Whenever the discussion of New York comes about (often from the mouths of visitors), I've noticed there's a pattern of declaring what is or isn't the real "New York" while IN New York.
Rush and grime go back and forth between being declared the real New York or are pushed aside by the smoother (though still rushed), polished quality of midtown. Areas filled with tourists simultaneously are viewed as being the real New York or a facade.
Note: I am not against tourists. I even like some of you. I've taken plenty a photo and given directions. No, I'm not thrilled by their presence nor am I ever thrilled by the prospect of being a tourist...Is anyone? My issue with tourists in this Bloomberg era is that New York seems to be excoriated to cater to their comfort. I have a reoccurring unfunny joke image of New York becoming a zoo. The natives in their neighborhoods sectioned off into glass boxes, just past the safety of Midtown, Times Square and the High Line. The friendlier (more personable?) New Yorkers could reside in a petting zoo where you could feed them hot dogs, gyros and maybe a stale pretzel...But enough about that."Bahhh!".
By the way, has anyone ever met an actual New Yorker who loves Bloomberg? I don't, though I regularly hear from non-New Yorkers how wonderful he is. But actual New Yorkers? "Bahhh!"
It's hard to peg exactly what New York is. It's unnecessary to. In fact, as a native, it's much easier to relentlessly bitch about what isn't New York. It isn't 7-11's on every corner, it isn't the Chelsea Hotel gutted mercilessly or the heinous expanse of NYU.
It certainly couldn't be the Coney Island boardwalk selling for 10 dollar slivers. That image would hurt too much. Or maybe it is? Maybe New York, the New York that we can't put our fingers on and can't stop from changing so rapidly is like the Coney Island Boardwalk. Taking away something beautiful, important and yes, " really New York" and replacing with something cold and without artistry. So what do you do? You take what's left over, in chunks or slivers and you make something with it. A frame, a box or a buck.
If it is exploitation, does it matter? In some ways it feels like the essential New York is reduced to fragments and slivers. In others, it's the need to own the chunk, the fragment, the sliver. The need to remember and "have" New York, protectively...Even if you can't put your finger on it long enough before it starts spinning again.
But knowing New York? Knowing New York is another story.