Do you remember the good old days in New York? You know, the real New York. We’d all used to play stickball in the streets in our ethnic neighborhoods, and then on hot weekends nights we’d dance under open fire hydrants and hang out with our friends in the gang The Warriors and spray paint our names in large colorful fonts on the sides of subway cars while breakdancing on cardboard. You know, the good old days that we all remember.
Then dark days came for New York: Giuliani came in and drove away all the porn theaters turning Time Square into the height of Disneyland capitalism. Yes, the very locale where businessmen used to go for $1 crack hooker hand jobs is now a TGIFridays serving popcorn shrimp. New York, the real New York, used to be about piss and grime. Now the worst thing that can happen to you in Times Square is getting groped by a man requesting money for photos inside a Tickle Me Elmo costume. Oh where have you gone oh $1 hand job?
Now that the nail to the Bloomberg era has officially been hammered into the coffin, we can all look back and see how shitty he made things in New York. (In the same way we hate indie bands that become popular and trumpet how much we loved them when we saw them rock it out in a grody basement at a house party.)
On one hand, we (meaning mostly people who have lived here less than five years) can complain about the gentrification of neighborhoods. On the other hand, the murder rate has gone from a yearly 2,245 during the ‘90s to last year’s 332. Still, we (meaning mostly people who didn’t live here during the era) wax nostalgic for the days when the Bowery was skid row and the Lower East Side looked like it suffered through a burnt out bombing raid.
It’s gentrification, of course, but it happens everywhere, mainly due to the tech boom that accelerated everything tenfold. (I’m from San Francisco. It used to be run by the freaky people and now the whole city feels like you’re tromping around Google campus.) Sure we yearn for Lou Reed’s New York – but we’re also happy we’re not tripping over dead junkies in the LES. You can’t have the smooth without the crunchy. Even David Byrne in his book How Music Works mentions how CBGB was pretty much a shithole with the worst bathrooms in the universe. Amazing, otherworldly acoustics, though.
So ideally we want the excitement and color of Andy Warhol’s New York without the probability of having a random stranger thrust an ice pick into our necks.
Two posts this week ruminated on both sides of the New York nostalgia coin. Jeremiah’s Vanishing New York took a bitterly nostalgic look at a city in the process of going extinct, listing all the small businesses that have closed over the last 12 years of Bloomberh’s New York, gone forever thanks to gentrification.
On the B-side, Daily Beast presented: Weren’t Those the Bad Old Days? The Poison of New York City Nostalgia. The piece posed the question of how irrationally forgetful people are, brainwashing away a much uglier time in the city’s history. Even back in the 1940s authors E.B. White and Henry Miller complained how much New York had changed. (Miller’s beef was how there wasn’t enough advertising; he was wistful for his beloved Paris.)
As French restaurateur Florent Morellet (who recently moved his restaurant to Bushwick) said before departing, “I’m so sick of everyone in Manhattan complaining about the way things used to be.”
What do the BlackBook readers think? Let’s hear it below…