My old roommate who has been residing in New York City for almost 15 years asked me, “So now that you’ve been living here for a while, how are you liking it?”
My face turned bitter as I looked at him and said, “UGH! Everyone has this shitty look on their face, like they are pissed off. They don’t give a shit about anyone but themselves. They don’t walk on the right side of the sidewalk. Americans have a damn standard, walk on the fucking right! You’d think in a city of 8 million people with little space that everyone would follow it and make it easier to transit from point A to point B. Nope, no one gives a fuck! Even at 3 am, when there is barely anyone out, I’ll be walking on the right of a very large sidewalk and someone going in the opposite direction will find a way to walk on the same path as me, expecting me to move out of their way. There’s also the rats and garbage and how it smells dirty in the summer. The outrageous amounts of money I have to pay to live here…and ughhhhhhhhhhhhh.”
He smiles and replies, “Look at that, you’re officially a New Yorker.”
I looked piercingly into his eyes and exclaimed, “Fuck New York.”
It’s the Worst City in the World
Living in New York City is unsustainable. Unless you’re a millionaire, this city isn’t for you. It seemed to be a place that was much more inhabitable for middle class families a couple of decades ago, but a lot has changed since the Giuliani and Bloomberg eras. I talked to a few old timers that have been living in their rent controlled apartments since the 80s and they paint a different picture of NYC than what exists today. Obviously things change over time no matter what part of the world you are in, but it seems to have been much more drastic here. Even the current mayor labelled the situation as “A Tale of Two Cities”, great for the rich, but extremely difficult for the rest of us.
Wealth disparity, rent, cost of living, discriminatory policies like stop and frisk, and unreliable public transit all play a major role in the degradation of a middle class lifestyle. By my assessment, you need to earn close to $100K per year just to live a lower middle class life here. Some people will tout San Francisco or Los Angeles for being as expensive, but in those cities you get much more value and space for the cost.
The studio I was renting in a decent Manhattan neighborhood cost me around $2K a month for a place that was the size of a jail cell. The only thing missing was a straitjacket. For 25% less than my NYC rent I could’ve lived in a 1 bedroom in downtown Chicago (where I was raised), high rise building, multiple large windows, with sunlight, a doorman, all utilities paid for, and within walking distance from the main beaches. Average rent is over 225% more in NYC as compared to Chicago, which is a major metropolis, not bumblefuck Wyoming!
My girlfriend lives a few blocks from my old studio in Manhattan and pays slightly less for a slightly larger place. She’s what they call lucky for getting a deal, but it’s also an old rickety ass building with no sunlight. She might as well be living in Northern Ireland. If we both combined our rent it’d be close to $4K a month. We could purchase a quarter of a million dollar home in any other city in 5 years.
I’m also not accounting for broker fees, which is unique to NYC. Since the vacancy rate is so low, you have to get a broker to find an apartment while they charge you 15% of your first year’s rent for their services. For a $2K per month apartment, that’s an additional $3,600. Add in first month’s rent and security deposit, and I had to have $7,600 just to get through the door. Seeing how the average salary in NYC is $50K, how can anyone even afford that? NYC wasn’t always like this though. Rent has actually doubled since the 90s! This is why the old timers I talked to haven’t moved since the 80s, because they would be priced out of the city if they did so.
To cope with the extortion, most people have to live with roommates, or rent far far far from Manhattan. I have friends trying to pursue careers here and have lived in a 1 bedroom with 4 roommates in far Brooklyn just so they could survive financially. I wonder who got assigned the kitchen. It’s not like these are college kids rooming together either. People in their 30s, 40s and sometimes 50s have one or more roommates and it’s considered typical.
People also think New York is very liberal, but if you look at the policies, it actually leans moderate to conservative. They recently passed medicinal marijuana laws, the 23rd state to do so, almost 20 years after California passed it, and it’s extremely restrictive. NYPD is still locking up black, beige and brown people for small amounts of pot. New York was also the 7th state to pass gay marriage, just 4 years ago, yet some New Yorkers I spoke to thought they were the 1st. If you want liberal and progressive laws, go to the West Coast.
The thing I loathe the most though, is public transit. New Yorkers claim how great it is having a transit system that is deeply connected and available 24 hours a day. What’s the point though if it’s never on time, or in service, or dirty. I never know if it’s going to take me 20 minutes to commute somewhere as expected, or if the bus or train is going to decide to not show up and I’ll be waiting for hours before I finally decide to just walk. I thought I was supposed to be in this world class city, yet the prices for the MTA continues to go up while the quality of the service plummets. New Yorkers spend more time commuting than residents of any other city in the US. Just recently I was waiting for a bus that arrived 20 minutes late and then ended it’s service 2 stops before my destination. I could’ve crawled it faster. There’s no digital screens showing cancellations, or service changes. The system is stuck in the mid 20th century. This is what 8 million people depend on, and it’s horrendous.
New York is a struggle. You’re overworked, underpaid, underappreciated. You have everything you want here, but you can’t afford it because you’re poor.
It’s the Best City in the World
I’m contradicting myself, but hear me out. NYC is a paradox. It’s the best and worst of America all in one. If someone were to ask me what is the one place they should visit in the US, I would say New York City. There is nothing more representative of America. Even though I am from Chicago, and I LOVE Chicago, NYC is the place to visit, followed by Chicago in the summer and then Los Angeles or other parts of California.
The saying “If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere” is a completely accurate representation of New York culture. Some of the best of the best talent in America set up shop here. Even if you don’t make it here, you’ll become stronger due to the competition, and you can take those talents and still make it somewhere else. That is why I chose to come to NYC in the first place. To be amongst the best.
Sure, people can be assholes, but it’s because they have their defense mechanisms turned up on high most of the day. Once you make a few friends and go to house parties, or meet people through friends, you start tapping into some very fun, intelligent, and quirky human beings.
New Yorkers can also be helpful. If you’re from out of town or lost, a New Yorker will give you directions or tips. Of course, they’ll look at you as if you just interrupted them while they were focused on a critical mission to save humanity and will want to kill you for wasting their time, but they’ll help you.
NYC is also a well laid out city. You can walk everywhere (at least in Manhattan). Every block is like an art installation and the sights will in fact inspire you. You can find anything you want: dining, music, theater, shopping, drugs, and homeless dudes offering you handjobs on the cheap.
It Changes Your Behavior
Being from Chicago, I have more of a midwestern outlook. I’m a happy person, I like to smile and talk to people. That’s not how NYC is. No one wants to talk to you, in fact if you try to talk to anyone they will look at you as if there is something wrong with you. I had a friend that said, “Well, New Yorkers are in a rush, and have things to do, and so that’s why they are like this.” To which I replied, “Yeah, that’s called making excuses for being an asshole.” The longer I live here though, I find myself becoming an asshole too, but it’s New York, if you don’t adapt you’ll be crushed.
When friends from out of town ask about how I’ve been liking it and hear my answers, they respond with phrases like “But it’s such a great city. I loved it when I was visiting” or “But I would be super nice to everyone, I wouldn’t change”. Sure, you came here for a short visit, but you don’t live here. You don’t deal with working extremely hard just to pay the rent or having to deal with the actual culture. NYC would break you and your dreamy optimism into pieces. At least I recognize what it’s all about and that’s what helps me survive in the madness, like a roach exposed to immense amounts of nuclear radiation as atomic bombs are bursting all around.
The hardest part is traveling to other places after living in NYC for a while. People in other cities smile, attendants in stores are nice, and these concepts become so foreign to you that you malfunction. Why are these people talking to me? What is that face they are making?
Then you get acclimated while you’re away, but eventually you have to return to NYC and you make the mistake of smiling or being nice to others. New Yorkers look at you like what the hell are you smiling at you ugly fuck. You have to ramp up your defense shields all over again.
It Has Potential to be Great Again
New Yorkers think that this is the best city in the world, but what quantifies the best city? Surely they haven’t looked at all the “best city” lists out there because in terms of happiness, cost of living, opportunities and a plethora of other categories New York doesn’t come close to being the best. New Yorkers live in their own bubble, similar to people in other cities. It’s very hard for New Yorkers to accept their flaws and they get aggravated when you point it out.
New Yorkers complain about their city, but don’t take kindly to outsiders giving their point of view. I’ve had New Yorkers tell me to “leave if you don’t like it”. It’s akin to conservative white people telling me to leave America because I have opinions and that I won’t just roll over for their propaganda of “patriotism” and “freedom”.
Yet, I think that New York has such great potential. It is supposed to be the beacon for hope, hard work, and opportunity. It is supposed to be the representation of what is good about America, and if it can get it’s act together it can again be the best city in the world, but the people here will need to recognize the flaws and work to make the changes.
My biggest peeve about New York is that no one votes. Why am I, an “outsider”, concerned about the future of this city? I’m not planning on being here to see the changes occur, but I do root and support improvements. In 2014, the voter turnout was at it’s lowest in 40 years, since the Board of Elections began tracking it. Only 31% living in NY State (21% in NYC) voted, compared to 1974 when 75% in NY State (63% in NYC) voted. Where the hell are the real New Yorkers who put their sweat and hard work into building this empire, but are now struggling for their quality of life? Fight for your damn rights bitches!
It’s New York City
I’m over the hating phase. Besides a few random pent up outbursts every few months, I’ve gotten over it. I don’t want to live everyday pissed off. I try to adapt where I can, and still try to be positive in my outlook.
Plus, I don’t plan on living here forever. Maybe a couple of more years (unless if I get hired for a TV gig) and then I’m planning on taking my talents and my girlfriend to sunny Los Angeles. So instead of getting all worked up, I rather spend my time enjoying the city, whenever I have the money to do so, of course. (Update 4/2016: I’ve decided to stay here indefinitely for now and I am much happier)
I love New York and I hate everything about it.
What Do You Think?
Obviously my views are very subjective, though there are parts which are completely objective and based on facts. Like the fact that the rent is too damn high! Have you visited New York or do you live here or have lived here? What are your thoughts? What’s your perspective, or what would you improve? Or do you think I’m just bat shit crazy? Feel free to comment below.