So nostalgia is pretty much everywhere these days. And maybe it’s been like that forever? Maybe there have always been really public displays of sentimentality and maybe people have always been incredibly navel-gazey about their own experiences in a certain place at a certain time? Ha. There’s no maybe about it. Of course nostalgia has always been here. But there’s a certain type of nostalgic recollection that’s been making the Internet rounds lately, and while at first glance it seems familiar—it’s nostalgia for the New York that used to be, which, yeah, everyone’s done something like that—it’s actually interesting because it’s nostalgia for the New York of just a few years ago, the New York of 2007 to be exact. Yeah, that’s right, 2007…before anyone had ever heard of Brooklyn, back when Bloomberg was only in his second term, that long ago time when Pianos was only sort of over, not really, really over. 2007, man. What a year.
So, I don’t know. Maybe it’s because I’m old and have lived in New York since before 2007, but this article from Brokelyn (“While Brooklyn Booms I’m Going Down With the Manhattan Ship”) really drove me crazy. This essay, by a self-proclaimed “Chelsea girl,” is sort of about how the author refuses to move to Brooklyn, because when she came to New York in 2007, with visions of the cast of Rent (she doesn’t say it, but I’m assuming she means the Roasario Dawson movie) dancing in her head, everything cool in New York—like Magnolia Bakery and Central Park—was in Manhattan. But fast forward six years later, and all the cool places (like Roberta’s) are in Brooklyn! And so she asks, “What is a poor Chelsea girl to do?” How can she leave Manhattan? How can she leave the island where she got her belly button pierced? How can she leave the borough where she knows all the best bikini waxers? How can she have a zip code that starts with “11” instead of “10”? Why is life so hard in 2013, when it was so easy and perfect in the golden days of 2007? WHY?
Well, first off, it’s kind of telling that this writer uses zip codes instead of area codes as the signifier of a true Manhattanite. She’s probably never even met anyone with a 212. But also, this essay feels so off because even the things she references as being cool New York things, were kind of
on their way out totally uncool by 2007 anyway. I mean, Rent? I’m going to date myself here, but well, I had friends who stood for hours on line for $20 tickets way back in 1997. 2007 was way past its heyday. After all, Rent closed on Broadway in 2008 after a ten year run, during which time it had become an institution, sure, but it wasn’t exactly cool anymore. She might as well have referenced The Lion King as a play that inspired her. And Magnolia Bakery? Sex and the City ended in 2004! Sure, tourists still haven’t gotten the memo that Magnolia’s cupcakes aren’t that good (the banana pudding on the other hand, christ, yes), but by 2007, everyone in New York pretty much knew to avoid that corner of Bleecker. But I mean, ok. So this woman is more than happy with her fire escape view of New Jersey and thinks that everyone who lives in Brooklyn is jealous of it. Which, fine. I’m cool with that, I’m just confused as to how anyone is so obtuse as to believe that 2007 was the heyday of Manhattan, or New York in general.
In contrast to the Brokelyn post, there was another personal essay about New York that also revolved around the year 2007. Which, god. Now I’m trying desperately to remember what the hell I was doing in 2007. I barely remember it at all. 2008 on the other hand, now that was a fucking year. Man, I was into that year. Anyway! In a piece titled, “Priced Out of New York,” Cari Luna writes about making the difficult decision to leave the city of her birth (though, naturally, she was raised in New Jersey) because she and her husband realized in 2007, looking around at their Brooklyn environs that “in Park Slope, parents had camped out overnight to secure spots for their children in the pre-K program they were zoned for. The schools in our Brooklyn neighborhood of Prospect Lefferts Garden were failing. We heard gunshots every night. (Shouldn’t failing schools and gunshots come with affordable housing, like in the old days?) What exactly were we struggling to hold on to?” So, basically—and in what would be a huge surprise to the Brokelyn writer—while Manhattan was just getting started back in 2007, Brooklyn was already over. I’m so confused! What is going on exactly? And if Brooklyn was that bad in 2007, with shootings and failing schools and overwhelmed Pre-K classes, then how can anyone possibly live here now? Is all of New York just dead and over? Except maybe Staten Island which I’m still not convinced is even a real place at all?
Short answer, no. 2007 was just a year. Maybe it was a significant year to both of these writers because, for one, it was the year she came to New York, and for the other, it was the year that she left. And, yes, actually 2007 was kind of a significant year in that it was the year before the huge-ass recession that we have all been struggling through ever since. But it also wasn’t particularly special in that it was just another year in the ever-shifting, dynamic city that is New York, where what is deemed “over” by some people, will still seem fresh to so many more. New York wasn’t any better or worse in 2007, or in 2004, or in 2010. It was just different. It’s always been difficult and thrilling to live here for myriad reasons, and so it’s easy to sentimentalize the past. But it’s wrong and weird to sentimentalize the really recent past, because there’s no real perspective, and only room for navel-gazing. Besides, everyone knows that the real best year in New York City was 1998. Oh, man, was 1998 ever good. That was the year Sex and the City started, so you know it was legit cool. In conclusion, let’s never talk about 2007 again? Ok? Ok. Thanks.
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