National Geographic's December 2011 issue ran a feature on "The Most Influential Cities" as compiled by management consultancy firm A.T. Kearney on their Global Cities Index. Countries were ranked based on the scores of 5 key areas: business activity, human capital, information exchange, cultural experience, & political engagement. While this ranking is for 2010, I doubt if there's any major shift for 2011 or 2012. The following are in the top 10 out of 65 countries listed (Manila is 51st):
- New York
- Hong Kong
- Los Angeles
|New York is a high-maintenance city|
It's not surprising New York made it to the top. Those parameters are areas in which the Big Apple truly excel. The energy is so infectious, the atmosphere so vibrant. Its urban cacophony may earn malign among visitors but I love living and working here. If I have to move elsewhere in the US, I might just be bored.
For the most part of the week, my day going to work starts with a subway ride. New York's MTA subway system may have its own ills but this is what makes the city's carbon footprint among the lowest in the world. For $104, I get a 30-day unlimited ride on trains and buses. The price may have gone up but at least I don't have to worry about gasoline, car insurance, garage, tolls and road rage.
It takes me an hour to get to work on the No. 7 train from Flushing with a transfer on the F train stopping at the Delancey Street station. From there, I walk ( and I mean a brisk walk a la Manhattan) for a good ten minutes until I reach my work place. Depending on my mood, I vary my route since the city blocks in this area aren't so big, allowing a changing vista each time I walk.
This is where I work. Welcome to Manhattan's Lower East Side (or LES)!
LES is where intrepid visitors weary of the usual sights will see a different side of New York. It's old, gritty but full of character. In the old days, LES was a poorer, working-class neighborhood with a diverse population of European immigrants. Times have changed of course and so did the tide of immigrants, now mostly Latinos and Asians. Tenement buildings still standing which housed the earliest immigrants is what makes LES a unique architectural gem.
|Essex Street Market in Delancey St.|
These days, real estate development is also encroaching, much to the dismay of preservationists. This gentrification - think swanky restaurants and upscale boutiques - is diluting a neighborhood that's been traditionally contented with deli shops and bodegas. 'Mom and Pop stores' have slowly been dying as rentals kept going up while landlords are much too eager for wealthier tenants to settle in.
|Getting a slice of smoked salmon at Russ & Daughters Appetizers|
|The busy counter at Katz Deli - another New York institution|
Despite this ongoing battle between development and preservation, LES manages to retain its unique identity in the city. Zoning matters and land use are always discussed, oftentimes fought, during Community Board meetings in which the public is invited. Everyday, something new comes up in New York City but down here, in the Lower East Side, there's always someone with a loud mouth who dare to say "no".
As my day winds up at work and I walk another ten minutes to catch my train at Delancey Station, I find myself captive once again to the rhythm of the streets, walking as briskly as I can on the sidewalk while gawking at those iconic fire escape ladders. Someone screams profanities from an open window to a neighbor. A passing firetruck wails uncontrollably. Cyclists and yellow cabs fight for road space. The Big Apple, as always, seethes with so much energy no other city can match.
I love LES. I love New York!