Why This Decade Sucked, Reason #8: New York Turned Into America
9/11 was a tough hit on everyone, especially New Yorkers. But everyone, even people who hated this city, wanted to see the city come back from it. And so we did. It was often said then that a bunch of goddamned terrorists couldn't kill New York.
And they were right. New York couldn't be killed by a terrorist attack. It was perfectly capable, though, of killing itself.
And throughout the decade, that's what it has been doing.
Before the planes even hit, New York was in the hole financially. Motivated by desperation, the city and incoming Mayor Bloomberg did what they had to do -- including raising taxes, especially on the rich. ("That's where the money is," Bloomberg said at the time, in a pleasingly bald-faced reference to Willie Sutton. NYC FTW!)
And the city revived -- at least financially. New York continued to host the glittering events for which it has always been famous, continued to star in TV shows, continued to draw tourists and even new citizens looking to be a part of it, New York, New York.
But just as Americans were trying to get a little New York for themselves, New York started trying to be more like America.
Remember when the smoking ban in bars and restaurants was passed in 2003? It seemed like an un-New York thing to do. But it passed, and took deep root. Now it is very New York -- and very everywhere else, too. What's next, we thought at the time, a smoking ban in Dublin pubs? And there it was.
As our smoking ban set a big precedent -- if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere! -- it may look innovative, another case of New York taking the lead. But it was of a piece with the health-conscious law-making that has been rising for years all over the country. We recall our surprise, ten years ago, at being told at a Maryland Chili's that the restaurant was legally prohibited from serving us a rare burger. We're not so surprised by that now. (Anyway, thanks to growing awareness of e. coli, we're not sure that we even want a rare burger anymore.)
After the smoking ban came the trans-fat ban and a host of other civic prescriptions. The city council passed a ban on flavored smokes. A councilman is trying to create fast-food-free zones. Our health department is aggressively trying to scare us out of drinking soda. Our police arrest more pot-smokers than those of any other city. Construction workers get arrested for drinking on the job! And now Bloomberg is looking for a ban on smoking in parks.
We're not the dirty, dangerous, who-wants-to-live-forever city we were even ten years ago. Maybe it's terrific, but it certainly is different.