, Mad as Hell 2, The Dark Ages, Unguent.