Very interesting article. *It'd be nice if this trend could continue, without the return of out-of-control crime. *Obviously.
April 27, 2003
A Lot of People Love this Dirty City
By JESSE McKINLEY
Three weeks ago at a club half a block from the smoke-free environs of City Hall, Jesse Hartman, an Eddie Izzard look-alike and the frontman of the downtown band Laptop, was wailing through the group's new single, "Ratso Rizzo."
"Every hangout I had, had become a boutique, and every local bar turned to one with a theme," Mr. Hartman sang. "But thanks to a deep recession, there's no more gentrification. You're back, Ratso Rizzo. I'm glad you're back."
The crowd, made up of employed and semiemployed 20- and 30-somethings, went wild. That may well be because the song, which pays homage to the pathetic indigent played by Dustin Hoffman in the 1969 movie "Midnight Cowboy," illustrates the silent glee felt by a certain clique of New Yorkers who are happy that, despite all the attempts to burnish the city into a shiny tourist attraction, some of its traditional grime and grit seem to be returning.
"I'm happy the stock market tanked," said John Penley, an East Village photographer and proud neighborhood rabble-rouser on issues from squatters' rights to police brutality. "In the old days, every fourth person you saw walking down Avenue A was a flamboyant drag queen. Now maybe they'll come back."
It's an attitude — calling it a movement would be a stretch — that combines equal parts yuppie-go-home schadenfreude and a new middle-class sedition, a sense of rebellion that may best be typified by the surprisingly widespread defiance of the recent smoking ban.
In fact, if behavior in a variety of Lower Manhattan bars over the last month is indicative, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg may have unwittingly unleashed the long-dormant bad boy and bad girl in thousands of otherwise law-abiding citizens, creating a new petit criminal class that smokes furtively in bathrooms, the backs of bars and under tables.
Elsewhere, the kind of misbehavior that two past City Hall administrations tried so hard to snuff out has proven surprisingly tenacious. For all the Disneysification of Times Square, the home turf to the original Mr. Rizzo, there are still nearly a dozen pornography shops along Eighth Avenue between Penn Station and 45th Street, offering all manner of nude and crude paraphernalia. The Department of Homeless Services says its outreach programs report about the same homeless population as in past years, but in the warm weather, unkempt transient people may appear more noticeable because they spend more time on the streets.
The sour economy has of course put a dent in the city's luster. More than 175,000 jobs have been lost in the last two years, many in the financial services industry that not only provided the city's most ostentatious displays of wealth, but also paid for much of the street-level cleanup via business improvement districts.
Then there is a trend toward naughty fun, from new swingers clubs to "the new burlesque," showcases where strippers laud their wares in updated vaudeville routines. And — eeek! — people are even dancing in bars.
All of which might cause night sweats for civic leaders, but which makes people like Alex MacFarlane, a native New Yorker, think that the real city — the one that countless Lou Reed-inspired transplants moved here to experience — may just be coming back.
"The city lost a certain amount of soul when people who came here to be artists or grew up here could no longer afford to live here," said Mr. MacFarlane, 25, who works at a nonprofit organization. "We don't want to see the city become unsafe again. But if thousands of stockbrokers decided they wanted to leave the city tomorrow, I wouldn't exactly be upset about it."
Many of the changes are more symbolic than substantive, just as much of this new contrarian posturing is just that, a certain sentimental yearning for the bohemian days of yore. Crime is actually down in the city by 9 percent this year, despite some headline-grabbing attacks. And while the specter of decreased city services is frightening and real, as of now, garbage is still being collected, the streets are still being swept, and neighborhoods are still being patrolled by police.
And indeed, Mr. MacFarlane and others like him don't want a wholesale return to the good/bad old days of the late 1970's or the late 1980's, the most recent periods of seedy decline. Nobody wants to get mugged, after all, and everybody wants to have a job (or at least a recession-proof trust fund). And while some decorative trash on the streets during the winter might be O.K., once the sun starts to hit the Heftys, nobody wants to be downwind.
Even Mr. Penley, who remembers, with a certain fond glow, the 1988 Tompkins Square Park riots over attempts to remove the homeless, says that one of the main reasons he is glad the city is on the rocks is that his rent might go down.
"Personally I hope the real estate market goes back to when I first moved into the neighborhood," he said. "There were two drug spots on my block and so my landlord gave me two months' free rent."
Andrew Heiberger, the chairman and president of Citi Habitats, a large real estate broker, said that any perceived falloff in quality of life had yet to affect sales of apartments, but that buyers are nervous about proposed cuts in the police force and sanitation department. He added that rents around the city are down some 10 to 20 percent because of the soft economy, a development welcomed by many city residents who had been pushed to the fringes.
"People come from the outer boroughs or Jersey where they've been banished to because of higher rents," Mr. Heiberger said. "For them, the declines are an opportunity, not a problem."
Chafing at efforts to clean up the city is not new. The historian Luc Sante, in his 1991 book "Low Life," cited a 1915 article by a self-described aesthete, James Gibbons Huneker, who railed against "the cleanliness, the wide streets, the playgrounds, the big boulevards, the absence of indigence that have spoiled the interesting part of New York City."
As with other nascent insurgencies, the new pro-grime crowd isn't completely — or at all — cohesive. Many champions of picturesque decline are based in neighborhoods like the East Village where old-time oddballs were displaced by higher rents and new million-dollar condos in recent years.
Artists seem especially pleased by the concept of a dingier city. Take the Antagonist Movement, a collection of several dozen artists whose rebellious posturing includes a logo depicting an upraised finger (but whose members probably have never missed a meal). The group is based out of the bar Niagara on East Seventh Street and Avenue A, which is itself a contradiction: popular with both the Prada bag crowd and the retro rock band the Strokes, whose frontman, Julian Casablancas, sports a well-maintained black mop top that is imitated throughout the neighborhood.
The movement, as it were, has a manifesto. Its members condone petty theft: "If you have to steal your supplies, the process is just as important as the product," as one member put it.
Christopher Yerington, 24, is an Antagonist and an owner of Black and White, a bar on East 10th Street. "I find the downturn to be a totally welcome change," Mr. Yerington said. "I think dismal surroundings nurture good art."
"If we all wanted to live in a suburban place full of nice people," he said, "we'd have stayed in Jersey."
That said, many who appreciate a certain roughness to the city predict it cannot last. Some bar owners are worried that the city will roll back last call for alcohol from 4 a.m. to 2 a.m., especially now that rowdy smokers are congregating on sidewalks and disturbing neighbors.
And while smoking in bars may be tolerated for the moment, the city's Health Department has vowed to start issuing citations to bar owners after a 30-day warning period expires this week.
So for the time being, malcontents like Mr. Hartman, the "Ratso Rizzo" singer, say they are going to enjoy the seediness. "There is this strange and pleasant resurfacing of the old underground dwellers," he said. "You see them smoking on the sidewalk. You see them jabbering to themselves nonsensically. It's spring, the characters are blooming again and I couldn't be happier."
Copyright 2003 The New York Times Company
Very interesting article. *It'd be nice if this trend could continue, without the return of out-of-control crime. *Obviously.
sounds like they are regressing...
as for smoking themselves to death, there's that saying, "cancer is a bitch"... let them do what they wanna do, just not around ME! :-)
It's hard to avoid smokers in NYC, Microserf.
Point taken.. as a reformed smoker myself, I can't stand being around it, not as a temptation issue, but as a "damn, now my clothes/face smell like crap now" issue. :-) Never noticed it pre-quit, but now, the clothes are infused w. that smell after only a few hours in a club where smoking is allowed (I'm in FL currently).Originally Posted by Schadenfrau
Posted on Mon, Dec. 26, 2005
In record numbers, city's residents say they `love' New York
BY KIRSTEN SCHARNBERG
NEW YORK - Everyone has seen them: the "I heart NY" T-shirts that tourists buy on their first visit to the Statue of Liberty or Times Square or the Empire State Building.
It turns out that New Yorkers themselves should be wearing the upbeat - if uncharacteristically unstylish - apparel.
A long-running poll that gauges New Yorkers' attitudes toward their frenetic, often maddening metropolis recently found that 61 percent "love" their hometown, the highest percentage in poll history. "This is an honest-to-God love affair, not just a casual affection," said Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute in Connecticut, which has conducted the poll since 1994.
Just four years after the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center, when many predicted that hundreds of thousands of residents would flee New York and that those who stayed would never feel quite the same about a place now universally seen as a terrorism target, the poll found that just the opposite has occurred.
In addition to the 61 percent who say they love the Big Apple, another 22 percent say they "like" New York. Fifteen percent have mixed feelings, and only 2 percent describe their feelings toward the city as "dislike" or "hate."
"Why doesn't that 1 percent of haters just move back to Boston?" Carroll quipped.
The numbers have not always been so rosy for New York.
In 1999, just 46 percent of residents said they loved their city. Even more stark: When asked in 1994 how satisfied they were with "the way things are going in New York City today," just 3 percent said they were "very satisfied." That number in the latest poll is 19 percent, with another 56 percent saying they are "somewhat satisfied."
New York has long been a place that some outsiders love to hate. The people are too rude, they say. The pace is too hectic. The prices are too out of control.
Indeed, there have been years when even the most devoted residents of America's largest city had a hard time disagreeing with some criticisms - in the 1970s when the city almost went bankrupt, in the 1980s when crime was sky high and in the 1990s when the cost of living soared. In fact, at the turn of the millennium, the average cost for a home in Manhattan topped $1 million.
But a stunningly successful 1977 advertising campaign - the launch of the "I heart NY" slogan - has proved to be a timeless refrain among even those New Yorkers who occasionally grow frustrated with the place they call home, who critique it and its leaders, who grumble about pollution and who put up with disruptions like last week's three-day transit system strike.
"Listen, New Yorkers are realists," said former New York Mayor Ed Koch, who was elected to the post the same year the advertising slogan was introduced. "They know New York is not the most architecturally beautiful - that's Paris. They know it's not even the most interesting - that's London. They know it's not the cleanest - that's probably Chicago. But what distinguishes us is the electricity of New York."
Yet electricity alone can't explain the numbers found in the latest Quinnipiac poll. Electricity might lead to lust - passionate, short-lived lust - but not the deep love that 61 percent of residents profess.
The breakdown in the numbers also reveals that feelings for New York spanned gender, ethnic and political boundaries. Fifty-seven percent of Republicans and 62 percent of Democrats said they loved the city. Sixty-one percent of whites, 55 percent of blacks and 66 percent of Hispanics felt the same. Fifty-seven percent of men said they loved New York, compared with 64 percent of women.
"What's interesting is that this is a cross section of people both ethnically and socioeconomically," said Stanley Renshon, a New York psychoanalyst and professor of political science at the City University of New York. "This is not just Donald Trump saying he loves New York. It's Mr. and Mrs. Jones. It's Mr. and Mrs. Gonzales. It's Mr. and Mrs. Ling."
So from a psychoanalyst's perspective, what about a place can make people feel so strongly for it that they describe their feelings with a word often reserved for only the most important things?
Sept. 11 certainly plays a part, Renshon said. They love a city that has endured, a city that has persevered.
And, paradoxically, the very difficulties associated with life in New York - the struggle of finding a cab during rush hour, the sharp-elbowed sidewalks, the constant racket from the streets when trying to sleep at night - make people love it, the doctor said.
"That whole `If you can make it here you can make it anywhere' song lyric," Renshon said. "They take pride in making it every day, and that makes them feel good not only about themselves but about the place."
But most of all: New York seems to be a city on the rise.
The weekly wage of workers in Manhattan rose 5.8 percent in the first quarter of 2005, according to the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics. The city has had nearly a decade of declining crime rates, and the number of homicides has been more than halved since the early 1990s. Drug dealers and porn shops are no longer the staple fare of Times Square.
"This used to be a pretty rough town to live in," Renshon said. "It's no fun to worry that you can't get back to the bus stop after work without getting mugged. But people see how much safety has improved, how the economy is doing, how much the city has been cleaned up. They love a place that is clearly trying so hard to be better."
At a little street stand on Canal Street, in the heart of New York's teeming Chinatown, Mei Liu was selling the famous "I heart NY" T-shirts earlier this month. It was a cold day and she did not have many customers, but she folded and refolded her wares, making the display orderly and appealing.
"These are very nice shirts," said Liu, 36. "It is a very nice city. My life is better here than it was in China. My children's lives are better."
As Liu spoke, two taxi drivers nearly collided on the corner. One began screaming obscenities at the other. Liu just laughed.
"Most days, very nice city," she repeated.
© 2005 KRT Wire and wire service sources. All Rights Reserved.
You can say that again.They know New York is not the most architecturally beautiful...
<<All of which might cause night sweats for civic leaders, but which makes people like Alex MacFarlane, a native New Yorker, think that the real city — the one that countless Lou Reed-inspired transplants moved here to experience — may just be coming back.
"The city lost a certain amount of soul when people who came here to be artists or grew up here could no longer afford to live here," said Mr. MacFarlane, 25, who works at a nonprofit organization. "We don't want to see the city become unsafe again. But if thousands of stockbrokers decided they wanted to leave the city tomorrow, I wouldn't exactly be upset about it." >>
amen to that. unfortunately, alex lives in dreamland if he thinks that anything is going to actually allow people with less than stellar bank accounts to live here again. my generation was probably the last to see whole middle class families living comfortably in the city.
Was anyone else other than me polled by Quinnipiac?
Don't worry, I was among the 61 percent
I agree with what Koch says. My favorite thing about NYC is not the buildings, it's not the landmarks, it's not how clean the streets are. It's the aura that is felt when just walking around. New Yorkers are a different breed of people. We look out for each other, we help each other when emergencies happen, we have that attitude that other cities can't match. Transit strike? Big deal. If it happened in Boston, I can bet they would not take it so light-heartedly.
I've been bred to be a New Yorker. And I love it.
I love this dirty city.
I love New York City.
I miss so much Nyc.
Just 5 weeks there the last summer and it was enought to know than after finish my studies, i'll try do move there, and live my life in the best city of the world.
People, Have fun in NewYork.
New York happy New Year
And Happy New Year to everyone..
Exactly my sentiments! I love NYC!!Originally Posted by krulltime
That again.Originally Posted by antinimby