New York is dead.
The New York I moved here for over 30 years ago, the New York of writers and actors and musicians and artists and cheap apartments, restaurants and clothing stores, is dead and will never return. Bloomberg dealt the final death blow to the last bit of creativity that wasn’t extinguished by the twin evils of Giuliani and AIDS and, even if Bill DiBlasio becomes our next mayor (which I sincerely hope and seems likely), it won’t make a difference. The damage is done and there’s no turning back.
What has taken its place is the New York of fat-assed yuppies backslapping and high-fiving each other as they smoke their cigars and contemplate their next real estate deal over $300 prix-fixe dinners at Per Se. The New York of Sex and the City wannabes tottering through the Meatpacking District in high heels and yelling loudly to no one in particular. The New York of Russian oligarchs (read criminals) plunking down $88 million for an apartment and then never setting foot in it. The New York of the genetically and/or financially gifted, like the two models I saw walking their baby this morning without a care in the world.
The TV show that perfectly encapsulates this moment in time is, of course, “Girls,” a show by, about and for a generation of trust fund babies. As much as I admire the intelligence and talent of Lena Dunham, its creator and star—as well as being the most talented, she’s also the least blessed-by-rich-and-famous-parents of the four stars—I can’t help but have mixed feelings about a show that suggests that having your parents support you until you’re 30 (if not later) is normal.
And don’t tell me to move to Brooklyn. For all the hassle that would involve (both moving and living there), I might as well move to Los Angeles, an option which is starting to sound awfully attractive right now.
In fact, any second-tier city—whether it’s Los Angeles or Asheville, NC—sounds awfully attractive right now. Sure, I may not be able to get my beloved New York pizza and bagels or go grocery shopping at Dean and DeLuca, but surely there are pizza and bagels, as well as overpriced produce, elsewhere. (Hello, Whole Foods!) And as far as everything else goes, it would be a win-win.
The two things about New York that have really driven me over the edge lately are noise and the subway. New York has always been afflicted by these two facts of life, but lately they’ve gotten much worse.
I live on what is perhaps the noisiest corner in the city, situated as it is in a direct line between the Williamsburg Bridge and the Holland Tunnel. The noise here has gotten so bad that recently the city took down its “No Honking” signs (which were never enforced even when they were still standing). The city itself has given up!
And the subway. While the population of New York has more than doubled since the subway was first built over a hundred years ago, there has not been a single new subway line added. And yet they keep building more high-rises!
When I look at the faces of people riding the subway, they seem completely drained of hope. Most people here are struggling just to stay on the treadmill. And many—like my best friend, who was forced to move back with his sister in Virginia—are falling off.
I can’t think any other place in America where people pay so much to live so poorly.
So, yes, I’m ready to move out of my beloved New York City, my home town, my heart and soul.
There’s just one problem: I can’t afford to move.