A few observations after a four month absence, all perhaps merely the result of spending most of four months in car-centered US exurbia.
- Parallel parking is a necessary skill here. I don't think I had to do it more an a couple of times driving across the country. It comes back quickly, but the unfamiliarity helps me understand how foreign most of our fellow citizens find any city.
- My partner says the streets feel more densely crowded than when we left. That makes sense if poorer people hit with rising rents are crowding into smaller rental units.
- Venturing into one of the city's more squalid blocks to snap photos, I thought the street scene seemed a bit more painful than usual.
In the 1970s and 80s, we called this kind of development -- expensive, antiseptic, homogenized -- "Manhattanization." Having spent some time recently on the Upper West Side, I think we were right then and we can see where this goes. Sure, that neighborhood still has pockets of middle-income people and business hanging on, but chain retailers have crowded out most old-time stores on Broadway. Want to shop somewhere "different"? There are still plenty of gourmet foods outlets, but Trader Joe's and Whole Foods are working to reduce their number. Even New York, that most "urban" of US cities, is losing diversity to corporate culture. Jane Jacobs spelled out the consequences two decades ago.