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NYC –> Shanghai, 4 days: Too Great for its Own Good?
September 6th, 2013, 4 days.
Soho. Today. 4pm.
Can a place be a victim of its own success? This picture doesn’t even begin to capture the scene in Soho today. Crowded. Unpleasant. Aggressive. I was just trying to get through some pressing, essential errands leading up to my impending trip. At this point in the day, I had already walked back and forth from the far East Village to the West two times, yet I wasn’t at all exhausted till I decided to walk through the “sound and the fury” that is Soho on the weekend. Jane Jacobs warned us all of the dangers of this exact predicament in her classic urban planning tome. But somehow, it doesn’t quite hit home until you’ve attempted to traverse Broadway, south of Houston, north of Grand. What once was a lively, authentic (albeit, likely rough and tumble) scene, has run through the continuum of urban transformation – from the cocoon, to the butterfly, to whatever it is today. Don’t get me wrong, Soho still offers some of the most unique and interesting boutiques in NYC, but the main corridors have been overrun by big-name retail chains – walking down Broadway, you’re not quite sure if you’re in NYC’s Soho, Barcelona’s Las Ramblas, or Shanghai’s East Nanjing Road (except that latter two happen to be totally pedestrianized – that would actually help relieve some of the congestion along this stretch of Broadway, actually). Today, what was once a classic Cinderella story, is now merely an over-pixelated, hyper-Disneyfied version of itself. There are some bastions of authenticity that remain, like this amazingly picturesque, classic butcher a few blocks away…
But they are too few and far between. So the question is, how to do we best keep places from becoming victims of their own success?