Shake Shack began in my local park as a glorified hot dog cart. After seeing the popularity and hundred person lines, Danny Meyer opened his first shack location in Madison Square Park, and unwittingly began turning my neighborhood into a psuedo Disney for tourists- Times Square Light if you will.
Eataly came next, bringing people to my once quietish neighborhood where formerly architecture nuts would come to see the Flatiron building. Now the Flatiron building triangle is the least known thing about my area.
Lego store, whose windows impress me.
Friends Experience, which I freely admit I went to within a month of its opening.
And then the Grand Dame…The Harry Potter Store…which was so popular in the beginning you needed a ticketed number to come in and shop.
Of course, more food chains came to visit 23rd Street: Wendy’s, Dippin’ Dots, Krispy Kream…
Tourists. Tourists. More Tourists…
Which is very good for the very local economy. And not so good if you liked your neighborhood on the quiet side. You see, I’m torn as to whether or not your neighborhood becoming really popular is a good thing or a bad.
My neighborhood has always been a draw for TV and movies- many things have been filmed in my neighborhood, and while I delight in seeing my local haunts on screens both big and small, I don’t know if I want tour busses in here showing the “sights”- after all, this is the place where I live, not a Kodak moment sort of place. Sometimes having to walk Betty three blocks out of my way because they happen to be filming “Billions” could get a tad annoying. And yes, I realize how precious that sounds, my tough life of having to maneuver around film shoots, and have locals wonder if my hat and sunglasses are hiding a famous face (because seriously- the best way to spot a celeb in Manhattan is to look closely at the person in a hat and sunglasses trying to walk by unobserved) but seriously, try walking down the street and having to avoid the line to Friends and then run into a large group taking up the entire sidewalk…when you have fifteen pounds of goods from the Farmer’s Market and your little dog too, it’s not exactly the happiest moment on earth.
And every time something new and marvelous opens up within five square blocks of my little world, I begin to think how Times Square was once just hookers and drugs…and now literal costumed characters walk around, and there’s an M&M store (Ok- I think it’s still open, but I can’t guarantee it’s not a COVID casualty) Is my neighborhood going to morph into that?
I think about how Taxi Driver was filmed literal blocks from my apartment on streets that I wander every day…
And I’m glad crime is down from that era, and my biggest fear is it rising again to those levels…
But do I want it to be because we’ve become some sort of Theme Park attraction…the happiest dirty place on earth?
So I remain unsure as to how I feel about the changes in my neighborhood- first gradual now seemingly all at once. I want my local purveyors to live long and prosper, but I don’t know if I love the cost.
But I do want you to come and see the Flatiron Building, because it is wonderful. And while you’re at it, check out the view of uptown and downtown from that spot, because that is what differentiates us from other cities, other places. And then walk about eight blocks north to find the best Korean places, or northeast for some awesome Indian, south for all sorts of other ethnic cuisine…Get a doughnut from Dough. Ice Cream from Van Leeuwen. And do try the original Shake Shack- it’s clearly the best of the chain. If you want to see New York, you should see New York…as well as all that other stuff.