City locations straddling the fine line between acceptable and edgy

Certain urban neighborhoods draw attention because they are “edgy” and offer something different than mainstream American locations. What happens when these “edgy” areas start to disappear or start to become established, mainstream places? Here is a look at this process in New York City:

Around countless corners, the weird, unexpected, edgy, grimy New York — the town that so many looked to for so long as a relief from cookie-cutter America — has evolved into something else entirely: tamed, prepackaged, even predictable.

“What draws people to New York is its uniqueness. So when something goes, people feel sad about it,” says Suzanne Wasserman, director of the Gotham Center for New York City History at the City University of New York…

If there’s one thing that doesn’t change in New York City, it’s nostalgia. Consider Mayor Fiorello La Guardia. After his election in 1934, he worked to remove the pushcart peddlers clogging the streets of the Lower East Side, viewed by many as a problem.

Once they were gone, people missed them.

A couple of thoughts about this article:

1. Cities thrive on these edgy or odd locations. The whole city doesn’t have to be different but young people (and perhaps even the Creative Class) tend to like these edgier locations. When it becomes too mainstream, people move on to the next novelty. But the character of a city is expected to be more unique and odd than a typical suburban setting.

2. The article highlights how people generally don’t like change, even if it is dealing with issues they once thought were problems.

3. I wonder how much money this has been worth to New York City. For example, what kind of taxes did the seedy Times Square bring in compared to the sanitized and Disneyfied version of Times Square? Certainly, some of these areas are now more palatable to suburban residents and families, broadening the group of people who might visit a location.

4. This is a reminder that what is now “edgy” or “cool” likely won’t stay that way for long. Cities, in particular, change fairly rapidly as new residents and businesses move in and out. I’m sure more edgy places will pop up in New York City.

4a. Could a city develop a “historical preservation district” (or something like it) to protect an edgy establishment or block? By making it official, does the site automatically lose some of its edgy status?

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