I ran across an article in The New York Times about when Battery Park wasn’t a city but an urban beach on the Hudson, and the memories came flooding in. Not of the neighborhood, this was before my time, I moved to New York in 1993. No, I was reminded of images from a few Fellini movies that evoked the same bleak seaside look, replete with quirky characters, all done in black and white. Actually, when I really reflected back, it didn’t remind me of actors and landscapes from a Fellini film after all, but Woody Allen’s spoof of the master with his movie Stardust Memories.
The article featured photographs with people hanging out on a landfill beach with the World Trade Center looming larger than life in the background. Found objects became a cave made of junk, a young artist planted a field of wheat. I remember the first summer I moved to New York City from Miami. Too poor to get out of town, I’d walk the deserted white-hot streets in my thrift store slips trying to get a sense of the place. New York always felt a little haunted in summer. But I loved poking around vintage shops or stores that sold industrial kitchen supplies for fun little finds. I’d pass Odeon longingly, wishing I could pop into the AC for dinner, and once crashed a wedding on a rooftop in Tribeca. Studio 54 was gone, but the memory lived on in restaurants like Indochine where I could afford a drink.
Here’s the thing, New York trades in nostalgia, and that has been very good for business.
Fashion companies, restaurant chains, musicians, advertising agencies - and the list goes on - have all leveraged New York’s nostalgic through-line to their advantage. It’s kind of like New York is a person not a place. They’ve been places, seen things. They know better. Here’s to you, New York, may you inspire generations to come.