Sunday, May 16, 2010


I love New York City. It's my hometown and the place of my birth. I'm so lucky to live and have grown up here. I know that if I was born somewhere else I would want to live here. To me New York represents the ideal urban metropolis. I mean when you think of a city, and of what a city should look like, with tall skyscrapers and busy streets, you think of New York. The center of New York is undoubtedly Manhattan. Manhattan is what people think of when they think of New York. Some people even think New York City is Manhattan and that the 4 other boroughs are perhaps its suburbs. I love Manhattan and have always wanted to live there, perched atop one of its thousands of high rise apartments. I'd love to wake up and see panoramic views of the cityscape, from within the city out my windows everyday. All the glittering towers, looking like a maze of concrete and glass.

To get the real experience of living in New York one has to live in Manhattan. There are parts of Queens and Staten Island and even the Bronx that feel like suburbia. Brooklyn has the closest feeling to Manhattan in terms of urbanization, although parts of the Bronx come close. Downtown Brooklyn is like the downtown of a mid-sized city. It would be the 4th largest city in the U.S. if it were an independent city. It's true that Manhattan overshadows the other boroughs just as how its many modern skyscrapers overshadow the stubby older buildings. I love the architecture of Manhattan. I've always loved skyscrapers, and if you like tall buildings Manhattan is got to be in your radar. It has historic art deco skyscrapers like the Empire State Building and Chrysler Building, it has the simple boxy international styles of the post-war years, as well as the post modern styles like the new Bank of America tower. The diversity of Manhattan's skyscrapers, with textbook examples of every architectural era being represented, are among its best feature. Other cities like Hong Kong have many nice modern high rises but lack the older art deco style ones. New York may not even be the high rise capital of the world any more, as other cities like Sao Paulo and Hong Kong have constructed more than New York in recent decades, but that doesn't bother me, I still love New York's skyline the best.

I love how Manhattan is an island physically separated from the rest of New York and the world for that matter. Entering it from the outside is a thrilling experience. The experience of driving into midtown across the 59th Street Bridge is one to remember, and it never ceases to amaze. At once you are transported in the heart of "the city" surrounded by skyscrapers everywhere, noise, traffic, pollution, the dense urban jungle that is Manhattan. In F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel The Great Gatsby, one of the characters describes entering into Manhattan from the Queensboro Bridge, "The city seen from the Queensboro Bridge is always the city seen for the first time, in its first wild promise of all the mystery and the beauty in the world."

Few other cities compare to New York. I went to Chicago years ago. It felt like a smaller mini version of New York. It doesn't have the urban density that Manhattan has. Its streets aren't as crowded as NYC's are, and they and are deserted at night even downtown unlike in Manhattan whose streets are almost always busy. There wasn't the vibrant street life that New York has. Other cities I've been to like Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, all feel like small towns compared to New York. I mean. L.A. is a giant suburb.

Every American city has a patch of skyscrapers in their downtown areas, but in most cities once you go a few blocks right outside of the downtown business district, you find yourself in suburbia with houses and backyards. Most cities don't have that gradual transition from the CBD to residential high rise apartments, then to suburban houses. There aren't any residential houses on Manhattan(actually there are a hand full way up town near East 217th street), it's virtually all apartments. The few exceptions to this are Gracie Mansion (the official residence of the Mayor) and a few other historic houses. The areas in the outer boroughs near Manhattan are dense with some high rises, and gradually turn into brownstones and then houses as you proceed outward. Some areas within NYC look just like suburbia. I love how within the limits of NYC you have the dense urban jungle of Manhattan, the quiet suburban-like streets of neighborhoods like Forest Hills, and parks that if you didn't know any better you'd think you were in the country.

New York City a city of 8.3 million people, comprising 468 square miles, considered Alpha + world city, it's the secular metropolis, financial capital of the America, capital of the World. Sure there are bigger cities, with taller buildings but none have the world cultural significance that New York does. I get happy just thinking about New York. I also get home sick being away from it too long. I love the geographic layout of the city. It makes it distinct from other cities as it is an archipelago, where as most cities are either landlocked and bisected by a river, or pressed directly up against a coast. We have a "midtown" in addition to our "downtown" that serves as a downtown. There's nothing typical about New York, even its geography.

I can't afford to experience many of the things that rich NYers do. I've never been to the Metropolitan opera House, I've never ate diner in the Rainbow Room, or the Russian Tea House, never went on a carriage ride in Central Park, never went ice skating in Rockefeller Center, never did a lot of things the rich do regularly. NYC is a whole other city if you're rich. It's an incredible playground. So many people want to live here. I meet people all the time from all over America and the world who want to live in the exciting big city. That's why its so expensive to live here. Its kind of scary when I think about one day I might not be able to afford to live in the very city I was born in. New York might become a city for the rich with little to no working class who will be pushed out to the periphery. This is scary. My dream of living in a nice high rise will be only a dream. It's so expensive to live in one. $2000 a month for a tiny studio. That sucks, but people are willing to pay for it. Supply and demand baby. Either way I'll always have New York in my dreams...

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