Friday, November 2, 2012

New York City stands up to everything

This week I keep thinking of The City's End, a book by my old high school classmate Max Page, now a professor of architecture and history at UMass/Amherst. Most simply, it's a review of the many awful things people have imagined happening to New York City. Deeper down, it's an urbanist valentine to the resilience of the place -- one of the world's great hero cities -- and an appreciation of its less appreciated virtues.

Basically, Max finds that non-urban theorizers project the fears of their time onto New York, and they choose it as a canvas for the logical extremes of anti-urban prejudices that often - not always - have to do with the urban achievements of tolerance for difference and risk and change. Strange that, in truth, tolerance and adaptability are what best prepare a dense city for adversity.

I've posted here once before about Max's book, amid other thoughts I had on urban change that seem a little muddled on rereading (sorry).

It seems worth quoting for a second time this phrase that Max borrowed from Colson Whitehead's Colossus of New York: "No matter how long you have been here... you are a New Yorker the first time you say, That used to be Munsey's, or That used to be the Tic Toc Lounge.... You are a New Yorker when what was there before is more real and solid than what is here now."

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