The Plenty Which Surrounds Us
My New York has innumerable faces. Returning from the beautiful desert landscape of Baja Sur last night, I thought of the miles and miles of desert filled with cactus (each one an apartment house pocked with holes for owls, insects and lizards) twice as tall as I, rising up the slopes of the precipitous mountains which form the spine of the peninsula. And then landing and driving through Manhattan, I was struck but how quirky and various our local man-made landscape is. As rising real estate values demonstrate, every nook and cranny of the city has its proponents, and those neighborhoods, unlike the seeming eternity of the Baja desert, constantly evolve.
My natal village was the Upper East Side. During those early 1950s years of my childhood, it seemed completely cut off from the rest of the city. South of 57th Street – there be dragons! The West Side? As remote as Bangladesh (and almost as scary.) Queens? What? And the Bronx? Simply a place one had to pass through to go to the country. No small town boy from the Corn Belt was more provincial than I.
I began to discover the city in the late 60s and early 70s as it declined. Always wary after some kids tried to steal a sled from me and my brother one snowy 1961 afternoon in Central Park, I tried in my teen aged and young adult years to break free. I learned how to get to the West Side, which was fading under the burden of poverty and drugs. I took the 1 train to the very end with a friend from Riverdale, passing through the Harlem and Upper Manhattan neighborhoods which contained ever-increasing numbers of abandoned buildings. At the same time, I learned that small towns were no safer when I got the mugging of my life in bucolic Andover, Massachusetts. I moved to the Upper West side, and then to Brooklyn, in both cases neighborhoods replete with SRO hotels, filthy streets, fabulous bookstores, actual cafes, and arthouse movie theaters. I learned, like so many New Yorkers before me, the value of moving on from your comfort zone. And by the time I moved back to the Upper West Side in the late 70s, the neighborhood was ready to begin its slow climb out of the crack epidemic and towards the restaurant and boutique laden haven it has become.
Today New York has as many architectural and cultural microclimates as South America. From the luxurious apartment houses which line the broad avenues of the Upper East and Upper West Sides to the refurbished tenements of the Lower East Side, from the reviving Art Deco complexes on the Grand Concourse to the suburban back yards of Midwood and Ditmas Park, every type of housing is available to the mobile New Yorker. In Chinatowns and the nightclubs of Little Russia, in Little Italy or the curry houses of East 4th Street and the Greek restaurants of Astoria, every sort of cultural and culinary yen can be satisfied. The same is true of real estate. Somewhere in the city, a great home at almost any price range from $300,000 to $30 million waits for anyone willing to look hard enough.
This is my town. Through its ups and downs, in grunge or in glitz, it remains vibrant and exciting. Unlike the desert, it’s always expanding, growing taller, broader, newer. That’s what we’re selling here. The homes are just a gateway to the extraordinary lives we can live in this magic kingdom.