A reader pushes back against the Brooklyn boosters:
For the love of God, do NOT move to Brooklyn! I moved to Manhattan 26 years ago and I have twice been lured into leaving the island by the promise of cheaper rents and tree-lined streets in Brooklyn. Big mistake. That touted "25-minute subway commute" is realistically more like 45-plus-minutes, standing in sardine-can comfort all the way. And that's after walking a good ten minutes to reach the station, then waiting another ten minutes or so on an overcrowded platform. But learn to love that subway. Because the city you moved here for is miles away, and there are no cruising yellow cabs on those leafy brownstone streets (also fewer 24-hour Korean delis, bank branches, Greek diners, visible human life, etc.). And if you hail a cab in Manhattan to take you home at night, there's a 50-50 chance the driver will simply refuse the fare.
I have returned home to Manhattan. There's a reason we pay more to live here. And there's a reason Brooklyn requires "boosters."
Hundreds of readers are offering their varied perspectives on the city. One writes:
Everything you describe about your move to NYC reminds me of my move there a decade ago. The pervasive crowdedness, the smell, the herculean efforts necessary to accomplish even minor chores. It is draining. But it does get better. At some point, you start to realize that NYC has changed you, that your rhythm is in sync with the city's, that you are full of energy, and that nothing can get in your way, because you are a New Yorker. I fell in love with NYC. But after six years, it started to wear on me again – the constant struggle for scarce resources (like a table at a favorite restaurant), the bridge and tunnel traffic, the pedestrian rage at tourists walking too slowly. I ultimately escaped to San Francisco, where life truly is better, but I cherish the time I spent in NYC and know that I am stronger and more resilient for it. Hang in there!
I say this as someone whose entire family grew up in NYC, who has lived in NYC for three years, but who grew up in South Philadelphia and lived for seven years in New Orleans: It doesn't get better.
New York, and by that I mean Manhattan, is incredibly overrated. The inconveniences multiply; they don't diminish. People get more self-righteous and myopic, not less. What happens is that you adjust yourself to find camaraderie with neighbors with regard to these annoyances. And then you force yourself to take advantage of things like museums and art galleries and early movie openings to develop a layer of smug that also helps you find camaraderie with fellow NYers.
Then what happens is that you get meta-smug about New York, where you talk about how you love Brooklyn so much more than Manhattan and then you get meta-meta smug where you think Brooklyn was so 2003 and Astoria and Jackson Heights are really where it's at. And that's how you find camaraderie at a layer deeper.
But mostly New York isn't all it's cracked up to be and there are lots of other cooler, more down to earth, places in America – like Philadelphia and New Orleans!
I lived in NYC for a bit more than 15 years, and I can tell you: Yes, it does get better. But not any time soon. Learning to live in NYC means learning that you are not, in fact, the boss of yourself. You are dependent on and surrounded by so many others, the massive aging infrastructure, the constant roiling disorder. Once you give up your grasping for control, it becomes much much easier. Just know this: the subway will make you late when you most need it to be on time. The taxis will be all full when it's raining, and they will sometimes splash you as they pass. The store will be on the other side of town when you need that certain thing. The restaurant will be booked when you're out for a special dinner.
But you must also know this: you will never really understand the full range of human expression without living in New York. You will see confrontations and moments of tenderness on the subway that will make you marvel. You'll come to really appreciate just how hard immigrants work to provide for their families, especially if you are on the platform at 6 am, seeing working-class folks going to work and coming home. You will eat the most delicious food and be able to access any kind of art that suits you.
Yes, it sucks setting up house, dealing with those companies that have a stranglehold. But to fall in love with NYC, get out of the house, walk 30 blocks, ride the subway home. It'll do you good.
Oh where to start. Nowhere else in the world will the love/hate relationship with a city be as lively as our New York. I have been here for 12 years. I can't imagine living anywhere else. It will be maddening every single day of the year. It will be filthy. It will be rude. It will be expensive. It will drive you insane. You will also fall in love with it.
One day you will wake up and something will happen that will change your view of it forever. It may be Washington Square park, with its chess playing hustlers plying their ways next to a guy playing Chopin on a grand piano. Or perhaps the upcoming Halloween parade in Greenwich village, with an assortment of freaks only New York can produce. You may find yourself on the subway watching Wall St. guys beat-box with a couple of kids from Bed-Stuy (I saw this last week).
The day after the 9/11 attack I was hundreds of miles away. I was told by my office to stay in Chicago. I drove back with a friend. I needed to be back. I needed to be among New Yorkers. People thought I was crazy. Why would anyone want to go back there? It's an inexplicable feeling of oneness with a place. You may find your temperament is better suited to D.C. If you are lucky you will become one of us.
Another quotes me:
"Just to walk a few blocks requires barging your way through a melee of noise and rudeness and madness." Are you sure you’re in New York, and not some other city? Manhattanites are in, my experience, the friendliest, funniest people in the world. They are unfailingly helpful in a pinch, and it’s almost impossible not to have a conversation with at least one total stranger each day.
As for the rest of it, what can I say? You’re having a bad run of luck, but it cannot be called typical. I live in Greenwich Village, and I often say that our neighborhood is the most convenient in the world. Everything you want or need is within a few blocks, and we have easy access to the best museums, theatres, cinemas, and clubs. (Saw you at the Metropolitan Room, by the way; my husband and I both adored Sharon Clark.)
Those people bumping into you on the sidewalk or shouting at each other in the street … are they being rude? No! This is the kind of forced intimacy that comes from living in such a densely-packed mass of humanity. It makes New Yorkers more open, more honest; they wear their hearts on their sleeves. It actually makes me think of the way you write – no minced words.
One day several years back, my wife was jogging across the street and a car bumped into her – the car was barely moving, so it was nothing serious, but it was enough to knock her down. Before she had even brushed herself off there were two New Yorkers helping her out and screaming at the driver about what an idiot he was. So go into this with an open mind.
I love New York, because everyone is from somewhere, and differences are accepted here. My wife said her quintessential New York moment was in the hospital after the birth of our child. Her breastfeeding class consisted of herself – a Caucasian woman with an half-Asian child, an Orthodox Jewish woman, a South Asian woman, a Latina mom, and the instructor, a male to female transgender nurse. None of the women batted an eyelash – everyone was focused on trying to learn what to do with their babies.
Here was my week last week: Tuesday, I saw Hitchcock’s Dial M for Murder in 3D at Film Forum, and had Texas-style breakfast tacos and scotch in a bar with no sign on Houston Street. Wednesday I blundered into a tap-dancing jazz jam session at Small’s that was actually killer. At it I met an old man, a gallery owner who started writing poetry again after meeting a woman. He showed me his poems – dirty good stuff – which I ended up buying off of him. Then I spent the rest of the night at the Village Vanguard watching John Coltrane’s son tear the place up, under a big photo of his father. On Thursday I went to a book launch of Charles Portis’ new one, featuring Roy Blount Jr., Calvin Trillin and Ian Frazier, the proceeds of which went towards providing housing for homeless AIDS victims. Friday was spent at a comedy club.
And so on and so on. There’s simply no place like it. Greatest city on earth!