New York City

I Can't Quit New York

How will residents of the City That Never Sleeps recover from being sentenced to their own apartments?


Friday afternoon, strolling down Smith Street in the brownstone neighborhood of Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, I encountered a sight that made my heart leap with joy: Seven bars on a single small block, doors and windows flung open to the world, some for the first time this whole wretched spring.

"When did this open?" I asked one ecstatic-looking gal standing firmly inside the local institution Bar Great Harry. "Right now!" she blurted.

It's hard to pin your finger on the precise allure of New York and other major cities, but the right now is definitely up there. I can, right now, still walk to a handful of terrific butcher shops, bakeries, patisseries, coffee roasters, and craft breweries. (The organized looting brigades, thank goodness, haven't targeted these mom-and-pops, preferring the chain stores one mile away.)

The attraction of right now is also an inversion of the famous H.L. Mencken crack about Puritans: It's the pleasure of knowing that someone, somewhere nearby, may be experiencing happiness. Commerce—and not just the bar/café/restaurant kind enjoyed by the yutes—is most of the time a mutually gratifying exchange: I give Mr. Martinez the money he wants, he gives me the most dependably delicious avocados in the neighborhood; we inquire about each other's families. A city full of commerce—a city organized from its inception as a commerce-maximizing entity—is a place literally humming with satisfying intercourse.

But not right now. And maybe not anytime soon.

Tonight I'm supposed to have people over to my patio; they will be in violation of the law beginning at 8:01 p.m. Last night, for the first time since 1943, the City That Never Sleeps was ordered to go indoors after 11. We already lost 24-hour subway service last month; not that I've set foot in the station literally across the street from me over the past 84 days.

None of this feels natural, particularly after almost three months of sanity-straining coronavirus confinement. The good-weather season in New York is already way too short; pinning people inside their overtaxed apartments is at this point an act of cruelty.

Yet as irritating as that all is, I'm haunted more about what comes after the curfews and lockdowns are lifted. You just told a crowded cosmopolitan city to avoid people for an entire season. The center of American commerce, the place where (at most) you ask for forgiveness tomorrow rather than permission today, has spent months being told by people in power which types of commercial activity is and is not "essential." The basic physical reality of Manhattan and much of the other boroughs—people from all over the world packed like sardines in residences, restaurants, subway cars, and entertainment venues—is still considered deadly. And now anti-capitalist goons are roving mostly unmolested, smashing windows and stealing the product of late capitalism, night after night.

If you have the means, why would you stay? Indeed, nearly a half-million bailed from Manhattan in March and April alone; who knows many will come back. Anyone who has lived near the scar of previous riots—spreading from the intersection of Washington, D.C.'s 14th and U streets after 1968, for example—can tell you how permanent temporary window-boarding can become.

"Americans," wrote National Review critic and Manhattan resident Kyle Smith Monday night, in a depressing tweet-thread, "are going to flee the cities like we did in the post-68 era. 30 years of great progress for cities undone in one spring. Everyone gonna be moving to suburbs/exurbs & buying guns." It's hard to look at the realities of an exiting tax base, a strangled economy, and an abysmally feckless local political class, and not come to grim conclusions about vicious cycles.

And yet. About one month ago, my neighborhood-gadfly neighbor observed that just about when you get sick of one version of New York, a new one quickly springs up in its place. Last year looked a helluva lot different than 2002; the summer of 1990, crazy as that was to the eyes of a naïve 21-year-old Californian, bore little resemblance to the punk/burnout/decay of the late '70s. To watch the great Ric Burns documentary New York is to be made perpetually dizzy, dazzled, disgusted…the human and cultural and capitalistic and political churn just never ceases.

Even successful cities, as 1950s St. Louis or Cleveland can tell you, are not guaranteed to last. But in the great urban/suburban debate between Richard Florida and Joel Kotkin, I'm firmly with Florida: People who make long-term bets against New York City always lose.

Residents will flee, businesses will shut down, the economy will tank, prices will plummet…and then thrill-seekers will arrive, tourists will come back, marvelous inventions will spring up, and window-smashers will retreat. We can't possibly know what it all will look like, and that's part of the fun.

Or at least that's what I'm telling myself. At a time of rising—and risible—populism on the right and left, I prefer to make my stand for the cause of cosmopolitanism, commerce, international exchange, and inexplicable activity. To paraphrase another great American poet, if we can't make it here, maybe we can't make it anywhere. It would be much prettier to think that we could.

Watch Reason TV's more intellectual examination of this topic below:

NEXT: Confederate Monuments Are Participation Trophies. Thankfully, Some Are Coming Down.

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  2. How will residents of the City That Never Sleeps recover from being sentenced to their own apartments?

    By not voting into office every communist democrat, wait, I was right the first time communist they see?

    1. Vote for the homos, not the Cuomos!

      1. Excellent!

      2. Cuomo are homos.

    2. Welch and others of that same strain of “libertarians” of his don’t believe in voting. At least not for one of the two parties. So he’ll always be ruled over by a supermajority of very non-libertarian Democrats.

      1. You act like libertarians could swing an election in NY. LOL.

        1. If they all voted Republican, yes, they very much. Many already do vote for one party or the other. But many (like the Reason-establishment types) also like to vote for surefire losers for some pie-in-the-sky reasoning.

        2. Oh, “in New York”! Sorry, didn’t catch that the first time. Yeah, probably not in New York. Though, who knows.

  3. I encountered a sight that made my heart leap with joy: Seven bars on a single small block, doors and windows flung open to the world…

    Sounds like it’s the booze you need to quit, Welch.

    From the 90’s until a few years ago I would make an annual visit to NYC and always enjoyed the experience (summer visits more so than winter ones). But my enjoyment is tethered to the fact that it’s temporary, that I’ll return to my empty acres surrounded by its further hundreds of empty acres of peace and quiet and affordability and incremental sovereignty.

    1. It’s hilarious how bumpkin this sounds and Welch doesn’t even seem to realize it.

      Only seven bars on the same block? It’s like he’s never even been to Wisconsin!

  4. Honestly, two towers weren’t enough for New Yorkers to learn a lesson.

    1. fridayicecubedamn.gif

    2. ok that was solid

  5. At this point I think Welch could watch de Blasio and Cuomo hold down his wife and tag team her and his response would be along the lines of “There’s actually a pretty good legal argument that they have the right to that. Plus, I can’t leave, they just opened up a great new deli right around the corner from my hipster apartment!”

    1. “where will I get authentic kopi luwak!!!”

    2. somebody married Welch?

      1. A french chick. I’m assuming that it’s for citizenship and she doesn’t speak a lick of English. The language barrier would actually work in his favor in this case.

        1. She probably fucks other guys, but not him.

  6. New Yorkers will be leaving in droves as soon as they can unload their overpriced coops on another rube.

    1. We need to build a wall and Manhattan is going to pay for it!

      1. I’ve seen that movie and Donald Pleasance at the end steals it.

      2. Snake Pliskin for President…and I will be more than happy to use my tax dollars which go to Israel to help them build their wall in the west bank used to build one Snake will finish!

  7. A bit late to the show, Matt.
    Several of us here have been promoting rioting in the streets (regarding the lockdowns) since sometime in February. At the time, there were only ‘several’, being assured this was going to be a temporary infringement of our freedoms.
    Screw Newsom, Cuomo and every other ting-pot-dictator wannabe with a running, rusty chainsaw.

  8. Why would anyone want to leave the absolute center of the entire universe? The rest of the land, mostly west, merely exists to provide context and contrast.
    Though, I know people from San Francisco who believe they are in the center.

    1. Jerusalem has pretty pricey real estate

  9. Oh, and I see in the pop-up vid that Cuomo is ‘planning’ your ‘new economy’; he presumes he’s smarter than Gozplan.
    He isn’t.

  10. Well, if you can’t quit New York, could you at least quit whining?

    1. ooooooh damn!

    2. Good luck on that one, we’re all going to need it!

  11. I am happy for you, Welch, but you can keep my portion of New York. I will take Fayetteville, or Omaha any day.

    1. That’s the part that blows my mind. Parts of S. California and even N. California, all over the Gulf Coast, and around to the S. Atlantic region I can think of at least a dozen other cities that, even if I found only one bar with the doors and windows open, would still be preferable to NYC. I mean when you set the standard at NYC, you pretty much have to accept shitty authoritarianism. You might as well get more good weather and better views in the exchange.

      1. I can understand moving to California. Yes the politics are terrible. Real estate is way too expensive. But that weather… after living in a desert for many years I understand the appeal of taking a walk and not having to change my shirt after.

        Why anyone would move to cold, miserable NY is a mystery. Now you have terrible politics, too expensive real estate AND garbage weather. What a win.

  12. Even Snake Plisken can save Matt now.

    1. “Not”

  13. Anyone who stays in that festering dumpster fire deserves it, especially Matt.

  14. This is certainly a change from the past few days of articles here celebrating the “mostly peaceful” protesters as they smashed, burned, and looted.

    Although I did find this passage particularly odd: “I prefer to make my stand for the cause of cosmopolitanism, commerce, international exchange, and inexplicable activity.” That’s what Welch’s priorities are in this particular moment? If I was asked to “take a stand”, things like protection of private property and freedom from bodily harm would be substantially higher on the list.

  15. And you will get the government you deserve, good and hard.

    1. I’ve never seen Brokeback Mountain so I can’t read into the reference to know whether he’s picturing himself as Heath Ledger or Jake Gyllenhaal.

  16. “At a time of rising—and risible—populism on the right and left, I prefer to make my stand for the cause of cosmopolitanism, commerce, international exchange, and inexplicable activity.”

    And an overregulated, overtaxed, corrupt as a matter of course, low trust society run by political thugs and racialist charlatans. Good luck with your kid’s schooling, they are going to need it.

  17. I prefer to make my stand for the cause of cosmopolitanism, commerce, international exchange, and inexplicable activity.

    Of course you do: you are a progressive. And you also want the rest of the country to foot the bill for your preferences.

  18. Welch loves NY, except for his kids having to share the classroom with Giants of Gentleness. He’ll vote for Kaiser Wilhelm again.

  19. Of course he can quit NY, he just doesn’t want to try.

  20. Matt’s not a libertarian..he found a gig at Reason by saying he is..and he is the best kind of “Reason” libertarian…monetary policy..not interested, foreign wars, not interested, abortion and open borders and loathing of non woke’s…

    I grew up in Central NY..NYC to me then and now is full of bolsheviks and radicals who tend to move upstate and shut down our industry and clamor for more and more govt. As Howard Stern used to say..the Yenta class. Matt just get a gig at Salon or the Atlantic..admit to your wokeness..

  21. “Everyone gonna be moving to suburbs/exurbs & buying guns.”

    Yes! Sounds like a libertarian moment to me!

    1. I would like to welcome all the new gun owning homeowners to the Republican Party

      1. Please find an NRA instructor and learn basic safety, and maybe how to aim.

  22. New York City is a large overflowing toilet. It i run by incompetent and corrupt politicians. The taxes are outrageous, too many regulations and good luck finding a place to rent. Forget about buying a house unless you are a millionaire. I grew up in Queens and permanently escaped in 1960 when I joined the military. Two years ago, I made a trip back to visit a relative. Holy shit, how things change over time! For this area, the changes have been for the worse. Anyone residing in the Greater NYC area has to be suffering from dementia. I would urge anyone reading this who lives in the City to get out and seriously consider moving to Florida, Texas or Arizona.

    1. No. Not if they’re progtards. Progs need to stay put, or better yet, go far away from America, never to return.

  23. How long you think you’ll be enjoying living in the “center of American commerce” while that center keeps going further and further radical left and anti-business?

    1. If Welch shifts his Overton window far enough to the left, it will be right in his wheelhouse.

  24. As a middle aged DC boy (now residing in MD), I generally view Charm City as our bratty, inbred, heroin-addled, Billytown, dumb hick, cousin that you hope won’t steal anything at Thanksgiving. However, when you use Mencken this flippantly, it becomes a “He can’t do that to our pledges” thing.

    My jackass B’more friends who stick to blow and Natty Boh will explain it to you, in detail and repeatedly, when they rent places from me after I get to purchase them at more than half the cost compared to last month.

    1. “half off.” Conical hat and corner time.

  25. stealing the product of late capitalism,

    He’s picking up the late capitalism bullcrap huh? There really is no bottom to this free fall.

  26. Hey Matt…..Let me make this very simple for you.

    You truly deserve the representation that you elect. Nuff said.

  27. I Can’t Quit New York

    Christ, Welch. You are absolutely insufferable.

  28. Go right at it, Matt! Nice, pretty wife and kids you got. Be a shame if the po po should decline (at the order of the Mayor) to protect them for you. And I bet your children will really like the school year coming up, but then maybe you home school. Still pay the high taxes for schools you don’t use. Sucker!

    Yep the important things are artisan grade fresh roasted coffee, organic goat cheese, craft beer. Good luck. I hope you figure out what is really important before you have lost it and cannot get it back. Or it is taken from you, right out of your arms.

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  29. NYC – Nuke it from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.

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