:date: 2022-05-15 23:19 :tags:
Is it just me or is it ironic that this icon of liberty is decorating a crowd control barrier?
Well, let's not worry about that. I'm just having a bit of fun with New York's (technically New Jersey's) famous tourist landmark (visible in the background).
I am presently in New York, the state, but last week I took a business trip to the place people think of when they hear "New York": New York City. The last time I was in New York City it was for an "interviewcation" in the middle of winter. That was around six years ago. The city seems to be changing quickly and I think for the better.
Where I live in Buffalo, NY is pretty nice. While bike riding on the paths along the canals I often think, "This place is so nice, it's almost Dutch." I was quite surprised to get that same feeling in the City version of New York.
This is me waiting for the subway at just after five in the morning.
That is why there's nobody around and why I'm not wearing a mask. Although The Plague seems to be lightening up a bit, in the subways of New York City, people are still into masks even though state-wide they're not required. For every person I saw not wearing one, I saw a person wearing two masks. The apprehension is understandable with a zillion people packed into these tunnels and the memory of one of the worst death tolls from the early months of The Plague. Still, the fact that trains run all over the city is something NYC is famous for, but it is also something quite ordinary in most European countries. Like the Netherlands.
The last time I was in NYC I remember it reeking. The problem is that smoking is not generally allowed in the buildings. So even if a small minority of the population smokes, if they all must come outside to do it then every alley will be filled with smokers 24/7. Since I can smell someone smoking a block away, the whole place was awful. But I didn't get so much of that this time. Maybe some critical mass of people have quit. But what is funny is that if you walk four or so blocks, one of them will smell very strongly of marijuana smoke. Apparently it is full legal in NYC now. I saw someone rolling one on the train. I've never been a smoker of anything but I have to say that if it's going to be weed or cigarettes, I'll take weed any day. You know what other city you randomly smell weed smoke in? That's right, dumb tourists in Amsterdam.
The best thing about the Netherlands is the magnificent scenery. And I have to say, NYC is boasting some excellent scenery of its own. And I'm not talking about skylines here — I'm talking about the people. Dutch people as a whole are far and away the most attractive people in my opinion. But the inhabitants of NYC are really putting in a good effort for second place. (Can they overtake Buenos Aires? I think so!)
What's the secret to NYC's attractive people? Well, it's not this hilarious sign I saw.
New York City has excellent food. How can you have a certain kind of restaurant if it sucks and there are five excellent ones within a few blocks? (Answer: tourists. But you get the idea.) I found a magnificent bakery that was almost Dutch quality. You'd think that all that great eating would not do great things to the attractiveness of the people. But it turns out to not be a problem.
The fact is that humans in general are attractive when there are no pathological physical problems. NYC may have a slight edge over Holland because of their diverse population. But the sad fact is that Dutch people and NYC people are just people — they look so damn good because they haven't been pummeled so hard with the first world's most devastating ugly stick: the automobile.
Cars are shit. They ruin almost everything. If you think of a prototypically "nice" place (a beach, Disneyland, the top of a mountain) there are no cars. If you think of a place with a lot of cars (a beach in Texas, Anaheim, parking at a ski resort) it is a dystopian nightmare where you literally must fear for your life at every moment. But cars make people ugly as well as the locale.
And NYC is finally catching on to the truth about cars. Manhattan is an island. There is no possibility of sprawl. The land is very valuable so an amazingly stupid communist plot like free parking is easily seen as the mistake it is. NYC obviously has some city planners and they have finally figured out how induced demand works. They know they can't build a 26 lane freeway. And I think they're starting to figure out that they do not want to! All over the city I saw examples of intelligent city planning. Accommodating 8.8 million people driving private cars around a dense city is just not going to be a thing. Other options must be explored. Instead of doing what most cities do as they lose the battle with giving cars literally everything, NYC has focused on alternatives. What a concept! I saw many, many streets/avenues where car lanes have been removed. They have been replaced with dedicated bus lanes, and in a shockingly Dutch turn of events, bike lanes.
And these are not token crap ones. They really seem serious about this. This is a city for people, not cars. I'm thoroughly impressed. Most NYC people do not (yet) bike like Dutch people, but they do walk. I figure they easily walk 15min to their subway stop, down then up some stairs, 15min to their office, up some stairs, and then all that in reverse, maybe some more walking for shopping and daily life. If the average NYC person walks 30 minutes a day, (and I bet it's more) that's enough to make a drastic change in the vitality of the population. And I'm not just talking about wealthy Manhattan people. They're probably worse off because they can afford more car travel!
By avoiding the stroad strip mall monoculture that is, with rare exceptions, every other place in the USA, NYC is a very interesting place. Definitely worth visiting. This visit was the first time the calculus of living there became something I could actually imagine. It's not a cheap place, but it may be worth it. I like New York!