An Ode to New York’s Lost Neighborhoods
Inspired by my annual viewing of You’ve Got Mail and this essay by Muffy Aldrich.
One of the most poignant parts of You’ve Got Mail is one of the opening scenes, when Kathleen Kelly and Joe Fox walk from their homes to their stores and cross paths. For me, it’s not just the moments when they nearly meet–it’s the love letter to New York, to the neighborhood feel the city used to have, to the specialty shops that no longer seem to exist.
Looking around Manhattan today, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was always like this–a city of glass skyscrapers, chain stores, and expensive restaurants. But it wasn’t always like that. Growing up in the East Village, you could go to one store for pastries, one for cheese, one for eggs–and you’d know the owners, the customers, you’d feel yourself as part of the fabric of the city. And you were! Nowadays, people (myself included, when we lived in the city) do their shopping at Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. Do you know your cashier? Do you know the people standing in line with you?
Nowadays, New York has changed–and I wouldn’t say for the better. It’s nearly impossible to survive as an individual or as a small business. One of my favorite specialty shops in the world, Tender Buttons, closed in recent years, and for me, that seemed to be the final death knell of New York’s unique character.
There are, of course, still unique places in the city. I try to share some here. But it’s hard to see a city that I love–a city that has been home to me and countless generations of my family–change into an unrecognizable metropolis. I miss being able to walk down the street and inadvertently bump into friends. To walk down an unfamiliar block and stumble across a store that has just what you’re looking for. To have memories on each corner. The internet has changed a lot of that, and I can’t help but mourn for the city where I was born.
What are your New York memories?