The Rapid Change of NY

I went for a walk with my friend on the Lower East Side on Saturday night and we felt like someone had transported us to another city. We didn’t know where we were or what had happened. I didn’t recognize the neighborhood at all. I had spent a lot of time there over three years ago. I knew those streets, and yet suddenly I didn’t know anything. We were looking at each other and laughing, constantly surprised. Everything is new there!

When a neighborhood changes that rapidly, it can mean only one thing – a new level of money and higher rents. One of the clear (and pretty funny) signs that there are different people living in a neighborhood now is the sudden appearance of…an Equinox gym (an exclusive gym chain in NY, for which membership starts at $180). When I saw an Equinox there, I immediately thought, “Ok, now I know everything.”

The Lower East Side (LES) used to be a neighborhood of artists, writers, journalists and designers who make a decent living, but are not necessarily rich. Now, I have no idea who lives there. The change started over three years ago, when new buildings started popping up and small, independent stores started closing down. Today, the neighborhood is completely different. 

It’s not only happening on the LES, though. It’s everywhere in NY. I walk and explore NY a lot (definitely more than 95% of New Yorkers) and I’ve noticed something recently – if I don’t visit a neighborhood for 3-4 months, I won’t recognize it when I come back. That’s the reality of NY. NY has always been “a city that is constantly building,” but I feel that now the change is happening much more rapidly. And it’s all about money. The residents just have more of it now. Not those who have been living in that neighborhood, but the new ones, who are often young kids whose parents can afford that lifestyle. And it ain’t cheap, honey! The landlords realize this, raise rents and more people with money move in. And they are accustomed to having more luxury items handy, so new and expensive places start popping up. A neighborhood that didn’t mean anything a few years ago is now glowing (like the LES). It’s interesting, but it’s also scary because NY was never cheap and now it’s getting ridiculously expensive. We work just to pay our rent. Even moving out of Manhattan doesn’t really help anymore, because Brooklyn is equally expensive. Queens will probably join this category soon as well. I’m just afraid that we will have to make a lot of money here, not just to enjoy the city, but to even have a roof above our heads. The only solution to that problem is to work even more as if we haven’t spent most of our time working already.