Where I Work

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):
  1. New York
  2. London
  3. Tokyo
  4. Paris
  5. Hong Kong
  6. Chicago 
  7. Los Angeles 
  8. Singapore
  9. Sydney
  10. Seoul                                                          
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.

Deli everywhere
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!


  1. i love this kind of environment. i love the urban jungle as a workplace as much as i love the jungle and the beaches.

    i like cycling. that means i like places that has bike lanes.

    it's the last day of the year so cheers to more years of great travel features!

  2. i do love the fact that the subway is pretty affordable. although i loved my brief stay in nyc i don't think i have the stuff that locals are made of to deal with all the "chaos" of living in a vibrant city. plus, i love my car too much (kidding).

    have a wonderful and safe new year's celebration. cheers!

    thanks for all the wonderful posts this year. i had to re-read your posts on costa rica prior to my visit.

  3. You made me remember this on-going debate between my sister and I. My sister lives in NYC, she lives in Inwood, all the way at the end of the A train. And she loves the city like you do.

    I on the other hand, have what I call a love-hate relationship with the city. I do agree that it is great to be in a big city like NYC: I can think of several points in which NYC is way better than Buffalo, for instance.

    However, I still think that it is too big, and with size, comes a few problems. There's too many people, whenever I walk its streets, I look up the skyscrapers and feel like an ant. There's too many buskers in the metro that I cannot enjoy peace and quiet as I go from one place to another.

    At the same time, the diversity is just amazing, both in people and produce, that I can go to Chinatown and get raw papaya for my tinola.

    I dunno, I think I prefer mid-sized cities to one that's the size of NYC. So far, Toronto, Boston, and Washington DC come to mind. A city with a metro area population of about 5 million people, personally, that's easier to manage for me.

    That being said, I still find myself looking forward to NYC whenever I am scheduled to visit it. And speaking of which, I should ask you and see if you're open for lunch/brunch/dinner the next time I'm there. :)

  4. Thanks for sharing this side. :) Have a happy(ier) new year and I wish you more inspiring travels in the coming months.

  5. dong ho,
    The biking community in New York is getting bigger just as dedicated lanes have been added on the streets. One can even circumnavigate Manhattan on a bike now!

    Photo Cache,
    I pretty much see the "chaos" of a big city as convenience for me. First off, as you've already pointed out, there's a 24/7 subway. Not to mention all the restaurants, shops, cultural institutions, etc that are not so far from each other.

    Ambivalence in any big urban area is something I hear also from locals - whether that's Manila, Cairo, Tokyo. And that feeling applies to me too. Yes, there are ills and blessings in this city of 8 million souls but I've come to appreciate what makes the city as it is. While this is certainly not for everyone, I realized that living in a big city like New York can ultimately be an advantage for me.
    As for an eyeball, yes, just shoot me an-email.

    Happy new year too! Would love to visit the UAE again - now that I've "seen" Bhurj Al Khalifa thanks to "Mission Impossible" :)

  6. It is so liberating when you can go to work without driving your own car! Have a great New Year and keep on traveling.

  7. Wonderful photos! They really show the everyday-ness of life in new york.

    It's nice to know that there are communities still that value the mom and pop shops that truly represent them. I wish we had more of those types of communities here in the Philippines.

  8. you are so blessed, dennis for having the best work and living environment. can you adopt me, tina and gabby? we could be your friendliest travel companions, haha!

    here's hoping to a better health, success and all your endeavors and more fantastic travels and wonderful adventures this 2012 and beyond!


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