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I Love You, You're Perfect, Don't Change

Times Square in 1982--by Thinking Couch via Flickr

Don't change a thing New York--- you're perfect just the way you are. Well, at least you were perfect, or you seemed so, for a minute.

I struggle with the ongoing changes in this ever-evolving city, which at times, seem like they happen on an almost daily basis. New York is a town that can never be tied down, it shouldn't be, and it won't be.  

On one hand, the constant state of flux, unstoppable energy, unmatched growth, and its ability to move forward and reinvent itself over and over at lightning speed no matter the obstacles, are why many of us choose New York as our home. At least I do. 
Alternatively, at times, it would be comforting to know that I could walk down a block in five years and that block would look exactly the same as it does today. 

For a minute, I'll compare New York to a romantic relationship. I've searched for my entire life for the perfect place, and maybe, although not for everyone, it is my perfect place. I have a commitment to New York, for better or worse, I will love it forever. Now I just need to freeze it ---keep it right there in the perfect spot. Because if it does indeed change, I won't love it the same. 

This scenario isn't practical with people --- perhaps that's why the divorce rate is so high. It's definitely not practical with this city.

New York is a wild child and not only has a desire to change, but to experiment, fail, succeed, thrive, get better, get worse, and then start all over again. It moves 24/7, rests but never sleeps, and for mere minutes in the wee hours of the morning each day, only to swiftly resume the humming and buzzing many New Yorkers take for granted, or no longer hear because they've lived in Manhattan too long.
NYC 1983 --by Runs with Scissors via Flickr
No, I'm not happy with the direction of my neighborhood -- too many banks, cell phone stores, and meaningless retailers that I'll never use, with landlords caring about nothing more than collecting the highest dollar possible. I aim to hold on to as many bits of the past as I possibly can, trying so desperately to remember the finite details of life here long ago, the city that I fell hopelessly in love with. 

Case in point --- I recently learned about the potential closing of the legendary eatery, Big Nick's on the Upper West Side. I'm terribly saddened by this news. I'm even sadder about the reason for the closing because the rent will increase to $60K per month, and Nick Imirziades can't afford a $20K increase. He currently pays $40,000 per month for 1000 square feet, and he says that's the most he can pay.
Nick sits in one of his booths loaded with signage and memorabilia
Nick is a dear sweet man who's been in business since the 1960s. I will miss his divey restaurant with delicious food---his iconic spot on Broadway. The block between 76th and 77th Streets will never be the same. I may even shed a few tears the first couple of times that I walk by, but I have to remind myself --- this is New York. Things will change.

Present-day New York City wears cleaner and safer streets, and possesses little grit and less moxie. Mom-and-Pop stores have closed and more chains have opened.

Meanwhile, some things haven't changed much at all. That same energy I was drawn to in 1981 is still alive and more unstoppable than ever, and knowing that millions of people are still here today to become someone or something that perhaps they couldn't be most anywhere else, well, that alone is inspiring. 

Dreams still come true in this town and hearts still break. Newcomers arrive seeking the unknown and impossible, and natives depart to explore the world outside. A 50-year-old business shuts down, and a new one sets up. That new business will one day be 10, 25, or 50 too. And then the cycle starts over.

Like many of you, I hold on to that New York --- that once perfect place from the past that has changed three, four, five, or ten times in 30 years. 

I have to accept it, because no matter how much I resist, this city will keep changing.
Looking North on Broadway from Columbus Circle in 2012


Phil Holtberg said...

I love our city and will never leave it but hate seeing spots like Big Nicks closing. Greed and gentrification is ruining what NYC was all about.

tracy kaler said...

A certain level of gentrification is positive, but greed on any level is evil.

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