Tuesday, August 01, 2006

New York, Love it or Hate it?

Here's another weigh-in from Mr. X of middle-east fame taking issue with my description of New York as a "shit-hole". My answer follows:

"A wasteful bloated state government yes. A government of three people yes. The most dysfunctional state government in the U S - I wouldn't argue over that. Under the last two mayors city government has run reasonably well, been trimmed down and has been scandal free. The mayor has made some political missteps recently (the Con Ed deal, and the unsurprising disclosures about the 2004 convention).
But a shithole? Even with all the waste, the amount I pay in state and local tax is at least commensurate with the value of not having to own an automobile. The staggering list of museums which have their own cultural affairs budget line are required to have 'pay what you wish' admission, it doesn't take much courage to visit the Metropolitan or Museum of Natural History for 25 cents, I know someone who regularly does it. Just think - I can trace my lineage back to Adam and Eve (they didn't eat pork, and Adam was circumcised!) and none of my ancestors have ever owned an automobile. I am the first in the line that ever learned to drive.
How about those Adirondack campgrounds you like so much. How much public open space does this state have compared to neighboring ones? I bet we are close to the highest per capita in the U S. It is sad how little there is, for example, along the spectacular Maine coast.
You should have seen the Times article about property taxes over the weekend. You are better off living here - the average home in northern new jersey is subject to about $6,000 in property taxes, and what do THEY get for it??
It was fun seeing New York through the eyes of my Viennese friend. We didn't discuss it, because my friend is increasingly oblivious to anything that doesn't involve opera, but the middle class standard of living here is so much higher and the cost is so much lower. Born in Minneapolis, we went to College together at Columbia ca. 1970. He comes back about every two years. I think he is amazed by the cultural diversity, both high and low, and the clean and more ordered place that it has become even over the last ten years. How would you like to live in a city with a summer climate roughly like ours, where virtually nothing is air conditioned? "

I say:

If you lived in any boro other than Manhattan, which many millions of New Yorkers do, you would not only own a car but would also be subjected to random ticketing and towing, often without an actual reason. Dave has gotten at least 4 tickets for failing to display a muni-meter receipt right side up in his windshield, when the ticket has in fact been present and right side up. Simple corruption on the part of the brownies but a real expensive hassle for the recipient of the ticket. As far as property taxes go, explain the difference between paying an average rent of $2,700 for a small one bedroom apartment in Manhattan versus paying $6,000 in property taxes for a spacious home in new jersey. The museums are nice but again for those middle class New Yorkers who can't afford to drive in and park in a garage they might as well be on the moon the way "mass transit" runs on the week-end. I agree, Manhattan is a wonderful place but it is really a wonderful place for two types of people, the very well off and those who were lucky enough to secure a rent controlled apartment back in the day when such things existed.
As for the wild-life and the Adirondaks, ok I'll give you that one, although I have visited other states that do a nice job with their parks without an income tax (New Hampshire). As for "clean and orderly", read one-dimensional and boring. The entire City is becoming one large New York related theme park from Times Square to the East Village, from Williamsburg to the Seaport. I suppose there are some native New Yorkers around, somewhere, perhaps on the Upper West Side, but they have for the most part been replaced by 20-something year-olds from Ohio who come here, not with dreams of making it in literature and art, but with goals of partying in wall street bars and then moving to the exurbs to raise a family. The sense of community is gone (with exceptions, always there are exceptions). It is frightening to me that I find Staten Island to be the most authentic New York experience left in this City. So sad, so sad.


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By the way, I'm afraid I must respectfully disagree with your opinion re New York City. As someone who has lived in the city since it was founded in 1970, I can assure you that I know a shithole when I see it. New York circa 1975-1992 was a total shithole. Now, by comparison, New York is a clean, friendly, safe city in which people feel that they can raise their children. The main drawbacks are the prohibitive costs, and the fact that all the goodness has drawn so many people, everything is too crowded.

Mark said...

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