Wednesday, October 21, 2015

HEY, WHERE DA' PORN AT? The New Times Square

So Goes Times Square, so goes NYC ...

I've blogged countless times over the years about the transformation of NYC from a bustling, fun, dirty, dangerous city into a sanitized fun-house mirror of itself catering to tourists and rich foreigners. The cost of living in this city, while never cheap, is now astronomical, and the vestiges of old NYC - like coffee shops, rent controlled apartments, corner drug stores, and porn theaters - are fast disappearing. Because NYC is so vast, because it's a hodgepodge of over 300 neighborhoods (many of which are bigger than most towns and cities in the rest of the country), it's impossible to point to one spot in NYC as representative of greater whole changing dynamic. However, if you had to look for one example, then obviously Times Square, Crossroads of the World, is the place. It has changed so dramatically over the last quarter century, done a complete 180 in the city's and the public's imagination, going from "scary" to "boring", from "gross" to "respectable", that's it's almost impossible to comprehend. Times Square basically is NYC -- only more so.

This lengthy article from this week's New York magazine reviews the transformation of Times Square over the years, from a den of moral inequity to a den of economic inequality. Times Square, it reminds us, has always been the nerve center of the city, representative of it in so many ways. So when it changed, the rest of the city was destined to follow it.

Also, you might be interested to read (or read about) a new book called City on Fire about NYC in the last 1970s era, when the city was dangerous -- and wonderful.

Then, finally, read this article about the boom in 1970s New York nostalgia. Apparently, it's a "thing" now.

If you get a time machine and travel back 40-something years and tell New Yorkers what their city would become, most of them would ask to get into the time machine and travel back to the future with you. But for many of us, if we could go back to that old NYC, some of us, including yours truly, might choose to stay there ... for a while at least.

As Fran Leibowitz said: Times Square today is like a gay bar in the 1970s -- no one admits to going there.

Preserving the Past

Sure, lots has changed in NYC over the years but two things in this city seem immune to the ravages of time: Chinatown and the Dakota building. How have they survived while so much has been changed?

First, in Chinatown, the community, politicians, and business leaders have made a concerted effort to keep this classic neighborhood intact. It's a wonderful example of how vision, intelligence, political will, and good old fashioned hard work and fight huge forces -- like big money and the real estate industry -- to keep a great neighborhood alive.

Second, the Dakota -- this old fashioned building has stood the test of time. Why? Who can say? Perhaps it's because it's just such a gorgeous building that the idea of demolishing it or changing it substantially seems incomprehensible. Perhaps the residents have kept its integrity intact (unlike the Apthorp). Who knows? The only thing we do know is that it still stands -- and probably always will.

Did you see this?

A couple of weeks ago, DNAInfo published a map of NYC neighborhoods -- the borders of which were drawn by their readers. 

There are several hundred neighborhoods around the five boroughs, all leading and bleeding into one another. Where the boundaries of one neighborhood end and the others begin has been -- and probably always will be -- a matter of debate. 

And what this map proves is that, while we may all agree that we live in NYC, exactly where in NYC is open for discussion. 

You know, us New Yorkers, we love to argue, even about where in the city we live!


Apologies for the long absence. Since I last blogged, Mr NYC has reproduced yet again -- my second Little Miss NYC was born two weeks ago and, as you might imagine, that took precedence to blogging. However, I'm still sentient and will try to blog as much as possible. Till then!