Okay, before someone completely blows a gasket, note that I didn’t come out swinging with “New York City sucks.” New York City is an above average city, even a great city in some respects, but it doesn’t live up to the hype it gets. It just doesn’t. I’m not talking out of my ass here—I have decent credentials. My dad grew up in New York City and I have family up here, so I have visited periodically growing up. I now fly up once or twice a year on business (hell, I just got back from a trip to the northeast). My parents recently gifted me a Manhattan vacation to celebrate my last promotion. I’ve been to many of the highly touted cities of the country, and the world, like Los Angeles, London, Paris, and Rome, to name some. I have a good idea what I’m talking about.
Most of the people I know who think New York City is the biggest pecker in the dive bar, so to speak, are from the Tri-State Area. That’s fair. I can understand that. As well traveled as I am, I love my home city of Atlanta, so I can’t judge home field bias. Also, there are people who aren’t really accustomed to big city life and love all the things there are to do besides cow tipping and finding random dead bodies like in Stephen King’s “Stand By Me.” Also fair. I must admit, the very first time you see New York City, especially when you are young, it is quite breathtaking. A huge jungle of steel and concrete rising out of a flat, granite island is like nothing you’ll see anywhere else in the world. It’s also full of great American history. And let us please not forget Pizza Rat. However, once you get past the initial awe, it’s really not that much different than any other major city.
First, the good. In my recent vacation to New York City, where I got to spend some real, extended time in the city, I really wasn’t that impressed. Admittedly, I spent most of my time in Manhattan, but I’m not really leaving out much with the other boroughs. It’s nice to be able to walk everywhere if you so choose. Obviously, much of the food is good, and the ethnic food scene is great. It’s tough to find bad pizza in the city and the Thai food only gave me one or two Dumb and Dumber-esque bathroom moments. Honestly, only five experiences really stand out in my mind – my morning petit dejeuner made up of pastries and coffee at the nearby Maison Kayser, duck confit at Le Parisien with the real feel of a French cafe, watching the UGA vs. Tennessee football game at the Georgia alumni bar (which I could have done at home) with ESPN (allegedly) running through with cameras, getting a Connecticut roll in Times Square, seeing dressed up Comic Con people in long lines for dollar slices of pizza, and watching New Yorkers experience the recently opened Chick-Fil-As like it was the opening sequence of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Mostly food related experiences. The Freedom Tower, of course, was cool, as was watching people cup the balls of the Wall Street bull.
Yeah, the parks, museums, and historic sites are nice, but not too much different than the ones in other major cities. Broadway shows are cool, but they’re expensive versions of shows I can see at the Fox Theater, up-charged for the storied venue. It’s a bucket list item, like Mann’s Chinese Theater, The Hollywood Walk in LA, The Eiffel Tower, or the Appian Way. Street performers are okay, but frankly I’ve seen much better at Venice Beach and the Santa Monica promenade. Basically, New York City has many cool venues and experiences, but they really aren’t much different than any other major city.
Now the bad. The city is fucking dirty. It’s one of the most disgustingly dirty cities I’ve seen, but unlike Los Angeles and Paris, it doesn’t have the view and weather to compensate for a few turds on the sidewalk. One of my earliest New York memories was seeing a homeless man making his child cry by putting a live rat in his mouth. Ah, so alive, this city! The roads are shit, the traffic is shit, and in the summer it smells like shit. I don’t know if it’s a new thing under de Blasio, but trash bags line the streets now. The city was still dirty when I was younger, but not “trash bags piled on the sidewalk” dirty. Then I was lucky enough to walk by a syringe disposal bin out on the sidewalk. It’s so good that New York encourages responsible public injectable drug use. I won’t even get into the politics because many major cities around the world are run by mayors of similar political persuasion. Many New Yorkers don’t disappoint with their rude and obnoxious stereotype, but to be fair, Los Angeles has even bigger assholes, as does Paris. The subway is convenient, but frankly I’d rather walk until my legs fell off. The city is way overpriced for what you get, and I don’t think you brag about a city where central air is a luxury. The median price in Manhattan for a studio apartment is $2300 per month for 550 square feet. That’s not even enough room to survive a beer fart. Also, all the abandoned rust belt buildings and smokestacks are more unappealing than historically nostalgic, and some of the apartments and high-rises look like Soviet bloc apartments.
All in all, New York City is just your typical major city. It has its trademarks and is an okay place to visit for a few days, but once you’ve seen the city once, you’ve seen it all. It doesn’t really blow your mind. I definitely would loathe having to live there, as do the hedge fund managers who move to the Hamptons or Connecticut and are willing to weather that awful commute. See you in a few months, New York. .