For me, one characteristic that endeared me to New York City is the mix of old with new and developing. When we left rural Northwestern Arkansas for 10 months in the Big Apple, I was prepared for concrete. I was not prepared for history. But it was there, everywhere, in every way the fabric of the city. Preserved by markers sprinkled between modern, cosmopolitan infrastructure were vestiges predating the country.
In Lower Manhattan, dwarfed by skyscrapers, is Fraunces Tavern where colonists drank. Just a short walk from there is Battery Park. Across the river, the British landed with their full weight in its first attack since Boston. The Old Stone House, recreated, remains in Brooklyn where colonists fled the Red Coats.
The two islands you see just off Battery Park are Ellis and Liberty Islands. Between 1892 and 1954, 12 million immigrants arrived there in poverty and trepidation. And iconic of NYC, the Empire State Building shares the skyline with the One World Tower. One’s a century-old landmark of fictitious catastrophe in American black-and-white cinema: King Kong. The other a real-life catastrophe on live television in my recent past: 9/11.
When I used to think of New York City, I thought of busy, chic, technological, and modern. Without a doubt, that is true. But that’s only the shallowest surface of NYC. If I’d seen only this, I’d really have missed the more interesting depth. I think it may be easier to dismiss if that’s all you think of it. Here’s what makes it so relevant and representative of America. NYC is not just Ralph Lauren and iPhones between Trump towers. It’s also the whole of the American experience from Native America through to now.