A changing New York
The AP had a piece last week taking up the argument that New York has lost its edge:
CBGB, the birthplace of punk rock, is gone. No longer can visitors to Coney Island plunk down a few coins to play the unsettling attraction called "Shoot the Freak." And seedy, edgy, anything-might-happen Times Square? These days, it's all but childproof.This all sounds like a tacky trend piece, but on the other hand I think in some sense the article is right, perhaps obviously so, and this news has been happening for many years now.
I think the piece is a useful reminder for some of us (at least me) who forget about this not-all-that-old New York history that we hear about but didn't experience ourselves (i.e. the squeegy guys and the old 42nd street).
My view is that New York is basically in a heyday right now, but that many recent transplants don't realize that the city now is quite different from a time not all that many decades ago when many people were scared to take the subway.
Is New York "better" now than it used to be? I'd rather not think of it in those terms. I don't want to have to choose between a 42nd street of sex shows or one with the Disney Store. Instead I'd rather talk about envisioning something better.
While I'm not happy about some of the changes in the last few years, it's not that I'm committed to preserving the status quo. Take Coney Island. I'm pretty skeptical about what's going to happen there in the next few years. But I don't think the current incarnation of Coney, or at least the version up to a couple years ago, was something that was perfect and needed to be preserved forever. Hardly. Rather, Coney -- like all of New York, and so many things -- is going to be constantly evolving. It has some times that, especially with retrospect, we can say were good and some that were bad.
Moving forward, the goal should be to make the best city; preserving the status quo somewhere, even in good times, should not be a guiding rule in and of itself.