One of the reasons that I left New York (I mean, aside from my awesome new job), is that I didn't like what the place had become. I grew up on the Upper West Side when it was still the place where Leonard Bernstein had set West Side Story: a poor-to-middle-class place with no good restaurants but all sorts of interesting local places. The fifteen-story co-op in which I was raised felt in a lot of ways like a very small town.
By the time I left, in my thirties, the Upper West Side south of 96th street was wall-to-wall investment bankers, and the ubergentrification was creeping towards me; I lived across the street from the last grocery store south of 125th street that didn't carry artisanal cheese. I have no objection to artisanal cheese, of course, but the monoculture was oppressive. None of the finance people or their associated service personnel seemed to live in my neighborhood; they came there to sleep. On weekends, they left for their country houses as quickly as their expensively garaged cars could carry them.
So I moved to a city where the income distribution is flatter, there to bring much hilarity to my liberal friends who do not seem to understand that I can find income inequality aesthetically displeasing without wishing to make a law against it. To be sure, if America's income distribution looked like Manhattan's, even I would think that there was a problem. But despite--or perhaps because of--having grown up there, I do not think there is a civil right to live in Manhattan, nor find it particularly troublesome that 36 square miles of real estate have gotten awfully pricy.
This is perhaps why I have so little sympathy for the princes of schadenfreude in this New York Times article, who are hoping that Wall Street will collapse, allowing them to buy Manhattan apartments. Bizarrely, despite the fact that all of them seem to work in some service associated with the finance industry, they seem entirely unaware that if the financial industry in New York collapses, their employers will suffer the same fate. They also seem not to realize that it is the taxes from the banking industry (and its lavish, ridiculous bonuses) that finance Manhattan's low crime rate and excellent public services. Not to mention the restaurants, theaters, and so forth that make them want to live in Manhattan in the first place.
If they wanted to live in the New York that I liked--the one with the Dominicans hanging out on the street corner, the little hole-in-the-wall pizza joints and the improbable shops with ancient leases that sold scavenged junk alongside ticky-tack imports--well then, I could understand their celebration. But they want to live in the New York that the bankers created without the bankers. This is like wanting to go to heaven, but not wanting to die.
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