Growing up in New York, Manhattan has always held an ineffable mystique to me; propped up by the bourgeois societals, limitless culture and a Hollywood love affair. Coming into the “city” I would wax poetically about the grandiose air of the people and the pretense of their demeanor. Back then, when the economy was bristling with endless wealth, we romanticized the affluent in hopes that we will someday enjoy the fruits of our own labors. We chased the reservation of the most highly touted restaurants and accepted the fate of an over judgmental waiter as he scoffed at our attire. It was all part of the experience; a submission to abuse that made us feel ever more alive.
Times have certainly changed. The endless luster of the Manhattanite has become pocked and pallid under a reeling economy. The youth have seceded from the shores of the island for more practical grounds and with it they took the fresh-faced culture of the millennials. Culinary and cultural hotbeds have moved east across the bridges and tunnels, settling in neighborhoods removed from Wall Street, but close enough to peer proudly at its monolithic spires.
I have just recently ventured down to the East Village, where my good friend lives in one of the last great youth enclaves on the island; StuyTown. Hitting the bar scene, I quickly realized how antiquated and flaccid the neighborhood has become over the years. It is teeming with Greek life, popped collars and cookie-cutter character; they pour from one dimly lit establishment to the next with the confidence of a wrecking ball. The bars themselves seem to rely on the ideal of a time capsule, still grasping onto the brighter pasture of an earlier era when the Village was Mecca and the patrons were the trendsetters.
While on the other side of the river, a burgeoning community of artists, denizens, throwaways and professionals twill and grow neighborhoods into lively, cultural bastions. From Astoria, Queens to Prospect Park, Brooklyn people are building alternative economies away from the once great Manhattan streets.
This is the generation raised by the comforting hum of Wall Street but came of age when the system broke down. Lost and confused, the youth have decided not to chase the dreams of their fathers, but to create their own. The silver spoons have been removed, the golden parachutes have been clipped and now all they have is each other. The American appeal for excess and gaud is dead and in its place a new aesthetic is being born. Success, by American design and standard has changed; Gucci and gold have become less a statement of class and more a symbol of the old flawed blueprint.