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Western Civilization’s Last Stop
Manhattan is western civilization’s last stop,” says architect and thinker rem koolhaas in his book, “delirious New York”.
And it’s true that you won’t find the cultural, religious, linguistic and racial diversity of new york, or the unique way of life it engenders, in any other city in the world.
New York is a city in which some 170 different languages are spoken, a city in which one out of every three people was born outside the U.S. It is definitely no American city, but an international city, capital of the world even. Those who make New York what it is are the ones who have come here from elsewhere, making this one of the world’s rare cities where you can walk around without feeling at all like a tourist. Whether you come from within the U.S. or from another part of the world, you’re going to feel like a New Yorker the minute you set foot in the city.
At the same time, the best way to get a taste of this city is to go as a visitor since New York quickly captivates those who live there and makes them its subjects. But one visit to this world capital will not suffice. If you want to follow what’s happening in the world you have to visit at intervals since everything is changing so fast.
A quintessential trait of New Yorkers is that they are never surprised at anything they see in this city but maintain their equilibrium in the face of everything - a New York attitude to which celebrities owe the ease with which they can move around here without the protection of bodyguards. Anything can happen at any moment in this city, and completely change your life. At any rate, most people who come to New York are here because they are hoping for a miracle.
New York is the world’s fastest changing city in every respect. Not only the restaurants, clubs, buildings, shops, but even the neighborhoods are in a flux here. A 1970’s project in which artists converted old factories and warehouses into galleries and studios, Soho in the 2000’s has undergone another yet change. Posh hotels and restaurants and giant brand names like Prada, Chanel and Bloomingdales have elbowed out the galleries, and luxury lofts going for astronomical prices have replaced the bohemian venues where artists once lived and worked. The meatpacking district, where you would have hesitated to set foot even in daytime in the early nineties, is the ‘coolest’, most expensive and most fashionable neighborhood today. And a race to purchase homes is under way in the once feared district of Harlem. Meanwhile Brooklyn, formerly the province of those who found Manhattan rents too high, is the new choice of those who have either had to relocate their studios following Soho’s brand name takeover, or simply prefer a quieter way of life. Residences with a view of the Manhattan skyline are rapidly going up along the East River, and Manhattanites are starting to flock to Brooklyn for gourmet food and offbeat fashions.
The street dividing Soho from the Lower East Side and a district boasting nothing but shops selling restaurant equipment where you would not have dared to venture even by day in the eighties and nineties, the Bowery today has undergone a rapid transformation with the opening here of the ‘New Museum’. A raft of new shops and restaurants have followed the Bowery Hotel and the galleries that have started to spring up around the area. And new housing projects in which every flat goes for millions of dollars are going up in the vicinity even as I write.
And how quickly the Broadway and 30th Street area, a rival to Istanbul’s Mahmutpaşa, has changed and developed with the opening of the controversial Ace Hotel and its many restaurants and boutiques.
New York is acquitting itself well in all these renewal projects. Only function changes in a good restoration in which the old tastes remain unless something better can be put in their place. What’s more, all this is being done not under pressure from above but by popular choice.
The High Line, a former 10 meter-high elevated freight rail line built in the 1930’s and running along the city’s West Side, was redesigned at the end of 2009 and reopened as a green area. With its view and the continuous bustle that surrounds it, it is Manhattan’s most modern park today.
With virtually no contemporary buildings up to that time, New York has seen a major architectural transformation since 2001 when the world’s leading architects entered the competition for the reconstruction of the World Trade Center and residents began taking a close interest in contemporary architecture.
Viewed in terms of the total age of its buildings, New York, especially Manhattan, is an even older city than Istanbul. Manhattan is an interesting place architecturally too. Outside of a few iconic buildings like the Chrysler and the Empire State that went up at the beginning of the 1900’s, it has different kind of beauty forged by a whole slew of buildings that might even be regarded as homely.
Did you know that New Yorkers take classes to learn more about the museums, which possess a wealthy collection ranging from modern art to natural history? It’s not hard at all to visit the museums. Using the subway system stretched all across New York, one can easily visit museums and other places.
The Brooklyn Bridge, one of New York’s symbolic structures, is one of the world’s oldest suspension bridges. It took longer than ten years to build the bridge, which opened in 1883. The surroundings of the bridge, which turns into a sea of lights at nighttime, are a constantly changing habitat.
The American classics like steak, hamburgers and
pizza in all their varieties
have also found a place on
New York’s gourmet
menus in recent years.
Go to Fifth Avenue and Soho for the big department stores, to the East and West Village and the Meatpacking district for the small.
The organic market set up every Saturday morning at Union Square is the city’s largest. It is worth seeing this market where farmers, fishermen and florists from the New York and Long Island area peddle their wares.
In addition to international hotel chains to budget, a number of smaller boutique hotels have in New York.
Chelsea with is former warehouses and art studios near the Hudson River form the gallery district today. In addition, there are interesting exhibitions that are worth visiting at the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA), the Cooper Hewitt Museum of National Design and the New Museum, as well as the Metropolitan and the Whitney with its collection of American artists’ works.
And a new one has just been added to the long-running shows like Phantom of the Opera, Chicago, and West Side Story. Director Petro Almadovar’s ‘Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown’ can be seen at the Belasco Theatre.
Just as you can eat Italian in Little Italy and Chinese and Far Eastern fare in Chinatown, you can also get a signature New York hot dog at any ordinary stand on the street.
The Metropolitan Museum currently has an exhibition by the celebrated photographer Alfred Stieglitz and his contemporaries. The exhibition, which specially features New York landscapes shot by Stieglitz, is on until April 10.
If you are interested in human stories and the changes New York has undergone since its original founding as a Dutch colony by the name of New Amsterdam, then add Martin Scorcese’s films to your list.
NİHAT ODABAŞI / PHOTOGRAPHER
New York is a city that makes me feel reborn. The synergy generated in this city where creative people from all over the world gather gives a person the feeling that he too can dream, invent, create and savor the pleasure. Just knowing that New York is smack-dab in the heart of life gets the adrenaline flowing. New York, a city for all seasons.