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Hey New York, Quit Changing So Fast!

I haven’t lived in New York since 1999.  But I’m still a New Yorker, there’s no doubt about that!  It’s like being a Marine, once one; always one.  But I’ll admit something here, I’ve lost track.  And for that I’m very concerned.  I haven’t been there for years now and it’s changed so much, and well….. what will I do?!

After I moved away I’d fly out and walk the streets, checking new things out.

Big things like High Line Park.

Mundane things like the new Bank of America Building near Bryant Park.

BOA Tower going up near Bryant Park.  Check.

BOA Tower going up near Bryant Park. Check.

I’d fly out from the West Coast at least 3 times a year, sometimes 4, and just catalogue it all.

Catalogue?

Yeah, you see, I’d check my old haunts and see what had changed, add it to the hall of records in my head.  Catalogue it. It’s how I kept my status current.  It’s how I stayed a New Yorker.

You know, like how a Marine Reservist has to do a pull a weekend hitch every couple of months or so?

But I even did it when I lived there; always checking things out, walking up and down 7th Avenue in Park Slope.

Or up and down Broadway from Green to 14th Street.

Or left to right on 57th Street.

I could even tell you when they’d switched the t-shirts out at Canal Street.  I just liked to walk I guess, I liked (like) to notice things.

That band LCD Soundsystem has a song called, “New York, I Love You but You’re Bringing Me Down.”  It’s a good song and everything (I like it actually), but it’s about a subject that for me has kind of become trite.

“New York is safer and somehow not as exciting.”  “The cops are bored with nothing to do.”  “There’s this  Disneyfication of Times Square.”   “With no graffiti the trains have become antiseptic.”

Blah Blah Blah Blah Blah.

Squeak Squeak

Squeak Squeak

Believe me, visit New York and stop paying attention for a bit and watch as someone might still come up behind you and fuck you up.  Don’t worry, it’s still “exciting.”

But I digress, because this isn’t where I’m coming from at all.  What I’m talking about is buildings and things, like parks and stuff.  They’re the only things that change in the City.  The City itself doesn’t change.

As soon as you move there you’re a New Yorker.  If you don’t believe me just ask my brother.  He moved there from Oklahoma in the ‘70s and the transformation was immediate.  In no time at all he was talkin’ like Lou Reed and gossiping about real estate prices.

Take Joe.  My U-Dub loving, umbrella eschewing Seattle friend Joe moved to Brooklyn and even he changed right away!  That bothered me a little, I was living in Georgia and frankly I was a little envious.  But it’s alright; I still had my New York creds.  And anyway now I get to call him Brooklyn Joey and offer him commuting advice.

That place changes the person.  The city formats its arrivals for its own purpose.  It’s not important what that purpose is – and that’s OK with me because I’ve never been clear on that anyway.  And really, who cares why?

It’s that the things of New York have to change.  Because that’s the only way to keep the money flowing.  And the survival of the City is dependent upon on the flow of money.  It always has been.  Gotta keep moving forward.

They changed building height restrictions in certain neighborhoods, because not enough change was happening there.  It’s happened several times in the last decade.  And that suited me just fine, ‘cause I like watching those high rises go up.

Like 8 Spruce Street by Frank Gehry.  Though that was a little shocking, I don’t mind telling you.

NYCWTF? OK!

NYCWTF? OK!

Or that big ugly (ugly I don’t mind: if it’s new) Trump condo in East Midtown, that looked like something from that Kubrick movie, 2001.

I'm sorry Dave.....

I’m sorry Dave…..

But then all of a sudden there was another Gehry, this one by High Line Park.

Uh-oh, I kinda missed that one.  And that got me concerned.  I guess it all started when I stopped going to New York so much.  Duh!

High Line Park and wait...what is that?

High Line Park and wait…what is that?

While I’m in the confessional I’ll tell you this.  Bear with me here, it’s kind of embarrassing.

Big Yankees fan that I am, I still haven’t been to a game at the new Yankee Stadium.

Add to that, I haven’t even seen Citi Field or Barclay’s Arena.

Whoa now, I’d better stop before they revoke my membership.  What’s that? Well, OK, just two more.

I went to High Line Park but only after they had just opened the 1st segment!

And the last time I saw the new World Trade Center, it was only about 40 stories high!

I know, I know, I’ll stop. OK, alright.

They closed one of my favorite restaurants, 18 Arhans, and my #1 favorite coffee shop, Ozzie’s.  But I got over it; as I was sure something good would rise up in its place.  And anyways, now I can kvetch about “them taking away all my favorite things,” like New Yorkers always do.  But to be honest I never mean it, because inside I don’t really care.  Because New York itself won’t change, it can’t.  And that’s the important thing.

The character of the City was apparent even back in Dutch Days.  The City was born as a full-fledged adult.  New York is all about the money.  You don’t have to pursue it; you don’t even have to have it.  But you gotta appreciate it.  Do that and you’re in.  It’s that easy.  After that you just can’t take anything personal, no matter what the City throws at you.

New York’s eternal element may not change, but all those buildings, man!  It’s a lot to keep track of for one person, I’ll tell you!

I know I might be coming off as some kind of A.D.D. architecture fan boy but please don’t get me wrong.  I love the historic districts.  History is very important.  Take the Flatiron Building for instance.  That’s my favorite structure in the whole City.  It stands like an unflinching sentinel on 23rd and 5th, even as its sibling buildings all get taller and taller. But can you tell me how many different businesses have been on that pinched ground floor since 1987, way back when I started keeping records?

Yeah, even I can’t.  Because it’s a lot!

HAHA! – even that’s changing!

One time in 1960 a DC-8 crashed into Park Slope.  It clipped the top off a brownstone and most of it hit a butcher shop across Sterling Place.  Weirdly enough, they never put the cornice back on the brownstone.  And the butcher shop near it was never rebuilt; even today it’s still a weird weedy half lot.1960ParkSlopePlaneCrashSterlingPlace-and-7th-Ave

I used to point that out to visitors; I guess I found it kind of disappointing.  ‘Cause that’s what you’d expect in Philly or Cleveland.  But not New York, no sir.

“Put something there already, that’s valuable real estate!”

I guess this sentiment explains why I’m glad that they rebuilt at Ground Zero, and why I’m glad they didn’t put up duplicates of the Twin Towers.  That would have been creepy right?  Like doing “building cloning.”  Instead they’re putting up these buildings that don’t match each other, adding a couple of reflecting pools and even a park.  It’s planning by committee and I for one couldn’t be happier.

Not that I’ve seen it in person, mind you, but don’t tell anyone, they might take away my card.

But, ah, for the good old days, when I was flying JetBlue from SeaTac so often that the owner of 18 Arhans knew me by name and would ask me about the Northwest rain.  When sometimes the subway ads didn’t even have a chance to change from trip to trip.  And every time I’d get out there I’d doff my Eddie Bauer and don a black T shirt, and field “how do I get there” questions from tourists.   I considered myself bi-coastal.

I stayed current and because of that they knew that I was the real deal.  Hey, like they say, if I’m lyin,’ I’m dyin.’

Now I’ll admit to you again, I’m rather worried.  I haven’t been to the City since they’d just resumed construction (visible to me anyway) of the ‘T’ Line, around February of 2010.

2nd Avenue Subway - take the T Train

2nd Avenue Subway – take the T Train

And I won’t be back until May of 2014. I’ve got to walk around and kind of catalogue all the changes.  I sure hope I have enough time.

I also hope I haven’t forgotten anything….. as if!  Ha! Got you!

Because that grid and those boroughs are in my mental hard drive.  Some things never change – because they just can’t.

There’ll be a new mayor with the comfortingly New York sounding name of De Blasio.  De Blasio, it sounds like a sausage fart though doesn’t it?  But he seems like a good guy and the Boroughs should be in good hands.  New York may be a city of independent thinkers but it needs a strong hand.  It always has.

But, c’mon, going from four times a year to now once every four years?  That’s just not right!  I may know Canal Jeans is really gone now and that the High Line will have completed its 3rd and last segment.  And that 1 WTC will be open for business and even the 9/11 Museum, but I’ll tell you this, to a New Yorker, knowing just ain’t the same as doing.   Ask anybody.

That’s why I don’t mind admitting to you a little insecurity.  And that’s why I sure as hell hope somebody asks me how to get down to Spring Street or something.   Only then will I feel better.  Give me a chance to walk the streets.  Only then will I know I will have again retained my credentials.

3 replies
  1. Tom S
    Tom S says:

    Bill, you are more of a New Yorker then I am. I live in a NYC commuter neighborhood, I applied for 2 Jobs in Manhattan today and one of my regular doctor’s offices is in NY….so I have ties there…thin as they may be. Oh, and I was your roommate for part of the time you lived in Brooklyn.

    The last time I was on Highline Park was before it was a park. It was just the abandoned elevated section of the west side line. Yes, I was trespassing.

    You have favorite NYC restaurants? I just eat where ever I am hungry. I like the green kitchen but I don’t get to the east side much.

    Architecture? I’m an architect. I follow the construction of building in NY in trade magazines and web sites, probably the same way you do from Georgia. The last time I was at ground zero it still was referred to as the pit, the Path train just re-opened there and I had to get to the city. But then they opened the NJ transit station in Secaucus so I change trains there and go right to Penn Station. I like 8 Spruce Street but I walked right by it the first time and didn’t even notice….. looks different from the street. Our TV news is a NY station and I watched the trade center tower being built on TV as a background to the weather forecast. How’s that for exciting?

    Citi Field is ugly, Barclays looks promising on TV, never been there. But I see it on the news every now and then if someone gets hit by a car or mugged after a game.

    I do use the subways! I think I have been in a taxi once or twice and don’t really like the bus so the subway is my favorite mode of transportation after walking. I admit I like the lack of graffiti on the inside of the cars…..always thought it was a free paint job on the outside and wondered what the problem was…..

    So I guess you, a Southern Rebel are as much…. or even more of a New Yorker then I am and I live 30 miles as the crow flies from the place

    Reply
    • Bill Hardesty
      Bill Hardesty says:

      Tom, I remember you and Stuart had an almost equal disdain for the City. You being from Monroe NY and he from Bernardsville NJ. I never understood it, but hey, I was just a rube from Miami Beach. Years later I understood it, your origin places were almost pastoral in comparison and the Brooklyn we knew was in its “do or die” phase. It seemed like there was more dying than doing. I really enjoyed reading your response here and I’ll tell you I’m very glad we got back in touch.

      Reply
      • Joe gee garza
        Joe gee garza says:

        HEY BILL I READ YOUR STORY ABOUT ROCK CITY, I WAS DO DAMN EXCITED, I JUST WROTE ALOT OF STUFF ABOIT THOSE ROCK CITY DAY, AND THERE NO WAY YOU DIDNT KNOW ME AND US HOLLYWOOD STONERS, ROCK CITY WAS OUR HEAD QUARTERS THAT WE ALSO SHARED WITH THE LOCAL WHITE FENCE GANG BUT IT WAS MOSTLY US HOLLYWOOD STONERS WHICH I STARTED IN1977 THAT RAN ROCK CITY YOUR STORY WAS COOL MABE SLIGHTLY INACCURATE, AND YOU LEFT OUT MANY EXCITING THINGS NAMELY US HOLLYWOOD STONER CAUSING HAVOK ALL OVER HOLLYWOID AND LA ON OUR BMX BICYCLES BEFORE THE OWNER BIG AL OPENED ROCK CITY HE HAD AN ATCADE ON HOLLYWOOD AND ORANGE CALLED MOTO- RAMA RIGHT ACROSS THE STREET AND NEXT DOOR TO THE CHINESE THEATER IT WAS HUGE POOULAR PLACE WITH US HOLLYWOOD STONEE RULING IT, IT WAS A GREAT PLACE TO MEET SO MANY DIFERENT PEOPLE, BUT WHEN BIG AL OPENED ROCK CITY IT WAS AWESOME AND US HOLLYWOOD STONER INSTANTLY RULED IT, WE HAD MANY CONFRONTATIONS WITH DIFERENT GANGS BUT THE MOST MEMORABLE WAS WITH THE HELLS ANGELS THEY UNDER ESTAMATED US MOST OF US WERE ORPHANS OR MABY ONE PARENT AT HOME SO WE WERE LIKE OUR OWN FAMILY GOING UP AGAINST ALL GANGS IN LA AND MY SELF AND A FEW OTHERS WERE ALSO FROM THE WHITE FENCE LOCAL GANG SO WE HELD ROCK CITY DOWN PRETTY TIGHTLY, SO WHEN WE GOT INTO THAT CONFRENTATION WITH THE HELLS ANGELS WE WERE NOT INTIMIDATED AT ALL INFACT WE WERE YOUNG TEENAGERS AGAINST GROWN MEN BUT WE DIDNT HESITATE TO ATTACK WHILE THEY WERE MOSTLY TRYING TO INTIMIDATE US WITH BIG KNIVE THEY PULLED BUT AFTER THEY TOOL MY BOY STONER HANK DELACRUS HOSTAGE WE TRICK THEM AND TOOK ONE OF THEM HOSTAGE OUR GIRLS ALSO HUNG OUT THERE WITH US AND WE PLAYED EVERTHING THERE BUT SPENT MOST OF OUR TIME HONNING OUR FOOSBALL SKILLS, FOR THE WEEK END TOURNAMENTS, EVERBODY KNEW ME AS STONER JOE, MY BEST FRIEND JOHN VAN EGGER, AND MY SELF STARTED THE HOLLYWOOD STONERS IN 1977 ALONG WITH OTHER FRIENDS JOHN VAN EGGER OASSED AWAY IN 2011 HE ALWAYS USED TO CONVINCE ME THAT WE WERE INVINCIBLE AND I ALMOST BELIEVED HIM TILL HE PASSES AWAY ILL NEVER BE THE SAME WITH OUT HIM BUT SO MANY DAMN GOOD MEMORY’S WITH HIM WE EVEN DIVERINIZED OUR GIRL FRIENDS THE SAME DAY IN MY APARTMENT LOL JOHN AND I WOULD KICK BACK ON HIS WATER BED FOR DAYS JUST PRACTICING OUR GUITAR PLAYING VIGOROUSLY AND EVENTUALLY IGNORING OUR GIRL FRIENDS TO DEATH EVENTUALLY WE HAD ANOTHER CONFRONTATION WITH THE HELLS ANGELS BUT A MUCH FRIENDLYER ONE AS WE INCOOPORATED THEM INTO OUR PLAN TO SNEAK IN A CONCERT AT THE COLOSIUM, BIG AL LATER OPENED ANOTHER ROCK CITY IN NORTH HOLLYWOOD BUT IT ONLY LASTED ONE YEAR BUT THERE WOULDN’T EVER BE NOTHING LIKE ROCK CITY AGAIN, BUT I HAVE MANY INCREDIBLE STORY’S ANY BODY FEEL FREE TO HIT ME UP ON FACE BOOK IM UNDER JOE GEE GARZA , I JUST WANT TO MENTION BEFORE JOHN VAN EGGER PASSED AWAY HE ALWAYS TALKED ABOUT MAKING A MOVIE ABOUT THE HOLLYWOOD STONERS AT ROCK CITY HE FELT LIKE WE WERE CHEATED WHEN THAT DOG TOWN MOVIE CAME OUT BECAUSE WE HAS
        D A COUPLE CONFRONTATIONS WITH THEM AS WELL WHILE CRUISING THROUGH THERE NEIGHBORHOOD THEY SURROUNDED US OUT NUMBERING US AND SAYING THAT A COUPLE OF OUR BIKES BELONGED TO THEM SO WE FOUGHT THEM FOR THE BIKES THAT DID BELONG TO THEM BUT WE WERE CONFIDENT THEY ALSO STOLD THEM AND NEVER GAVE UP NOTHING TO NOBODY AND WE ALWAYS PREVAILED OVER THEM GUYS, OF COURSE WE WERE ALWAYS UP AGAINST BIGGER AND BETTER, LATER ON AFTER THE HOLLYWOOD STONERS SLOWLY FADED AWAY A FEW YEARS LATER I TOOK THE LOCAL HOLLYWOOD YOUNGSTERS UNDER MY WING AND TOGETHER WE STARTED WHAT HAS BECOME ONE OF THE MOST RESPECTED GRAFFITI KREWS OF LOS ANGELS FOUNDED IN HOLLYWOOD AND I ALWAYS KEPT THE STORY’S OF THE HOLLYWOOD STONERS AND ROCK CITY ALIVE PEOPLE THAT KNEW ME AS STONER JOE HAVE BEEN FINDING ON FACE BOOK LATELY AND ARE CONFUSED CSUSE MOST PEOPLE THESE DAYS KNOW ME AS JOE GEE, JOE GEE GARZA ON FACE BOOK THANK YOU FOR THE STORY BILL, IM GLAD IT MEANT ALOT TO YOU AS WELL … PEACE BRO !!!

        Reply

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