A Cranky Love Letter
New York is our city.
It is, in fact, simply "The City" to anyone who grew up nearby, lives within its borders (when referring to Manhattan) or just won’t admit that there could be any other worthy of the moniker. While growing up just north of The City, I assumed that everyone lived near a city like ours; mine was just a place called ‘New York’. I was 18 before realizing that only a few of us lived near anything like New York.
And there is nothing like New York.
We love it, survey with suspicion those who dare to doubt it’s preeminence as the only "World City" and, though love visiting all those other World Cities we always swoon at the view coming home from JFK, approaching the midtown tunnel: Manhattan laid out in profile in front of a setting sun.
Even if we live abroad we remain New Yorkers. Travel in any seemingly remote land and answer the cabdriver’s question “where are you from?”; you will make admirers and friends wherever you may be. They can hate America, but they love New York, in part because New York is not America: It is The City.
We love The City though we don’t exactly admire it. When we travel we collect ideas for New York and simultaneously discard them as unworkable.
Because New York is still not San Francisco, Zurich, Helsinki or Tokyo. We don’t expect the machine to work flawlessly, we expect some grit in the works. Grit is an integral part of NY, and it shouldn’t be any other way. But dysfunction isn’t and a lot could change to make the City much better without risking sterilization.
In fact it has changed enormously since we first made a 100 Ideas list less than 10 years ago. Just as we can barely remember subway tokens or phone booths, we can barely remember The City without subway wifi and cell service, Citibikes and publicly displayed Health Dept. ratings for restaurants, along with a staggering list of useful and useless changes.
Our suggestions are not the ‘311’ variety; nothing about a particular street corner, or local noise problem. If governing NY is all about managing the unmanageable, these ideas are an attempt to give some perspective and a small bit of vision to the morass we love.
So, let these 100 little notions (they are almost too slight to call “ideas”) seed an even larger list of ideas to make New York even more New York.
James Biber New York 2018