In Another Place and Time - Chinatown - New York City- By Vivienne Gucwa
New York City changes and evolves at a rapid pace. In certain areas, changes occur faster than others. Lower Manhattan is one place that has changed the most in the last decade. Development happens fast and the current trends are extremely tall buildings constructed mostly of glass, chain stores and luxury boutiques. In neighborhoods that were once bohemian and home to artists and rebels, these current changes have been hard to swallow for long-time residents who run the risk of being out-priced out of the neighborhoods they have called home for decades.
Despite these changes, there are still parts of lower Manhattan that recall earlier decades. New York City suffered economically in the 1970s and it was during this decade that much of lower Manhattan was transformed into a danger zone full of abandoned lots and buildings and rampant crime. Having grown up in New York City in the 1980s and early 1990s, I have vivid memories of riding graffiti-covered trains from Queens into Manhattan. I was taught to ‘watch my back’ at all times since everyone seemed to know someone who had been mugged. Things were still different in those days prior to the initiatives by mayors Koch and Guiliani to ‘clean up’ the city (and discourse is still rampant regarding how they handled it).
When I came across this section of Canal Street initially, my heart almost leaped out of my chest. Here I was staring at a section of a spot in Chinatown that seemed as if it had been dipped in 1980s New York City and had become frozen in time (thankfully I had my camera). It’s hard to put into words how powerful this scene is for personally. It’s a bit like staring at something that once existed in a distant life.
A city may change rapidly discarding pieces of itself, but it’s the people who carry it’s broken pieces with them in their hearts who imbue the city with its memory.
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