A friend offered Susan and me her apartment for a week stay in New York City--she made us an offer we couldn't refuse. Since we lived there in the 80's, we've been back perhaps five times and it's always intriguing to see how the city has changed while remaining, in many ways, the same. We said "yes!".
The endless energy remains, like an angel hovering over the city, driving innovation and pushing for the new. The neighborhood where we worked, lower Chelsea, has been transformed from derelict to divine due to the Hi-Line park being a stratospheric success and generating countless new "starchitect"-designed buildings by Renzo Piano, Frank Gehry, the late Zaha Hadid, Enneagram, Diller Scofidio, and others. Construction cranes tower over many areas. Times Square is glitzier than ever. New bike lanes are a welcome addition. Central Park continues to be the green beating heart, keeping the city sane and breathing.
The Hi Line
Yet, I can't help but miss many of the things that are now of a bygone era. The unique districts have lost much of their distinct purpose, having become homogenized thru countless chains strung along the streets and by the extraordinary rents that forced many of the Mom and Pop's to leave. Nowadays, it's hard to tell that there was a Garment district teeming with teenagers pushing carts of hung clothing along the avenues or a Meat Packing district where you could view innumerable hung carcasses by day and more colorful characters walking the streets by night. Some heat has left Hell's Kitchen as it lurches towards Purgatory and there is little Italian being spoken in Little Italy. Much of the grittiness has morphed into gentility. There is no more graffiti on subway cars and the place actually feels safe.
Garment District 1940's
Garment District today
Meatpacking District 1950's
Meatpacking District today
Still, New York City is a marvel, one of the real wonders of the world. World-class in so many large and small ways. Walking the streets is full of adventure and discovery. Many of the new buildings are laboratories of inventiveness. The detail of the city in old and new is palpable. New restaurants abound. It's easy to get around. While there, Halloween was about to happen and we got to review/judge costumes of young and old everywhere we went. The young won.
And now, safely back home, I read accounts of a sad young man fueled by bad religion, driving and killing people near the West Side Highway. Lord, have mercy.