Monday, March 13, 2017

Katz's & Tourists

For over 20 years, I've been going to Katz's deli on the Lower East Side. I go because I love the atmosphere, the history, the aroma. I get hot dogs, mostly, and egg creams. I go alone and I go with friends. But, lately, I don't go at all. I can't get in the door.

There are too many tourists. Way too many. Sure, tourists have always filled Katz's, but now it's out of control.



They line up down the block, keeping New Yorkers from easily accessing this local treasure.

The last time I tried to get into Katz's, I thought maybe the line was from a tour, waiting to go in as a group, so I walked in the door. The bouncer--yes, the bouncer--stopped me and told me to get in line. No, thanks. I left.

I'm not sure if I'll ever get back inside. It's like this every day.

And now that the Carnegie Deli is gone, the tourist hordes will only get worse at Katz's. No longer content to stay in tourist-centric parts of town like Times Square, they are spreading outwards, finding all our local joints, and making them inaccessible.



A symptom of globalization, mass tourism is a worldwide pandemic. It's a trend increasingly referred to as "overtourism."

“A rapacious tourist monoculture threatens Venice’s existence,” wrote Italian art historian Salvatore Settis in the Times in 2016, “decimating the historic city and turning the Queen of the Adriatic into a Disneyfied shopping mall.”

In cities like Barcelona, Reykjavík, and Amsterdam, leaders are taking steps to slow the influx of tourists, and city dwellers are doing their part. In his book Coping with Tourists, Jeremy Boissevain observed Europeans engaging in “covert, low-key resistance” to tourists, i.e., “sulking, grumbling, obstruction, gossip, ridicule, and surreptitious insults.”

In Berlin, the anti-tourist outcry has been especially fierce, with protests and graffiti slogans that say “Tourists Fuck Off” and “No More Rolling Suitcases.” In a backlash to the backlash, tourist sympathizers argue that tourists are just like immigrants or refugees, and that anti-tourist sentiment is the same as xenophobia, casting the protesters as fascists. This is a false equivalence. Tourists and immigrants/refugees occupy very different positions of power, and people on vacation do not come to cities seeking sanctuary. They come seeking selfies and souvenirs.



A little while ago, Jake Dell, the fifth-generation owner of Katz's, penned a heartfelt goodbye letter to the Carnegie Deli. In it, he wrote: "Here in the 'city that never sleeps' we cherish the bold and beautiful bustle that makes New York the greatest city in the world, yet agonize over the nonstop gentrification when we lose too many of our classics."

Nonstop gentrification also brings mass tourism--which brings "tourism gentrification" in turn--and that inflicts its own negative impact on a city's treasures. What is New York if it can't be enjoyed by New Yorkers? A place lost to tourism is also lost.

I have a suggestion. Tourists get special deals--why can't New Yorkers? Our IDs, with their local addresses, should be our "city passes." These could get us into museums and other popular places ahead of the tourist lines. We don't need City Hall to get such a program started. We could start it right now, with small business owners.

So Katz's, how about it? Give a thank you to the local folks who've kept you going all these years and be the first to institute a "Local Priority" policy--let anyone with a valid NYC ID in the door ahead of the tourist line.

We will love you even more for it.











50 comments:

John M said...

So it's even hit Katz's. Depressing. The only silver lining here is the precipitous decline in, especially, Euro tourism that Trump has triggered. For a number of people overseas, vacation has become "anyplace but the U.S."

The reasons behind that are just plain horrific, but the end result on the tourism front may not be...although the economic impact will be felt by some businesses.

Is there any way we can scare Americans from coming here? Yes, crime. Another terrible situation that would have the same effect. And of course, a stock market plunge and/or economic downturn might begin to change the city away from what it's become.

We are in a rotten place. To get New York back from the overdevelopers, the tourists, and the 1%, we need calamity. This is what it's come to. Everything being cyclical in nature, it will doubtless happen. At some point.

Scout said...

I agree with Noël Coward's sentiment, "why do the wrong people travel?" But to call for "local priority" smacks of a strange kind of elitism, as does kvetching about "the genuine urge to roam." And "local priority" passes will likely never be practical, as there are so many property owners in NYC now who are probably only here for a fraction of any given year. And what would qualify as "local?" Manhattan address? 5 boroughs? Tri-state area?

Advances in technology, as well as ever-spreading monetary comfort mean that the monster we call tourism is here to stay - that is, until a nuclear Armageddon throws us all back to a new Stone Age.

Scout said...

John M makes an excellent point when he writes "To get New York back from the overdevelopers, the tourists, and the 1%, we need calamity."

Personally, I preferred the NYC of the 70s to that of today, with crime, grime, and economic failure. It was a good time for art and genuine bohemianism, and New York was for New Yorkers. However, I'm quite sure that there are very few people who are adult enough to enjoy the bad as well as the good, instead calling for an implausible Nirvana.

Donnie Moder said...

As Yogi would say, nobody goes there anymore, its too crowded. The building of luxury high-rises around it on Ludlow certainly takes away a little bit from the feel of the place. Does not feel like you are on the Lower East Side when you are in front of the building. Glad they are still in business and hope they remain so. Did "When Harry Met Sally" help eventually ruin this place for locals?

Tony Petersen said...

Just go at night. From 6pm onward there's never a line.

SadEnding said...

Nonsense.

Tourists add millions to our economy. Just as we do when we travel abroad. You want to watch natives go ahead of you at the Louvre while you've been standing in line for four hours? No way, Maurice.

Besides, you live in NYC, you can go to Katz's ANYTIIME, why go when there's a line? Havent you learned ANYTHING from living in NYC over the years? Or are you all hipster fools from Indiana? Go when its less crowded or stand in line. There's a price to be paid for living in the greatest city in the world.

Grow up.

Jeremiah Moss said...

I'm always fascinated by the pro-tourist defenses that started cropping up in the 2000s, when New Yorkers historically always disparaged or barely tolerated tourists prior to that. Is this the outcome of Bloomberg's massive pro-tourism propaganda movement? Quite likely. Anyway, here's another take on the subject:

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/12/15/nyregion/15nyc.html

Sunset Park Autonomous Zone said...

I got in recently but left because the prices went up. I don't know how anyone can afford it.

Matt Hiller said...

"Tourists and immigrants/refugees occupy very different positions of power, and people on vacation do not come to cities seeking sanctuary. They come seeking selfies and souvenirs."

I dislike the level of cynicism here. It's true of bad tourists, let's allow that. Good tourists come to broaden their experiences and perspectives, and will come home understanding how people live and conduct themselves in another place; will understand what it's like to be in a place with less capability/ability to communicate than the normal; and will feel greater sympathy towards people with whom they do not share a background.

I mean, do you honestly think Trump's "Build the Wall!" case for his election would've taken off the way that it did if any significant number of his voters spent part of their 2015 on a weekend trip to Mexico City, living like locals and figuring out where the locals go for street food?

Unchecked tourism has its downsides, to be sure. Big portions of places like Venice are Potemkin cities now. But overall I think it does more good than harm, even allowing for the bad tourists running around without having meaningful experiences during their trips.

Jimmy Dee said...

I love your news feed. Always relevant, heartfelt, and honest. This time I do disagree, since we can't have it both ways. Given the vanishing trend due to rent hikes, bad economy, and the disgusting Disneyfication of NYC, the tourist trade will help offset a cash flow problem. So, if longer lines become a major inconvenience for us New Yorkers, I'll take that inconvenience. If only we could have the same lines at bookstores, long established mom and pop outlets, independent coffee shops etc., we'd have less vanishing and more growth. Better than the alternative any way you cut it.

Scout said...

Pro-tourist defenses did not start in the 2000s; remember the famous I Heart NY campaign of the 1977? And the Milford Plaza commercial that aired nationwide in the early 80s?

Tourism helped pull NYC out of near-bankruptcy. I may hate it, but I easily understand how the city's budget now can't exist without it.

Tourism began a fast rise immediately after WWII, when America suddenly owned the world, and middle class prosperity skyrocketed. It's not a particularly recent development, but it does seem to keep growing.

SadEnding said...

I love how people create a narrative out of thin air and then believe it's true. New York, Broadway, it's museums, etc, have ALWAYS, (since post-WWII to be more specific) depended heavily on tourism.

I worked in tourism for many years. Tourism was NOT the creation of the Bloomberg administration. How absurd. Remember the Japanese tourist boom of the late 60's and 70s?
No, you were probably too young, and if you dont remember it, it probably never happened, right?

Again, my plea: grow up.

Jeremiah Moss said...

Mass tourism was the creation of the Koch administration in the 1970s and Bloomberg greatly expanded on it. And it is absolutely intertwined with hypergentrification and the neoliberalization of the city. What I see in the 2000s, looking back through history, is that New Yorkers' attitudes toward tourists have changed to a very knee-jerk defensive position. And that's worth wondering about.

Read Greenberg, "Branding New York," and "Protest and Resistance in the Tourist City," by Colomb and Novy if you want a broader understanding of this topic.

Damaged Goods said...

F*ck Katz's. Go to David's Brisket in Bed-Stuy.

Big Guy said...

A testament to how tourism has benefited NYC and how much NYC has turned around are the numbers about business on 42nd between 7th and 8th. Koch like to point out that in less than a generation the sales tax collected from that one block in the 1990's, more than 20 years ago -- from the bottom in 1974 -- came to exceed the assessed value of all the land and buildings there.

Katz's hours are so extensive and the place is so big that any one encountering a long line can come back sometime in side of the next hour or so and not have to deal with any line at all. Jeremiah just had a few instances of lots of lines there. That's not a problem. That could happen a dozen times in a row
, but it'd still be a coincidence.

Sarah van Leer said...

I am very moved by this conversation here. I am a tourist. I seek out places that are unknown and how to learn something from them. Different food, different dress, different world view. Tourism is a way to change myself without putting in too much effort. The first “sad” tourist experience I had was visiting San Diego about 20 years ago. I was sent there for work and took advantage of a few days’ vacation to get to know a little about a place I had never been.

I was put up in a hotel downtown (owned by Delta Airlines at the time). Outside my window, I could see signs for a Hard Rock Café and several other chain establishments. The place I was sent for “Mexican” food was a giant barn of a place that served huge sweet margaritas, and not much else. Ten years later for my second visit to San Diego, I arrived late in town after a delayed flight. Asked the front desk person about nearby Mexican food and got sent to Chili’s!!?!! Later in my trip, I ate at a better place, and being a solo, asked to pack up the left-over chips. The waiter actually cried – told me how much they throw away, and no one ever asks for the chips. I asked him if he would tell me where he goes to eat, because I would like to eat there. He refused – gently – telling me that it would not be safe for me to go there. . .

I have been visiting NYC regularly for 60+ years, having been first brought there by my father for my 5th birthday. My last visit was in January and it had been two years since I had made my way to the City. Sadly, except for the plethora of lights, Times Square is looking a lot like the San Diego of 10 and 20 years ago: generic and not very exciting. I can understand why tourists are seeking out places like Katz’s. Why come to NY where everything there is the same as everything anywhere else you might visit?

I don’t have a solution, just a sense of loss, because I won’t go to Katz’s anymore either, just as, for the same reason, I hadn’t been to the Carnegie Deli in years.

Dee said...

What Jeremiah is talking about, I think, is the level of sameness with these tourists. Why go where everyone else goes? How about trying to discover some great delis that don;t have gigantic lines? Go visit spots off the beaten path. That's what we try to do when we visit other countries/cities. It's more fun that way!

JB said...

The defense of tourism posts are bewildering. I have long thought that the flagship museums (ie the Met, MoMa) should adopt the policy they have in St. Petersburg: Russians get into the hermitage for free, tourists pay 20 bucks. We, the natives, already subsidize such institutions, some directly via tax revenue, and other indirectly by virtue of the fact they do not pay property or corporate tax, but benefit from public services (roads, water infrastructure, etc). I am particularly confused by posts like sad ending: does New York City exist to maximize tax revenues? It is a very strange philosophy to blankly defend all tourism and measures to abate its costs imposed on residents, as if the city is a for-profit corporation focused on quarterly profits. Isn't the government supposed to have a fiduciary relationship with the citizens (i.e. The people who elected them?). The reason the defense of tourism argument fails here is that it is a purely generic argument that does not inform us on where we should draw the line between promoting tourism as revenue growth, and containing it for the benefit of the citizens. Jeremiah, on the other hand, proposed a very specific solution to a specific problem that would help citizens get their corned beef while imposing a minor inconvenience on tourists. I don't understand the absolutist "all tourism good!" Argument, and I don't understand what kind of tourist would cancel their trip because they have to wait an extra 15 minutes to get into a beloved local restaurant.

James said...

All right, I'll add to the thread. Per some of JM's comments, I'd have to say it is a perennial New York thing to pin unwanted trends on this mayor or that one. When I first started riding in cabs on my own, the cabbies said it was always Lindsay's fault. Whatever you wanted to bitch about -- Lindsay. Now we have a wider choice. I doubt Koch invented anything for New York, save for mounting the biggest ad campaign ever. During Mayor Wagner's long stint you got "New York is a Summer Festival". During Lindsay it was always "Fun City". Then the I♥NY stickers went out everywhere.

What has changed is everywhere else. The tourists mash into Katz's because there is nothing even remotely like it in other downtowns. It's not just New York that's being forced into plastic brands but the US itself. NYC simply has some of what's left over (actually a lot more, as we know). I agree with SadEnding that tourism was always promoted in New York, even in the early 20th Century when you could hop on a train from nearly anywhere and get off in Manhattan. At least in those days, tourists wore suits, ties, dresses, and brimmed hats - looking respectable, behaving well.

We live in a country where 'respectable' was mainly retained for business purposes, years back. What's left is the have-it-your-way economy and ecology that's so easy to manipulate from above. Frankly, I still miss Ratner's - a place that just missed becoming a Katz's, assuming you wanted dairy. Perhaps it was a fortunate miss after all.

drewjube said...

Maybe what's needed is more delis? I admit, before I moved to New York City, I had the idea from the media that "authentic" Jewish delis could be found on every corner of Manhattan. In truth, there are quite few.

Downtowner said...

Social media has also played a huge role in what places people go (as has the internet at large).

Think about it - Katz's was in a movie in 1988, and it still never saw the surge it has in recent years.

Jeff said...

I have mixed feelings. On the one hand, I'm the guy who yells at tourists to get out of the way when I'm trying to get through a crowded street in one of the tourist zones.

On the other hand, I do appreciate that they come here for a taste of a level of American culture that they can't get in their part of America (or wherever they come from).

The solution is for the mayor and governor to TAKE ACTION to protect our unique small businesses and neighborhoods, and the New Yorkers who comprise them.
Realtors think their shabby glass cubes and big box stores are attracting people, but they're really killing the goose that laid the golden egg.

Amanda said...

This is a super disappointing post. How to pick out tourists? Carding? Making assumptions about what business they have, entering and spending time in a particular neighbourhood? These types of pre-judgments and categorisations are discouraged in all other discourses on profiling of groups, real or perceived. I really like most things about this blog, and it breaks my heart each time there's a new post because generally, it signals a new, negative development in NY culture, architecture, commerce and diversity. I live reading it, usually, because it helps me learn more about places I'm really familiar with and ones I know less or not at all. And yet, I'm not from NY. And so, this post posits that I ought to be undervalued, shut out, second-classed or otherwise deemed inauthentic enough to fully participate in the city, in the moments I spend there. It suggests I'm part of the problem, and an active participant in what's making contemporary New York terrible. Deep down, this is a pretty cruddy post, and I feel like the blog and its author are probably better than this.

Peter Lappin said...

FWIW, there's terrific deli at Liebman's in Riverdale in the Bronx (take the 1 train to 231st & Broaday and walk the rest) -- no tourists to be found!

Jeremiah Moss said...

Last time I checked, New York's 60 million tourists were not an oppressed minority. They will survive my blog unscathed, I am sure.

Ms. said...

It is painful to become the refugee in one's own City, perhaps that's why we sympathize with all the refugees worldwide. One plants the trees, helps the neighbors and ends up a stranger on the outside looking in. ((((sigh))))

JB said...

Yes, tourists who come to New York and are unwilling to cede even the most minor imposition on their full and unfettered access to the city in order to improve quality of life for the locals are, indeed, an active part of the problem. What happened to when in Rome? This is a real city, not an amusement park. It's a major problem in many global destinations. And it's a problem with many popular culinary institutions. You pay an insane rent premium to live here, your discerning consumer dollars cause the cream to rise to the top, and then you can't go to the restaurant that was empty except for your patronage because there's a 3 hour line. It's a problem of value being captured by those who don't create it, to the detriment of those who do create it.

shimmerstwo said...

Katz's is nothing like it was
the pastrami is awful it is a damn shame
its filthy all the time and now feels like a hustle

$33 for a sandwich soda and a side of coleslaw????

Donnie Moder said...

Agree, there were many more 20 years ago. Also many more authentic diners too.

Jeremiah Moss said...

JB, you're making some excellent points here. Amazingly, people think I'm saying "No tourists," when what I am saying is less tourists and more benefits for residents, as they do in many tourist towns. But people will always hear black-and-white statements where there are none.

Donnie Moder said...

I definitely feel like an outsider with my lower income.

Kevin Dee said...

The place has gone down hill for several years and this i say as a 61 year old guy who use to go to shopping on Sundays on Orchard Street with his Father. The shopping trip was followed by the stop at Katz for a lunch with always a Dr Browns Cream Soda... Oh yeah for those that don't understand the problem with the tourists Orchard Street was once the home of deals with a ton of wall to wall Mom and Pop stores not restaurants surrounded by hotels.

Spazik said...

Stupid question: Why they do not expand the business? Like open Katz Nr.2 next to this one? I mean it needs to be quite profitable business...

Adam Fusfeld said...

Just saying, it's very hard to be critical of tourists unless you literally NEVER leave New York City. All of us are tourists at some point, and while Jeremiah says New Yorkers' defending of tourism is relatively recent, I'd argue that anyone who puts any stock in the Golden Rule would defend them regardless.

Sam said...

The residents of New York are not being screwed because of tourists, though. We are screwed because of the myriad of other reasons that Jeremiah has mentioned in his blog - hyper-gentrification, a regressive taxation system, poor investment in infrastructure, and corrupt politicians in thrall to developers. Tourists are the least of our problems.

I came to New York to visit family, once a year from a foreign country on the other side of the planet. In New York, I saw a black person for the first time, I saw theatre for the first time, I met an Egyptian taxi driver who told me he had seen the pyramids. I met a stripper, and an actor, and I was asked if I wanted a date from a lady in a red dress (I was 15). I found out that gay people weren't evil, that women could be politicians, and that marijuana wasn't going to kill me. I learnt how cool public transport was, and that living in a building with 300 other people meant being respectful of others. I ate Ethiopian food for the first time; and yes, I ate pastrami for the first time, at 2nd Avenue Deli.

Those experiences were integral to who I became. And being a tourist in New York made me never want to leave. So here I am, 30 years later. Contributing, paying taxes, and occasionally being a tourist in my own city. I think I am a better person for having been a tourist, and I owe it all to New York.

Tal Hartsfeld said...

Hasn't there always been tourists?
Or is this "globalization" producing an unusually exponentially extreme number of well-to-do visitors from abroad and out-of-state?

SadEnding said...

Why don't we just build a wall around NYC and limit the number of tourists to those deemed "Okay" but some of the posters here?

Bocheball said...

Sam's comment was on the money but where I disagree somewhat is in his view of tourists. They just add to the immense congestion of the city and aforementioned gentrification, which has caused prices to skyrocket so those who live here cannot afford them unless on 6 figure incomes. We are all tourists at some point if we leave and travel. However, there are tourists who know how to behave and those who don't, and in NYC I see many of the latter. Mostly Americans are the worst, least cultured, and loud.
I was just in San Miguel Allende where I lived with a host couple. It's a beautiful small city in Mexico, with amazing architecture and art. Unfortunately, it's a magnet from US border people, and you could often hear some loud mouthed Texan and his dumb ass accent barking in the street. A good tourist is sensitive to the culture and the local customs.

Thee Erin said...

I agree.

Mikema Reape said...

Wow I have never seen the lines that long to get in. I used to go on the weekends and the lines was quick. But I left NYC 2 years ago. I live in the south ATL and hate it. Yes some of those tourist are rude but it looks like a mess from these pictures. Didn't know they tore down the buildings next to Katz's. It was a pizza shop and a bodega that used to be next door.

Sunscreen Icarus said...

Wow, I maaaassively disagree with you. Travel promotes cultural understanding, personal growth, intellectual cross-fertilization, a cosmopolitan outlook, and racial/religious tolerance. It often provides economic incentives for historical and environmental preservation.

None of New York's greatest artists-- Copeland, Gershwin, Baldwin, Capote, Balanchine, Roth, etc.-- would have done the work they did had it not been for their travels domestically and abroad.

But my read on this post was that you actively support "sulking, grumbling, obstruction, gossip, ridicule, and surreptitious insults" aimed at travelers to major world cities, which would deter tourism and all the many, essential benefits it provides us as a civilization.

More tourism, please, not less! Even if it means I have to wait longer for a pastrami sandwich.

Donnie Moder said...

Living in a tourist town, we do find ourselves in situations where we do compete with tourists on the consumer side. Especially in Manhattan. On the one hand, Katz's might not have survived during leaner times without tourists, or kept its tradions and maintained the atmosphere without their support. On the other hand, they make the place less accessible because of crowding and increase in prices. Broadway shows are the same situation.

rongee said...

I thought this was Jeremiah's "Vanishing New York". Inconvenience aside, long lines would indicate otherwise. There are plenty of other places to grab a NYC hot dog, no lines, cheaper prices, just as good or better. Reality; places change with time, move on. Much ado about nothing.

Greg S said...

I disagree with JM. As a regular NYC tourist (I dated someone in the city so spent every other weekend there), I would find it abhorrent that a restaurant would have a priority line for locals and would not spend my money there - not that I would be a regular at overpriced Katz anyways.

I'm fine with museums giving priorities to locals who subsidize them with their tax dollars. I enjoyed venturing to museums with my bf who could use his IDNYC card to get in free, and I was more than happy to pay. But there's a huge difference between museums that receive public funding and private restaurants that rely on tourist dollars.

ben T said...

Isn't the Katz's owner the guy that sold off buildings and airspace on the same block to steel and glass developers? He doesn't deserve local custom.
Over-tourism though is a real problem. As "authentic" spaces continue to disappear the remaining rarities will only attract more and more tourists seeking a taste of the old New York.

Scuba Diva said...

Damaged Goods said...

F*ck Katz's. Go to David's Brisket in Bed-Stuy.

Even better, go to Angelica's Kitchen on 12th street and protect your heart.

olympiasepiriot said...

I agree with James @ 3:52. Everywhere has lost a huge amount of its character and people still are looking for it somewhere. Even though we here feel our losses keenly, many who come from away don't and want to visit what *is* here.

Otoh, Katz's food is mostly nasty and, iirc, they sold their air rights so some of those developers could build higher.

Ann said...

I think the huge increase in tourism did occur with Bloomberg. Hundreds of hotels have been built all over town, and many more are springing up. These are not for us, and more and more it seems the city is not for us. Bloomberg wanted tourists and the 1%. The comparison to Venice is apt. I avoid midtown all together and it seems to block my access to trips uptown. The entire phony set up at Ground Zero is another Bloomberg gift to tourists. It's a travesty. So many of the visitors don't even seem to appreciate NYC. M&M store, anyone? Why are big chunks of Broadway vaperized to make pedestrian malls? How did Macy's get a free front porch? That isn't for us. But it stops us from getting around. Same with the mess in the middle of Fifth Ave/Broadway, 23 St to 25 St. Why do people want to sit in the middle of the street right in front of a park? Another colosal obstacle.
I miss New York.

Renat said...

I agree, I tasted Katz's pastrami couple years back and haven't friend back ever since. It tasted like thick leather, no flavor or thin soft layers New Yorkers were served before the tourist surge. It looks that the current owner decided to serve tourists who are clueless as to how it used to taste before. I went on a search for best pastrami in Manhattan, and the only good one left is Pastrami Queen on Lexington, despite unnecessary rude attitude of their owner.

no said...

I honestly think Katz's is as much of the problem as it is the solution by this point. Not that it is nor ever was their intention to exist as such, but they are capitalists whom need dollars regardless of their source. They market themselves as a tourist attraction and make sure to edge in on any corporate relationship that can make them more money. Again that's not a prima facie negative but it lends itself to situations like you are describing above. Don't think for one second that Katz's cares more about locals than it does pure profit. I've been here ten years and even though I love certain things there like the tongue and the corned beef, haven't been more than once a year or so because it's at best a pain in the ass to deal with before you get your food. Is there nowhere else you can get a hot dog and egg cream?