Friday, September 12, 2008

Gated New York

This Observer article deserves its own post, belonging as it does in the Suburbanization of New York annals.

In it, you will read about the world of New York's suburbanized gated communities. It's an odd world, custom-made for The Joneses, personalities recently attracted to the city, harboring fantasies of total cleanliness, safety, convenience, and spaciousness.

It's a world peopled by 20-something interns who can somehow afford to split rents of $3000+ a month, who come to New York from the Midwest, eschewing things like walkups because living in a gated, fully loaded environment "is just so much better in so many ways. It's like living in a hotel. Everything's always convenient, always safe, always clean. You don't have to worry about gross things. Like mice! And creepy things like that."

If "Consume!" is New York's post-9/11 war cry, then "always convenient, always safe, always clean" could be the city's post-post-9/11 mantra.


photo: sunset flame's flickr

Says another 20-something resident of luxury housing, "It sometimes feels like I'm not in New York when I'm in the building... It's trying to have things that a suburban housing complex would--everything at your fingertips, where you don't have to leave [the building] much if you don't want. But it's not big enough. It's not big enough to do that. It needs a swimming pool."

This reminds me of another Observer article from last September, on New York's growing car culture, in which another young arrival chose to have a car in the city because it made her feel "not like such a city person."


photo: sunset flame's flickr

I've asked this before, and since I do tend to repeat myself, I might as well say it again: Why come to New York City if you are disgusted and frightened by city culture and don't want to live an urban life?

I like cleanliness, safety, and convenience, too. And I can understand wanting more of those qualities at 40--but at 20? How much is enough? And at what cost?

20 comments:

boweryboogie said...

the joneses tolerate city living just long enough to justify bragging rights. to them, it's not about contributing or even being one with the city. instead it's about appearances.

whereas once living in the big city was considered a dangerous venture, it's now just another component of life's happy meal. the joneses living in these "gated communities" are too afraid to experience life in the city.

Anonymous said...

god i hate people who have more money than me. they should all go back to ohio.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your wonderful, intuitive, informative blog, Jeremiah!

Factoid: The phrase "keeping up with the Joneses", actually came from the American author Edith Wharton's (nee Jones) super-rich New York society family. http://tinyurl.com/5cnvrv

IMHO, having Bloomberg as mayor has been the worst thing that could have happened to NYC in years. Although he seems like a nice guy, supports the arts, etc., he is essentially a billionaire who knows very well how to make money. I don't think all of this rabid construction would have happened under a Democratic mayor. I didn't vote for him; I don't vote for billionaires. Ultimately, he's just paving the way for his friends to get richer in whatever way he can.

Jill said...

I love the idea of a gated community in NY. Can we gate them all up and lock the door behind them? It would be like creating a ghetto.

Anonymous said...

Hey man, please don't pull a David Foster Wallace on us (not that you were ever were thinking about it, just saying). This world (esp. NYC) is lacking intellectual connection, and has driven many of us to the brink. It has been a very dangerous time for the geniuses and creatives, with all this condofication and Jonesification of EV and NYC. [You may post this at your discretion; I just didn't know how to reach/ write to you in private.]

Jeremiah Moss said...

jesus, i hadn't heard about wallace until you just mentioned it and i looked him up. christ. that's a great loss. why hasn't his suicide been in the news anywhere?

Anonymous said...

Well, because it wasn't Britney Spears, SJP, Paris Hilton, or any of the yunnie idols. But the today's NYtimes has a piece on DFW in the Books section.

[Sorry for being anonymous; it's not about me--it's about David Foster Wallace.]

Anonymous said...

I hope they're armed because when the revolution comes that's where I'm going first.

Anonymous said...

don't forget bloomberg's rezoning proposals. someone really ought to stand up to him and point out what he REALLY did to this city.

Anonymous said...

New York is turning into California.
Whole Foods-California
Jamba Juice-California
Red Mango-California
PinkBerry-California
East Village-Mostly transplants from California
New York Accent-Now from California
Standard Hotel being built in "MePa" -California
etc

Jeremiah Moss said...

truly, i wouldn't mind living in a gated community myself, since leaving my apartment and stepping out into the new East Village has become torture.

i'd like to walk around with a portable gate around my body, to keep cell-text walkers from crashing into me.

Bob said...

I was listening to an old Billy Joel record a few days ago and thought a long, hard time about the song "Miami 2017" - better known as "Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway". Written during the dark days of 1976, it forecasts a New York being so blighted and overrun with crime and despair that by 2017 everyone had fled it and thought it a good idea to cut it off from the rest of the world, going so far as to destroy the island bridges and shell Manhattan to contain the scourge. It's funny how we've swung so far in the other direction that doing the exact same thing to rid ourselves of a far worse plague upon the city sounds like a pretty damn good idea at this point. Ah, if only we could detach Manhattan from its natural moorings and just let it drift out into the Atlantic....

Anonymous said...

what is a "gated" new york complex? is it like a "doorman" building? (which is not soooo bad). this thing you describe sounds like something you find in florida for retirees. is it plastic modern w/out character? chain stores downstairs? a car in manhattan? this is getting really weird.

Anonymous said...

What do you mean Bloomberg's bad?
He stands head and shoulders over someone like Lindsay.

laura said...

came across this post again. (commented as anon). i lived in NYC full time starting @19 yrs old. i also liked it "clean"& roach free. i did live in tacky modern building for a while (loved the convenience, hated the fake flowers in lobby). then moved to an old walk up. (still clean, but in a more social NY area, the EV). by the time i was 21, i got tired of 5 flights up. i wish you posted real photos of these suburban places. as i cant get a "fix" on what they really are. (not all 20 yr olds will accept mice, i know i didnt). btw, having a pool in new york city is a great thing. "manhattan plaza", the low/middle income building for actors& disabled has a pool & health club. (for a fee). some of the traditional old buildings in NYC have pools. unless these are tacky ugly sterile buildings, i dont see the problem.

Anonymous said...

New York has lost it mojo for sure, but don't blame midwestern transplants. First, look in your own suburban backyard. The pampered status seaking weak are a specialty of the New York metro.

Kimberly Lawler said...

Thank you! The soul of the city is that we are all in this together. Gated communities that intend to bar their captives from the stink have no place here. They will spoil the pot. I find solace in knowing that they are about 15 years too late. Amateurs.

Anonymous said...

Look, yo, the midwest transplant blaming everyone does gets really old. I moved here a year ago, don't look at me, I wasn't here to vote for Mike Bloomberg. I and my ilk came because, for as much pissing and moaning as everyone does on this blog, NYC is not and never will be anything remotely close to a suburb. I grew up in a suburb, I know how boring and flavorless they are. You would have to be totally and utterly BLINDED by nostalgia to think this town, for all of the gentrification, is becoming like a suburb. If that's your perspective, fine, but you're wrong and this whole blog is one gigantic overreaction.

laura said...

anon 11:am 2013: what we are saying is that the small unique businesses are closing. to replace them are generic chain box stores. which btw, are not always practical. when you need a small laundry, or a quick piece of fruit- box doesnt cut it. diners are closing, whats left? coffee @ 7/11, & burger king? or K mart? that very suburban, except you CAN walk there. the other choice is $6 cup of coffee & a $25 usd burger? "J": again i want to comment the "pool" slur. im addition to the low/mid income manhattan plaza, let mention some other places which have a pool. number one beekman place, corner of sutton pl. (e.49th st, stunning & notable old building). the pool is on a lower level, you look up @the windows. i used to swim there. the carylyle hotel (e. 76th st. & park ave) has a pool for the condo owners, another stunning landmark building. no i dont have connections there. there is nothing wrong w/luxury, has been in NYC for 2 hunrad yrs. btw, parking is usually available underneath the grand older buildings. cars are kept there for weekends in the country. just sharing real NY culture. yes i know the new comers you speak of, they are tacky.

Renée M. said...

The thing is, the kids coming to NY today don't want to have to conform to city culture so they bring their own culture with them, and the city has obliged them on this (by "city" I mean the powers that be, like Bloomberg and big business). They are only here to make their money and make their mark on the city, even if that changes it to become something unrecognizable as NY.

That, and they are somewhat arrogant and have no respect for the native culture, or the natives themselves. They make caricatures of us on TV and laugh at us. We are all supposedly no class boneheads with funny accents like on the sitcoms.

The truly ironic thing is that in the 20th century NY was the trailblazer for the rest of the country. It was our stand alone restaurants that became the chains of the Midwest; our local music and dance trends that became national; Our foreign food restaurants from all over the world that became ubiquitous everywhere; our fashions and general lifestyle that spread across the country, our "patchwork quilt" of immigrants interwoven with natives that became more common elsewhere. Now the tables have turned and the kids from elsewhere are infiltrating with their own culture and expecting NY to conform to them, not the other way around. Native NYers like myself used to love our transplants because they respected our culture, but now to a large degree they don't and want everything to conform to their own suburban culture. It's sad because they are at least partially responsible for changing the culture of NY to be more milquetoast and characterless like everywhere else.