What I'm Reading

New York: The City

There are three things, says Joel Kotkin, that make a city great: sacredness of place, security, and commerce. And New York has all three.


When Manhattan Island was colonized by the Dutch in 1625, traders immediately saw the island’s deep harbor and natural pier as ideal for trade. Today thousands engage in a lively consumer marketplace on a daily basis. From a vibrant seaport to the pit at the New York Stock Exchange, New York City is indeed a hub of commerce.


Since the 1990s the crime rate in New York City has dropped significantly and continues to do so. In a recent release from the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services, New York City crime has decreased 39 percent since 2000. The New York metropolitan region also ranks eighth in Forbes’ list of American’s safest cities.


The heart of New York City lies within a mere 23.7 square miles. Squeezing 1.6 million people onto this small space makes land a premium. New Yorkers can’t spread out; they must go up.

In 1895 New York’s first skyscraper was built, followed by the Flatiron Building in 1902 and the Woolworth building in 1913. Since then such skyscrapers as the Empire State Building and the ill-fated World Trade Center have added to the sacredness of the city. Rockefeller Center, Saks Fifth Avenue, Times Square, Central Park, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art each represent part of what New York, New York is. But are these human places and institutions all that make New York sacred?

Traditionally, cities were made sacred by their religious structures, their temples, mosques, and cathedrals. But in these modern times society has turned from established religions to ideological movements – such as postmodernism and nihlism – which glory in the Sony Building and the greatness of man. This focus on the urban experience over core values undermines what makes a city truly great.

Rather, as Kotkin quotes sociologist Robert Ezra Park:

“The city is a state of mind, a body of customs, and of unorganized attitudes and sentiments.”

It is the people and their dreams and values which make a city viable. No city can survive without passion, but a city with spirit can recover from destruction.

And New York, rich with culture and a heritage that many other cities lack, can engender that pride in life which will allow it to prevail.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s