This week, our class focused on our experiences in New York City and how they pertained to the readings that we had done prior to our trip. After going over the basic outline for the rest of the semester, as well as due dates for our major projects and clarification of what they entail, we watched a segment from episode five of New York: a Documentary. We focused on the concepts discussed in Lindner’s book Imagining New York City, and talked about how we had seen some of those ideas of flaneurie, the vertical and the horizontal when we were walking around the city. We also talked about the differences between our expectations of New York and what we actually experienced when we were there.
Because I had already visited New York City, there was not a big difference between my expectations of New York City and what we actually experienced. However, due to the unique nature of our readings, I was able to see New York in a new light. For example, I had never considered the effect of the vertical and the horizontal on New York City. While the spread and height of New York is iconic in it’s own way, it was not until stepping foot on the streets that these concepts became functional. From the wind tunnels created due to the need for skyscrapers to the grid system that makes New York surprisingly easy to navigate, the horizontal and vertical become instruments of efficiency. The ideas that were presented as a way to analyze New York, in all of it’s different facets, actually serve to make New York an efficient city. In this way, what we studied as a way to “get to know” the facets of New York’s culture perform a more functional role in everyday New York life.
In this discussion of New York as an ideal vs. a reality, history is important to consider. Much of New York and it’s resulting fame is shrouded in the historical background of the city. However, when we went to New York, that historical past was difficult to find anywhere except monuments and museums, unless you knew where to look. Now, there are plenty of monuments and museums in New York City, but most of New York’s history cannot be encapsulated in one place. New York’s history takes place all over the city. Because we were looking for it, our class could see more of this history (due to the documentaries we watched, among other things) , but it seems that New York has covered up a lot of it’s physical history with modernity. When people come to New York City, they have this ideal that history will be everywhere in New York, but in reality, you have to search for that history. There could be multiple reasons for this; an increasing reach towards modernity and a need to cover up some of this history. The ideal of New York City as this great historical city (due to the emphasis placed on the history of New York) is very different from New York’s reality. These are two of the main differences that I noticed in New York ideal and reality.