New York City: Filthy, Stinking Cesspool or Modern Day Mecca?

[Caveat]The following is based off a very limited exposure on two occasions and only in the borough of Manhattan.[/Caveat]

Before I begin, I would like to note that this is in no way intended to be a flame to New Yorkers (especially the dopers ;)), even though I am pretty passionate about my feelings on the subject, but a serious question. Also, let it be known that while my travel experienceis somewhat limited, I have lived in/near a few metropolitan areas (San Diego, San Francisco, DC, San Antonio, Austin, Seattle) and so am not totally ignorant of what “city life” is or should be. I’m especially interested in responses from those who live or have lived in New York and their reasons for staying or going.

Seeing New York was a mind blowing experience. My every sense was assaulted all at once, and from every direction. Foul, acrid odors lay around every corner, sometimes making my eyes water from the stench; Every street was in ill repair and shook the car and my body violently; My eyes were assaulted by images of filth, decay, suffering, anger and sorrow; The cacophony of blasting horns, police whistles and sirens and shouting street vendors was almost unbearable. The city seemed to be a melange of the filth and squalor of Bangladesh, mixed with the crushing overpopulation of Tokyo, throw some LA and Jersey pollution in there, mix it up and you get NYC?

The only compelling, logical argument I could come up with was the sheer ignorance of there being something better. Why else would once choose to live in the midst of such chaos? And yet people continue to flock to the city, drawn by something that is, as yet, invisible to me.

Help me understand this. For me, there exists a void in the quality of life one could have in NYC. Of course I can understand the appeal of the excitement, always having something to do. I appreciate the mixture of people and the diversity. It just doesn’t seem to outweigh the bad.

I have chainmail underwear.

You say it like it’s a bad thing…

Trust me, the good outweighs any bad. I’ve lived there for many years, and elsewhere as well, and done a decent mount of US travel.

New York City is not for everyone. But if you can put up with the minor bad things there, the good stuff is amazing.

Yer pal,

One week, one day, 18 hours, 20 minutes and 7 seconds.
350 cigarettes not smoked, saving $43.82.
Life saved: 1 day, 5 hours, 10 minutes.

Uh, care to elaborate? :wink:

Why can’t it be both a filthy, stinking cesspool and a modern-day Mecca?

Sorry, you’re right. It most certainly could be both. Poor wording on that. Refer to the actual post for my intended discussion.

The city itself is just fine. It’s the 98.9% of the population that needs an attitude adjustment that ruins it for me.

Buffalo: The conspiracy widens…

Well, I live in New York.

There are some parts of it which reek.

However, there are other parts of it which are nice and clean, and which tourists would very much enjoy.

Manhattan is terrible for cars. However, there are a number of nice neighborhoods for walking through.

So the answer to your post is…a little of both.

Chaim Mattis Keller

“Sherlock Holmes once said that once you have eliminated the
impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be
the answer. I, however, do not like to eliminate the impossible.
The impossible often has a kind of integrity to it that the merely improbable lacks.”
– Douglas Adams’s Dirk Gently, Holistic Detective

Oh, cut it out, Chaim. It’s ridiculous to meet criticisms of New York for not being pretty with “well, SOME of it’s pretty.”

It’s NOT pretty. And, while I’m an admirer of several of the towns Democritus has lived in, I’ve got to say that Sand Diego, San Francisco, Seattle are PRETTY CITIES. Tourist destinations.

Rome in the 18th century was’t pretty. London and Paris in the 19th century weren’t pretty. But they were world capitals, thrumming with intellectual, financial, artistic life.

New York’s not a Company Town, either. If you live in L.A., you better be in Entertainment. If you live in D.C., you better be in Government. Otherwise you’re just servicing the main business of the town.

Oh, yeah, you have to analyze your assumptions before you come here. You can’t expect it to be like other American cities. Sure, the roads stink. What are ya driving for? This is the CITY, fer chrissake! That anna token’ll getcha on the Subway. Crowded? Well, yeah. See all those tall buildings? Those tall buildings are fulla PEOPLE. When they come out, they’re in the street. That’s life.


Did I also mention my newfound understanding of the origin of the pissy New Yorker attitude?


Hey, have you been to Mecca lately? It is, like the Big Apple, a filthy stinking cesspool. It’s also endlessly fascinating if you’re a people-watcher. Which I ain’t. You see, I like the concept of “people.” The reality, though, is depressing and nauseating.

I used to live in New Jersey and ventured through the tunnel all the time with the old family. When I hit high school, I wised up a bit and stopped going. Brilliant decision. When I stopped going on a frequent basis, and just went once in a blue moon with one of my girlfriends at the time or some of my rowdy school chums, I actually enjoyed the 'ol cesspool quite a bit.

The art, poetry and music scene is damn vibrant. That skyline is just beautifully crushing (and like the city itself, it’s best appreciated from FAR away). Amidst the madness there are still magical, hidden islands of solitude. The culinary variety and quality is sumptuous. AND you can ALWAYS find a prostitute to work out those twisted, unfulfilled fantasies!

Ahhh, and the weather is too extreme, the trash blows in the streets, crime is high, it’s deafening(even at night), the scale is de-humanizing, the people are hollow, the artists are Parisian pretentious mixed with brit rudeness, the poets and writers all think they’re the most original thing since Cummings and Faulkner, the parking is bad and the subway is worse, the cost of living is plain scary and the musicals are just plain silly.

It still beats L.A., though. To tell you the truth, pretty much every city can go straight to hell (well, maybe not Prague)! They are the chattel-houses of humanity.

Yet to be reconciled with the reality of the dark for a moment, I go on wandering from dream to dream.

Get rid of the people in new york and itd be great :slight_smile:

When I was at NYU, I stayed at the 26th Street dormitory, which was on 26th between 1st and 2nd Avenue. The main campus was clustered around Washington Square, which basically equates to between 4th and 8th Street. There was a bus that supposedly traveled in between my dorm and the main campus every half-hour, but it was always either twenty minutes late (when I was on time) or thirty seconds early (when I was a minute late). So I gave up and walked to and from campus every day. Which is basically what everybody else does. The only time I ever bothered driving is when our College Bowl trivia group had to go to Boston or Swarthmore or something and we rented a car. Trying to drive in New York is futile. Parking in New York is a contradiction in terms.

But I liked it there. And really, New York has a lot of pretty places. On my walk from 26th to Washington Square, there were a couple of very nice, small wooded parks where people could congregate. Near around 14th, there’s a neat little section of town near a church that’s filled with brick buildings covered in ivy, where tall trees seem to form a roof over the street.

Or there’s the bits around Grand Central Station, where the streets are wide and buildings loom over you, looking for all the world like they were designed for giants.

There are some things that I got used to in my three years over there:

  1. Blackened disks of chewing gum that have solidified into the sidewalk. (At first I thought this was disgusting, until I realized that they weren’t sticky at all. Once I discovered that, I hardly noticed them.)
  2. There are parts of town that do indeed reek of urine. I had to walk past some of these places a lot. But even though it’s likely you’ll run into a place like this every day, it’s not guaranteed. Also, the homeless are almost everywhere. I suppose it’s… a little disquieting how quickly someone can adapt to things like this.
  3. Water (or something) occasionally falls from the sides of buildings. You’ll feel a drop fall on you from a clear sky. (I choose to believe it has something to do with air conditioning.)
  4. Some people say that in New York, a red light is only a suggestion. Having been there, I can say this is false. Drivers rush through yellow lights there, but hey, drivers do that everywhere. However, it is true that Walk and Don’t Walk signs are merely suggestions. And a good thing, too. If you had to stop at every Street and wait for a green light, you’d never get anywhere on time.

(Nowadays I’m back in Seattle, but every now and then I find myself dreaming of New York.)

New York is a mecca, all right, but we’re pretty upfront about admitting that it is in many respects not “modern day.” The standard saying is that “New York will be a great town when they’re finally done with it.” So yes, road construction, water main breaks and the like are part of the price. But so what? Do you know that I had phone service for 363 days last year?

What’s greatest about New York is the people. People come from all over to pursue their dreams. That’s every bit as true whether one is a yokel trying to make it on Broadway, a Wharton Grad trying to cut the mustard at Goldman or an Afghanistani fleeing tyranny. They bring an energy that I haven’t seen anywhere else in the world.

When John Rocker was whining about New York, people said he was describing Mets fans. He was not; Met fans are white guys from Long Island. Here’s what he said about New Yorkers:


He meant his comments as an insult. Heck, strip out the insults that’s why I’m here. The fact that it cheeses off boneheads like Rocker is just a bonus.

And believe it or not, we are not rude. (Well, OK, I am) We’re curt. Time is short, and there are just too many people to say “have a nice day” to all of them. Pick up the pace a little and you’ll find we’re actually pretty nice.

Oh, and the bars don’t close till four, and some stay open after that. Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s tax day so I have to go to the post office to drop off the check that keeps this whole joint running. You can thank me later.

A guy walks up to a bartender and says “Do you know how to make a perfect Manhattan?” Bartender says “Sure, throw all of the Jews out.”

{zipping up and turning away from the window}

Oh, yeah, and pastrami. You can get pastrami at four in the morning.


I’m gonna go along with Manhattan (the poster, not the borough) here. I love the crowds and the noise and the buildings. My favorite spot in the city is on Pine St. right off of Broadway in downtown Manhattan (the borough, not the poster). On either side of you is a sheer wall of buildings. Here’s a picture of what it looks like.

Another thing is that New York has what seems to be the coolest subway system in the US. This site has just about everything you could possibly want to know about the New York City subway system. I won’t be able to for a while, but I do intend to live there someday. I hear Park Slope’s pretty nice.

“It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest.” - Adam Smith

Cesspool: When I was in NYC, it seemed like everyone was running some sort of scam. There’s the gas station attendant who ripped us off, the guy selling bootleg CDs on the corner, the people sitting in their idling vehicles, smoking, late at night in the warehouse district, and the drug dealers hanging outside AvenueBdude’s window.

Mecca: I was amazed at the bazaar qualities of the place. I can only find mediocre jewish delis in DC but you can’t stay in business doing that in NYC. You want to find that rare rated X Atari 2600 cartridge? There’s a place that has it. And everything is open til much later.

Democritus said…

and a little later said…

For me, living briefly in NYC, this was a big issue for me and one of several reasons I left NYC. It just amazed me that (from my perspecitive) people didn’t realize there was a better way to live!!

Why would I pay 1500+ for a 40 year old apartment in a run down building in a bad area of town? I can own a beautiful home here for that amount! Why deal with over-crowded subways or hours and hours in traffic when I can have a simple 10 minute commute here! Why live where the simplest tasks of grocery shopping, or going to a movie, are incredibly difficult. Don’t get me started on simply wanting to see something green and alive instead of trees covered in exhaust or “astro-turf” front yards!

I said screw it, left NYC and took an offer making less annually but in a more friendly cost-of-living environment and couldn’t be happier.

Obviously, NYC folk here will say “good riddance” and I accept that fully. NYC is not a town for everyone and not every dream is available there.

Now, going back to visit regularly and enjoy it for a “get away” I have to admit I love it. It’s big fun… just didn’t like living there!

The Sleeper has AWAKENED!

Well, I for one, think the Apple is the greatest town in the world. It has character

And, if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere.

Ah-new york. It is an amazing place, but it is crowded and dirty. However, if you like the theater, visual arts, intellectual discourse, there is no greater place in the world.However, it is incredibly expensive, and i would not want to drive a car there.
So, my feeling is-nice to visit, but I wouldn’t live there.