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Twisted Glass Buildings and Plant-lined Bike Paths

August 21, 2008

For some of us, the 90’s were just yesterday. Perhaps we still want them today, for NYC no longer resembles those character-rich days. 42nd Street had not yet been infected with Disney; the lower West Side was riddled with shanty towns on abandoned piers; mob bosses threw lavish street parties in Little Italy; ostentatious “club kids” speaking in the first-person were common, and they frequented clubs run by a man with a patch over one eye.

Tompkin’s Square park was a city of homeless, and unless you were a heavy drug user, Ave B was the boundary of the East Side.

I saw a good, old-fashioned stick-ball game in Chelsea in those days. It might have been the last one there, for all I know. The street was closed off, and the local community, composed of a blood-aproned butcher, a burly bar owner and others, called “The Mutts”, hosted this particular game.

Things are much different now. The city is antiseptic. The “club kids” have been replaced with manicured upstarts. Twisted glass buildings erase the historic city of old on the West Side. Polished plate-glass windowed restaurants replace the bullet-holed ones used by squatters in the East Village. Little Italy is much littler, if it’s even there at all any more. And plant-lined bike paths replace the prostitutes that once stood there around 42nd Street.

All of these changes are inevitable, and possibly even necessary. But what is the cost paid in character? Certainly, character still exists in NYC, and it always will. But take note and treasure it, because what is now will soon be gone tomorrow.

Plant-lined bike paths replace the seedy 42nd St character of yesteryear.

Plant-lined bike paths replace the seedy 42nd St character of yesteryear.

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