This summer, Time Out NY has thrice (thrice!) gotten me to buy it with an interesting looking cover story. The first promised "Food Getaways." Now, when I think "Getaway," I think short, easy (e.g., "Go to Philly, and hit these ten spots over a weekend to become a cheese steak connoisseur."). They were, instead, offering advice on full-fledged vacations (e.g, "Fly to North Carolina, rent a car, drive two hundred miles to a strip of restaurants that's BBQ Heaven."). Since, I'm not sure if getaway really has the connotation of being quick and easy, I let it slide. Then, I bought an issue that promised interesting "staycations" in New York City. Y'know when I should have known that it was not going to be great? When it had the word "staycations" on the cover. Anyway, most of the "staycations" were kind of hectic and jam-packed (one would do a lot of subway riding) and fairly expensive...and kind of lame.
Last week's issue's cover says: "Why didn't we think of that?! How to make New York better by stealing the best ideas from other cities." I looked up, read that, and thought, "Hey, that's interesting." And I bought it. And most of the ideas are kind of bad. Or at least not needed. So, I'll provide a rebuttal for their top five bad ideas.
1. Downtown Minneapolis has tubes connecting buildings, so pedestrians stay warm in the winter.
Bad idea because: Minneapolis has a population of less than 400,000, and it has a longer, harsher winter. In other words: suck it up. The cost of building sky tubes to accomodate the millions of people in Midtown Manhattan including commuters and tourists for a (relatively) mild winter seems like it would be gigantic. Also: have you been to Yankee Stadium and walked through the tube that connects the parking lot? That shit is ugly.
2. We need something like London's Hyde Park, where people can stand on a soapbox and make fools of themselves.
Bad idea because: If you want to exercise free speech in NYC, make like the Black Israelites or Moondog and find a busy intersection. We don't need a publicly sanctioned, tourist-ridden spot to do it.
3. Herring is a popular snack in the Netherlands. We need herring as a snack food in New York City.
Bad idea because: You looked around NYC and decided that what it needs is herring? What? What! Herring? Fah!
4. Paris closes down an important road, fills it with sand on the Seine, and creates a beach. We should do that on the FDR.
Bad idea because: Maybe not a bad idea, just a really, really unnecessary one. Paris is landlocked. It's like 3 hours from the ocean (according to google maps). New York is not. Coney Island. Rockaway Beach. Orchard Beach. Knock yourself out. Wait: the French do this in August. Aren't the French famous for taking the month of August off? Meaning, wouldn't traffic be a million times worse in NYC, because not everyone is on vacation. I change my vote: bad idea. Bad idea.
5. We need a Waffle House!
Bad idea because: Don't you want to at least pretend that New York is special? That it's an individual place? You're suggesting that what New York needs is the regional chain that you visited when you were hungover in college? C'mon! Go to a diner or a coffeeshop.
This leads me to my real problem with the article. I'm not one of those "New York ain't New York if it ain't dirty" people, but New York is not just the sum of its parts. It has a character, and the people who wrote the article, in several places, just didn't account for that. This is worrying, because they, working for a publication that covers New York, should be best informed as to what makes New York special, and how it can be improved. Look at it like the Galapagos: New York evolved diners and coffee shops to fill the same evolutionary niche the Waffle House does in the South. Enjoy them. If you want to kill off all the finches by importing competitors, go for it, you heartless wretch. I don't.