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This winter vacation I went (again) to Chicago, but this time New York was also added to the list. The time from Christmas to New Year's Eve was spent in Chicago, then we flew to New York for New Year's Eve and the first week of January.

This was my 6th visit to Chicago, but a first in New York, so I could finally compare the two.

Previous reports of (some of) the past Chicago trips can be found here: https://www.skyscrapercity.com/showthread.php?t=2145534

or here: https://www.skyscrapercity.com/showthread.php?t=2121134

and here as well: https://www.skyscrapercity.com/showthread.php?t=1522013

There is not much I could add about Chicago that I haven't already mentioned before. It's a stunningly beautiful city, full of world class art and architecture. Very very American, with a distinct Mid-West feel thanks to its location and people. Great food as well, but that is valid everywhere in the US. I can definitelly see myself visiting for the 7th time. And it still won't be the last.

Now, New York on the other hand... was a bit of a let down.

Warning! Extremely subjective opinions ahead!

First of all, I must say that we only visited Manhattan. We only had like 5 days to spend, so it was barely enough to run around as much of Manhattan as possible. A second visit to see the rest of it (Queens, Brooklyn, Bronx, Harlem, etc) is pretty much a must.

The city is big, no doubt about it. And it's full of interesting things to see. Art, history, architecture, shopping, etc, etc, you name it, they have it. You can spend years there and you won't get bored. It's just that... it's all remarkably overrated. It's a matter of what one's expectations are, of course, but New York is almost universally acclaimed to be THE city. The world capital of [insert everything from art to finance]. The center of the world. And I just... did not see or feel any of that. Quite the contrary, on many occasions I had the feeling that it's just trying to copy other places.

There is a lot of great architecture in New York, and then there are of course the iconic places like Empire State Building, Chrysler Building, etc, etc. The problem is that in many cases these architecture jewels were left to be engulfed by a lot of bland, unremarkable crap. To the point that you can't even see those buildings unless you are right in front of it or in a helicopter. Also, to my huge surprise, a lot of fancy skyscrapers in New York seemed rather... budget built from up close. In Chicago, most skyscrapers have huge, monumental lobbies, works of art in themselves. Entrances and lobbies in New York, on the other hand, were small and "economical" for the lack of a better term. Even the Chrysler Building had a tiny lobby reminiscent of the late 19th century buildings in Chicago.

On top of that, most buildings in New York were really dirty and in need of a powerwash. The overall feeling was that of a city that just got out of a huge crisis and is slowly recovering. But there's years-worth of cleaning to be done.

Also, places like the Upper East Side, Madison Avenue, Broadway, known to be posh, fancy, ultra-rich areas, can't hold a candle to Chicago's North Side, and the Gold Coast in particular.

But the thing that really impressed me was how dirty the city was. At times, you were walking on and through trash in the middle of Manhattan. And it's not just the way they through out the trash, in plastic bags piled out right on the sidewalk, leaking smelly fluid right on the street. It's also just trash thrown around everywhere and no one seems to care. A lack of care that seems to expand to a lot more. Like when ambulances are flashing lights and blasting emergency horns, and no one cares to move an inch away. Not even pedestrians who are way too important to stop for them. Hell, not even the Police cared. In fact, there was so much Police in Manhattan like I have never seen before. There's a police car at every second block. Doing nothing. The feeling was that you could do any kind of anti-social activity next to them and they just would not care.

Which brings me to the New Yorkers themselves. Which I don't think I've seen. Or I hope I didn't. Because the general impression was that of being surrounded by millions of people from all the world's countries (hell, they speak more Spanish in New York than in Arizona), each minding his own business in complete disregard for anyone and anything around. A world apart from Chicago.

Oh, and the traffic! Everyone in New York complains about the traffic. And it's true, it's horrible. But there is no reason for it to be that way. If people were sane. The streets are broad and straight, traffic lights work fine, there is police everywhere. Yet everyone honks constantly, like in those videos from India. They honk when they move, and when they stop. When they change lanes. When someone else changes lanes. They honk when someone honks. And sometimes, they honk when too much time has passed since the last honk. Traffic in Manhattan is either a good indicator of the quality of the driving exam there, or the quality of the mental health among the population.

Oh, and the city is more expensive than Switzerland.

Overall, I think Manhattan was one of the most uncivilized places I have ever visited.



And yes, I know, it's only Manhattan, maybe the rest of the city was like Tokyo. And it was January, perhaps in May it's all green, clean and beautiful. Maybe. That's why I said a second visit is a must. But my hopes are really not high. But at least the subway was a positive surprise. The trains are very nice for the US, on par with what you see in Europe, and the stations look less savage than in Chicago. And it's being used by more diverse people, from all walks of life, like you'd see in Europe. What's not nice is when you are met at some station's exit by many black women asking desperately for your multi-day pass that you don't need anymore in the hope that they'll get a few valid rides on that. Poverty out there is that bad sometimes...


Sigh... OK, enough bashing. It probably sounds worse than it is :) I just don't often had the feeling of being glad to go home after being on holiday. And certainly did not expect this from New York.

Pics to follow.
 

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Jesus, this description of New York scared me because I dream to work in an internship or for a full job in Manhattan, as a life experience. Of course, I would not live my whole life there.

However, I agree with the crap built in New York in the last years, they filled the city with a lot of mediocre skyscrapers.

With the dirty, I am impressed that you were so impacted by the reality, I mean, every person I know that visited this city told me something like this " Beautiful skyscrapers, a lot of people, and a lot of thrash". Only one girl from Timișoara told me that New York is super civilized compared with Timișoara and much more cleaner, which of course I knew is bullshit.

Oh, and another question, since cities are ofter compared on this forum, how would you compare New York with London or Paris? Because they are often compared, especially London which is considered to be the New York of Europe.
 

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Jesus, this description of New York scared me because I dream to work in an internship or for a full job in Manhattan, as a life experience.
Do it! For a short period of time, an experience like that is fantastic. Not just in Manhattan, but anywhere in the US basically. And it's not like it's a horrible place, especially for young people. It's just (in my opinion) overrated and under my expectations. Besides, unlike many other large cities in the US, New York is really safe.

However, I agree with the crap built in New York in the last years, they filled the city with a lot of mediocre skyscrapers.
Yeah, but I wasn't referring to skyscrapers in particular. Most of Manhattan is actually just residential. And not exactly fancy either. So you just have some amazing old skyscraper, then blocks and blocks of whatever dirty apartment blocks covered in beige brick, and so on.

With the dirty, I am impressed that you were so impacted by the reality, I mean, every person I know that visited this city told me something like this " Beautiful skyscrapers, a lot of people, and a lot of thrash".
I somehow missed that part. I only got the stuff about the amazing New York "vibe" and "feel" and "character". IMO, Chicago has way more character and personality. And I will probably be skinned alive soon by NY fans for saying that :D

Oh, and another question, since cities are ofter compared on this forum, how would you compare New York with London or Paris? Because they are often compared, especially London which is considered to be the New York of Europe.
Never been to London, or in the UK for that matter. I would be surprised if London was one tenth that dirty though. As for Paris, you can't really compare them. It's almost like apples and oranges. I did get the feeling often that New York tries to be like Paris in some regards.
 

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This being the 6th visit to Chicago, some of the main attractions were skipped, as we focused on just enjoying the city and the parts we liked more.

One of the elements that greatly contributes to Chicago's personality is the river, which creates a wide, winding space throughout the downtown, allowing for great views. And they also did a good job at using the river to add value to the city. Something New York missed, as Manhattan is an island but most spaces at the edge of the water are simply industrial, or neglected.





 
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