I was born in New York, 1992 to be exact. I've been here since, and am readying myself for a journey out, akin to an escape. Many people move to New York to better their lives in some way shape or form. While there's nothing wrong with wanting to move to a better place, a lot of people haven't gotten the memo that New York City isn't the place.
After graduating college in 2013 with an advertising degree, I began to work as a bike courier after a year of interning. I never went to Manhattan often and when we did it always seemed special to get dinner or see a Broadway play 'in the city.' As a child NYC was amazing. I still remember the portobello ravioli I had in a sidewalk cafe in Soho. I remember how hilarious it was to see a transgendered person (no disrecpect to them).
Working in NYC as an adult stripped away all of the cuddly nostalgia and slapped me with the reality of what New York has become. I've grown to really despise everything about New York, as the Alphabet City Gil Scott Heron mural reminds me at times that 'home is where the hatred is.' I've come to realize the many reasons you really shouldn't live here. Especially not in your 20s.
Cost of Living
It's literally stupid. You grow up dreaming of having your own apartment, only to realize you barely even have time to do anything in it. At the time of me reading this the median rent of a one bedroom apartment in NYC is $2,843. If you are supposed to use a weeks pay for your housing, this means you need to make $10K a month to truly live comfortably. OK cool. But that is a $100k job based on the conventional wisdom that you leave college and get a job after. And an entry level position starts at a fraction of that. Seriously, for instance, when I graduated and began looking for jobs, I found that account executives in advertising were taking back around $40k in salary (BEFORE taxes). The new position they created under it Assistant Account Executive pays a mere $33k. I was making the same amount of money as a bike messenger.
I'll tell you now that I know not one person in my peer group of NYC natives that have their OWN apartment. Working delivery in the city I've come to find the only people that are in our age group with apartments are Caucasians, Indians and Asians. Majority of them don't even pay for their rent, their parents bankroll it. For the rest of us, we're relegated to either being in our childhood homes or moving into living situation where we split rent with strangers. This can be beneficial in a sense, meeting people with different stories and backgrounds, but at a certain point you want to walk around naked in your own flat, with the peace of mind of spacious solitude. Oh and those rooms will be still be $700+ depending on if you want to be in the 'hood or not. Writing all of this it amazes me how poorly New York City treats it's homegrown residents. It also brings me to my next point.
For six straight months I had to wear a long sleeve or a jacket. The winters are vengeful, SAD inducing, and make you never want to go outside. Spring came a month and a half late, and to start it's been a sneezefest because of the pollen. Summer is so sweltering and humid, you can't even go to the beach either because the water is so nasty.
NYC has none. If there's not trash spilling off the trashcans, you're dodging streaks of dog shit, or actual dog shit, or vomit, while walking on the sidewalk. Walk in the 59th Street subway and you'll smell something that can't even be described. Walk in 34th, and you'll literally smell human shit. Walk in Chinatown, and you'll see and smell the garbage juice all over the streets Generally New Yorkers are just very unclean. They throw glass on the roads for bikers to get flats, don't clean up after their dogs (I'm looking at you Washington Heights), spill food on the floor and make no effort to clean it, and the list goes on.
Remember those kids I told you about with their own apartments? Yeah, they're not even FROM here. Your roommates too. They come from near and far seeking their piece of the pie, or should I say moldy crumb. I personally have no issue with people wanting to move here, truly, but the gentrification in NYC is ridiculous on all levels. I was born here, took internships and jobs here, only to not be hired because of some fucker who did the same work as me only in California.r Majority of them are white, and come here to do their best rendition of whatever media device brainwashed them into believing New York was some mystic metropolitan wonderland. From the Sex & The City addicts to the Home Alone drones, they all come to New York not to be someone but to 'be apart of it.' By the way I love Frank Sinatra, but that "New York' song has now done more harm than good.
You can be apart of it, no problem, but can you ADD to the it, please? Instead of tearing down public monuments like CBGB and Five Points to put up banks and condos? New York has barely a culture. People really want to believe it still has something, but it's all gone. It's been replaced by mallification. I wonder why? Maybe it's because majority of it's influencing residents are suburbanites, who lack the backbone to say "No, we don't want another fucking Duane Reade here!" Who relish the idea of a Target opening up, because they never realized a mom and pop or five would be sacrificed in the process.
The Middle America immigrants of previous generation see this, but not the Entitled Millennials, who are too lazy to make their own food, let alone buy their own groceries, as mobile apps make it 'trendy' to be useless.
Now in my hometown of Jamaica, Queens, they added a few Starbucks. Jamaica is a predominantly Afro-Caribbean neighborhood, btw. Jamaica Ave. is our hub for retail, and I'm watching it dismantle before my eyes, as Chipotle and Panda Express encroach on Afrikan Amerikan dollars. Soon those same gentrifiers will be eyeing the area because, as many of them soon realize, the rent is too damn high. It's really weird how they don't realize they are the reason the rent continues to skyrocket as well. Greedy, shark-hearted real estate developers look for any and every reason to renovate or replace a building so they can boost their rents, while wages remain stagnant.
The arts culture is a shell of it's former self, naturally as art only strives in environments where artisans can live balanced in respect to work and life. Don't even get me started on music. The music culture in NYC is DEAD. For the past 30 years, yes 30, New York has been at the back of the pack of innovation. Specifically with Hip Hop and R&B. Dude, I grew up listening to Hot 97 and hearing something fresh from a NEW YORKER. Now barely any of the songs are from New Yorkers. Plus, from that standpoint, majority of the artists coming out of NYC are either trying to relive past glories or copy the style of our Southern brothers.
As a developing artist in music, there is also no cultural hubs where you can in, fact display your talent. The most you can find are those parasitic 'open mics' or showcases, which are focused more on promoting themselves and making money off young artists than actually showcasing them. Combine that with the increasing expense of studiotime and the demoralization of competition. Not competition so good it inspires you, but competition so lacking it makes you feel like you don't even want to be mentioned as a 'rapper' or 'singer.' Of course to the truly gifted, this will quickly serve as a reminder of their purpose.
If you want to talk about contemporary art, go to Chelsea and you'll find many galleries, but how many of these artists are actually from NYC, let alone New York State? Hopefully a fraction. This is not to say that there are no contemporary artists trying to make their mark. They just aren't being represented or even acknowledged. It's like being a native New Yorker, everyone else is being shown love but you, by your own people. I feel there isn't even any community here arts wise. Everyone is doing something, but they're all doing it separately. What we have is more of compartmentalized cultures, than a central body. That central body is needed to really make cultural stamps on cities. And now with the advent of the almighty Internet, it seems NYC culture is irrelevant, and not even necessary.
Maybe NYC culture should die and remain dead, to give opportunity to other cities to come up. I love how much Atlanta has grown. Atlanta is also a perfect example of how an artistic community should look like. Whenever yo hear of a new ATL artist, within a few months of their come up they have songs with the more prominent artists. I've noticed this starting with Gucci Mane. Gucci really opens doors for many ATL artists and producers. We don't have a NYC Gucci Mane. NYC hip hop artists are too busy delving into the politics of being artists, and focused on themselves rather than working in unison.
That's why I look back at the 90s and don't want to look forward, and I know many NYC artists feel the same. Writing this, I immediately think about the video when it was Arsenio's birthday and you had 50 artists on stage, just doing a cypher. Or all the videos of the greats together rockin' a crowd. You can't even really throw events in NYC like that without some kind of permit, and if you want to do a party in a venue, you will barely break even. The venue will charge you $5000 plus some bar bullshit, so to run a profitable party you'd need to get 500 people in there for more than $10. And some of the venues can't even hold that much people. So the prices get higher, and with higher prices come the soulless gentrifiers, here to drink your liquor and say all the things they can't say at work.
That brings me to the next point. Because of gentrification and Giuliani's crackdown on clubs, NYC nightlife is so bland I could throw a jar of mayo into the street and people would think it was 'cool.' Dancing seems like a thing of the past here, in a city where people used to go 'dancing' as a form of date. I see more dancing from subway performers and crackheads than in bars and clubs. Even the whole notion of going out to the city is a waste of time. You walk around aimlessly looking for the next place to spend money. Because of all the Middle America kids coming in, nobody even dances, or even have a venue to do so. They just closed down Webster Hall, too.
Going to bars in NYC have to be the most boring display ever, yet these kids love doing it. I literally watch them drunkenly talk over each other about absolute nonsense. I don't even see the point of it. You go to a bar or restaurant, can barely hear your friends speak over an Italian dinner made by Mexicans, pay ridiculous money for it, then leave, go to a bar, run your mouth some more over drinks, get sloppy drunk, vomit on the sidewalk, then go home only to walk up hungover. Tell me how this does not sound grossly unproductive. Even the parties now are the same shit. People just talking over loud music. It's literally retarded. I'm Jamaican, so I'm used to the wild shit, so when I see how these kids party, it's like watching paint dry. In the rain. At least they have time to waste.
Classism = Racism
When you go into Manhattan today, you'll see there is a very high number of young Afrikan men and women working service jobs. Retail, fast food, and as couriers. We'll be all over from Upper East Side all the way down to SoHo. What you don't see is how we are treated. Even by our own. When you deliver food to those Entitled Millennials, the doorman wants you to go through the same entrance where they take out their trash. Their excuse? Because the owner of the building, or complaining tenants say so. Fair enough, but surely they know how classist having people do this is. Or how you'll walk into a place and be immediately judged, because of the previous actions of a person you have no correlation to other than having a similar skin tone. By your own, again. The Uncle Tom doormen, the miserable Shake Shack server, the mentally indoctrinated Mammy Nanny.
As an Afrikan male in NYC, I firmly believe we are the most targeted group by everyone. They could have me believe this wasn't the case, but they couldn't be more of a liar. It dawned on me even more when I read Madison Avenue and The Color Line. Then I read about how less than 2% of the people in Advertising were Afrikan or Latino. It's definitely true too, because whenever I would walk into those ad agencies to drop off a package, majority of the people there were not only white, but were white WOMEN. If I do see a person of color they're the receptionist or the mailroom clerk. Or working in the messenger center. I know two people from high school with jobs in good places, and they're both Mullatto. So yeah, the classism is real, and in places like the Upper East Side, it is just the bedmate of subtle racism.
The Met Gala was last night, and you'll see the pics of all the 'celebrities' in their studded, European garbs (which they pretty much have to wear to get in), parading all over the museum floors more like the exhibits than the curators. The Afrikans that go there are not aware that the Met has a history of housing stolen artifacts. Or that majority of the bourgeois that attend these events look down on them and not at them, exploiting their names to raise money for their own Costume Department, while getting enough press to encourage more tourists to keep going and buy tickets. Meanwhile, in the Just Salad a few blocks away, a group of Afrikans are waiting serve some Europeans the salad they for some reason couldn't make their damn selves, for $5 a delivery. Blaxpoitation on all levels, people.
Immigrants from all over the world arrive here, having not gotten the memo that they're better off in another city like Boston or Philly. Everyone wants to come here, so if everyone wants to come here and find work, what work will there be for them and how much? The rent is already high, so immigrants have to take on low paying jobs, just to barely scrape by and where they live is anyone's guess. Maybe with family, or in furnished basements. They'll take on service jobs, catering to the wealthy, as nannys, cleaning ladies, cooks, janitors, you name it. Did I mention they're actually competing with the people who were born here as well? Like I said it's on all levels. In NYC all you're doing is fighting people for a place of serfdom while those of wealth remain there to exploit it. They have the luxury of knowing they can hire some migrant workers, some undocumented, for less than they are worth, and if that person makes a fuss about their pay, fire them and bring in the next desperate migrant worker. It's truly a revolving door of classism.
As I previously mentioned, Afrikan and Latino males are the most targeted group in this city. If you are here, you know this to be true and you've seen the statistics that show it. 86% of arrests made for low level drug offences are Afrikan and Latino. Not only is this the case but the number of NYPD officers compared to LAPD is 4:1 with the NYPD having 40,000 employees. I don't need to show you to realize the per capita disparity here, Tack on the sneakily increasing number of security cameras the NYPD is placing on street lights. Oh and the blatant corruption I see from officers on a daily basis.
A cop will be on their phone while driving, or park their squad car on the sidewalk or bikelane, drive on the opposite side of the road, run red lights in a non emergency, and even plant drugs on innocent people, only to get a slap on the wrist for it, at most. They'll see you do similar and be quick to give you a ticket for it, except of course for the planting evidence part, that's exclusive to them. When one person is arrested, you'll see seven cops surrounding him. When you walk around Times Square (not willingly) or any area of Manhattan of popularity, you'll see a group of cops brandishing assault rifles, with 5 magazines on their stomach, that of course we, the taxpayers paid for. They'll say the cameras and machine guns are for our safety but is it really? The last 'terror' attack to happen in NYC happened with a truck, before then someone planted a bomb, and before that they flew planes into buildings. So how exactly does that stop anything? It doesn't. It's only acquired to incite fear into the people and keep them docile.
There's also arrest quotas cops need to fill. Seriously, the NYPD has to arrest a certain amount of people. Why? Probably to fulfill their role in the prison industrial complex. It's insane. So if people were just living in peace, cops would begin making up BS to arrest you for just to fill that quota. Same for ticketing, since when I was a bike messenger, we would get alerts of ticket blitzes, where cops would go on a ticketing spree, like this is Supermarket Sweep on the streets. Thankfully, it's coming to an end.
This doesn't stray away from the fact NYC is becoming a police state. It feels like the precursor to Escape From New York.
I took a 2 month break from Manhattan, and it was amazing. I went back and rather than wallowing in the steaming misery everyone else eminates, I took a step back and analyzed things. Working in NYC the past 4 years made me realize not much has changed except for retail corporations building up new branches. NYC is like a hamster wheel. Makes sense why Basquiat went by Samo, because that's what it really is. The same old bullshit every year, just a little less appealing. People will keep coming to NYC unless (or until) something catastrophic happens. They'll continue to play their role as the pawns of a neo-Babylonian police state designed to strip them of every essence of hope.
They'll pack the rapidly declining subway system, not realizing the subway system will never improve if they keep riding it, not allowing any downtime for it to be improved. The same drunk kids will scream random things on the streets, filling bars with their dull conversations and personalities. The same immigrants will come here seeking a better life, only to realize life may have been better back home. It won't stop. And that's fine with me because the most important lesson I learned is: Fuck NYC. Life on Earth is so vast and beautiful, why would I want to continue to spend it in an overpopulated, dirty, expensive island filled with miserable people? Rant over.