And that’s coming from someone who lives on a main road. NY is noisier than Hong Kong or London or Paris, three major world cities I’ve frequently visited.
So, I’m not sure I like NY very much. There’s no place for quiet. There’s a song by Adam Gwon called “Calm” which explains the frenetic nature of NY very well.
It’s not that NY has lots of people – it does, but so does Paris and London and HK. In fact I’ve stayed in Mong Kok in Kowloon, apparently the most densely populated area on Earth. I don’t mind people. But NY is just so much noisier than these other cities and I’m not sure how I feel about it. And it’s not the people, either. They’re perfectly normal. (Except the tourists from middle America, weirdly, who are noisy and have really loud, rather ugly voices.) It’s the noise of the traffic, the subterranean subway rumbles, the overbearing use of music everywhere. The blaring. All combining to make the city a noisy, loud, seemingly frenetic place. But it’s the noise, nothing else.
It’s also an interior city. For me, coming from Antipodean Australia with its outdoor cafes and laid back lifestyle, all the interior spaces of NY were again – well – noisy. Nowhere to be quiet. Except at 8.00am on a Sunday morning. Or the Highline. Or down at South St, Seaport, where there are lovely open spaces and fewer highrises, and, bluntly, fewer people.
That being said, NY is very beautiful, and I loved Central Park, the Highline, the Guggenheim, MOMA, the Empire State Building at night, the Rockefeller Center. Broadway, oh my! Broadway. And the subway. OMG what a fabulous subway. I love the subway. I love the frequency of trains, the friendly people (yes, strange hey, that people on the subway can be friendly?), and Grand Central Station.
There are overrated places where the collective imagination and valorising of such spaces render the visitor rather disappointed with the reality. Soho and Greenwich village are two such places. The thing about Soho and the Village is not that they are different from other spaces in other world cities (think Soho in both London and HK), but that the architecture is such a relief from the high rise of the Midtown. And of course it was in Soho and the Village that dangerous creativity and ideas and social activism and social conscience and difference were and continue to be most celebrated. I think I expected more from this area and I was disappointed not to find an open square or meeting place – Washington Square too cold and wet this trip – I had foolishly expected a gathering place such as found in villages of old. Not to be, here. Manhattan is characterised by a grid of roads. There is nowhere really to escape the roads.
I’m looking forward to going back again, though. Manhattan/NYC is a fascinating place. I’ve not yet even scratched the surface, and I suspect travelling with more people or at least meeting up with Manhattanites who live in the city might make my future experiences richer and more evocative than the rushed tourist version I experienced last week.
p.s. We really liked Seattle.