Recently I took a quiz on Refinery 29 about Which New York are you? I took the quiz and of course no surprise to me, I am old New York. Yes I was born in 1976 and grew up in 80’s and 90’s. I did see many changes and while some of them are great ( safer to an extent and less graffiti) this has also brought about a change of what of a New Yorker is. The fact that the quiz ask you which New York are you already puts in at least 2 categories.
I will warn you. This post will rub some people the wrong way and I will fully accept that because being born in one the toughest cities , I can take the criticism.
I remember being a latch key kid. I grew up in single parent household. My mom and dad divorced when I was between 5/6 years old. I remember coming home from school at 3:30 and having to do my homework and have a snack before my mom and grandmother came home from work. This was the norm for most of the people I went to school with.
There were still kidnappings during my childhood but my friends made it to and from home unscathed for their young years. I saw a drive by shooting while living with my grandmother. Heard people shooting at each other while people tried to sleep. I am not painting a pretty picture of New York because New York is not always pretty. It is a city that toughens you up and eats the weak. I know that sounds horrible but I have encountered many who have not grown up in the city ( and I mean all 5 boroughs not just Manhattan) and have had to go back to where they grew up because the city is very intense.
I remember going to Chinese restaurant with the bullet proof glass and bodegas with the same. This was a natural part of life growing up. As I got older , I saw New York’s changes. They were minuscule at first. The trains were coated so graffiti would just wash off. The subway became cleaner. Streets had more police presence especially in Manhattan. Being the Fashion and Financial capital of the world, things had to change. Then the invasion of starbucks everywhere. It infiltrated slowly. Train lines like the J and Z which were heavily crime ridden are now full of undercover police and people riding past where you think they should live.
I remember riding the number two train with my mom and we would always knew that white people would get off at 7th avenue cause they didn’t get any where close to what was considered the ghetto ( or to be frank wherever Blacks, Hispanics and anyone considered a minority lived)
Sex in the City : Copyright HBO
Fast forward to late 90’s to early 2000’s and all of sudden shows like sex in the city are showing how these woman are living in NYC with glamorous clothes working what is supposedly all these glamorous jobs. Old New Yorkers knew full well those jobs didn’t pay enough for those ladies to live that lifestyle realistically but it was enough of a bug to get all these transplants coming and deciding that NYC is the place to be.
Now at first , I didn’t care, After all, NYC is the place to achieve your dreams but then I realized that meant more people on subways and streets. For those that grew up in NYC, you learned the art of the fast walk and your learned it quickly or be run over. Transplants to busy looking up and not realizing that there are plenty of people around them who are either cursing silently or loudly that your ass won’t move. ( I have done both )
Brooklyn then became hipster central. Areas like Williamsburg which mostly were abandoned warehouses are now lofts for college students and eclectic jewelry and clothing stores. Coffeehouses galore and train lines that no one used are now frequented and constantly needing maintenance ( yup I am looking at you G & L trains) Real estate brokers selling areas that were once called one thing Bedford Stuyvesant or Bed -Stuy is now Stuyvesant heights ( Seriously), Crown heights got divided to into Prospect heights for those closest to the park and those on the other side of empire blvd gets absorbed into Kensington rather than staying Flatbush. Manhattan then became too expensive and now white people are moving into the “ghettos” because they cant afford it. Living 3, 4 or more to those 1 or 2 bedroom apartments because the rent is so high.
Streets in Manhattan becoming more European to help the tourist market. Then the gentrification of neighborhoods and older people forced out of areas because this building going Co-op or condo. Then it became whether you are an Old New Yorker or a NEW New Yorker. Hell, there was a time and probably to this day where Long island and Westchester are still not considered NYC because those are suburbs connected to city via Metro north and LIRR.
There was always a sense of pride being from New York and I do have a problem with transplants calling themselves New Yorkers. You moved here. You are not from here. Do not get it twisted. Now before some transplants come for me telling me, well you moved and you going to cali. Guess what , when I tell people where I am from, the reputation NYC has follows a new yorker everywhere. There are not many cities that can say this and I do not have problems with all transplants. The reason, they came to accomplish a goal and dream. That true hunger and drive is definitely a New Yorker mentality.
When I went back to NYC for my grandmother’s funeral, I took the train home from the airport. Even though , I have been in the Midwest for 2 years, as soon I got on the train , I got my train face on and plugged into my phone’s music. New York never leaves you. What I noticed on the train was portable dvd players out, Apple laptops and phones exposed and such. This is when I realized that NEW New York is a different beast. People feeling safer on mass transit to bring out electronic devices that have a pretty decent resale value ( be real people). Yes I know there are more undercovers but damn, why you letting the world see what you have? Leave it in your pocket or bag. No one needs to see what you have. Hell being a photographer, I would never look at my camera on the train. I wanna come home with what I left with.
While I am happy that New York is safer, I miss the aspects that made NYC the hard ass capital it is and should always be. So I am old New York and I am happy.