Wednesday, August 18, 2010

NYC v. Denver

As an urban explorer and visitor from another planet, I plan on posting occasional observations on trivial cultural differences between NYC and Denver, with a strong emphasis on the “trivial” part. Think of it as a WWF match, in which both sides put up a lot of bluster, everyone screams, and the results are usually rigged.

I. To begin: Cars.

Out here in Denver everyone has a car. Most families have at least two. And they use them to go EVERYWHERE: they drive to work, to the store, even to the park to go for a run!

Case in point: a certain Someone Who Shall Remain Unnamed suggested we go out to a restaurant for dinner. We chose a place three blocks away from their house, and this someone suggested we take not one, but TWO cars, so that we could leave directly after and go our separate ways.

Remember the scene in the movie L.A. Story, where Steve Martin gets in his car to coast to the end of the block? Ahem. Meanwhile, in New York, I would consider a restaurant up to a mile and a half away to be within walking distance.

On the other hand, in NYC, it sometimes took me 45 minutes to ride the subway 5 miles home from work. I could run home faster: I know, because sometimes I did.

Verdict: It’s a draw. While NY’s solution is better for the health and environment, Denver’s transportation options spare one the “delight” of sitting next to the lady clipping her fingernails on the subway.

II. Next item up for consideration: Grocery store clerks.

The checkout clerks in NY are admittedly rather brusque and often don’t exchange a single word with their patrons, shoving change at you in a pile with nary a glance. When I first moved to NY, I thought this rather rude. Now I appreciate it for what it allows me to do: get in, buy my groceries, and get out in under 20 minutes. No small-talk required.

Last night at the store we had a very jovial fellow as a clerk, who slowed down our transaction to tell me about the conspiracies associated with each organic and/or unusual food product I was buying. Apparently, my purchases alone may have been enough to topple the U.S. government. This added at least 5 minutes to our interaction, which in NYC would be considered an eternity.

Verdict: Colorado wins. How awesome it is to have a quirky human being to sell you your produce! Hey, let’s be honest: I don’t have anywhere to be this instant, anyway.

III. And finally: Construction crews.

In New York, construction projects take a phenomenally long time to complete. I blame bloated, corrupt unions and the MTA (I have little idea if these are the actual culprits, but that’s whom everyone always blames for delays, and besides, it’s always a good idea to blame the MTA. Who would argue with you?).

As illustration, at one point in my sojourn in the NY metro area, I was living in Harrison, NJ. Most of my friends had newly moved to Brooklyn, so on my jaunts in to visit them I would take the NJ PATH train to the NYC subway system, wishing I could make my transfer at the then-shuttered Cortlandt (read: WTC) subway station. 

Admittedly, the city has bigger problems with that site than a closed subway station, but at the time of discussion its construction had yet to balloon out into The Forever, and there were posted signs advertising the station was to “open in September 2005.”

This closure added at least 30 minutes to my trip, which seemed like a Denver grocery store eternity, but was even more agonizing when September arrived and new signs went up…delaying the opening another few months. And then more appeared, delaying until the next season, and finally they stopped putting dates on the signs altogether. Eventually, I gave up and moved to Brooklyn myself, which was actually a rather bright idea. Especially since the WTC station IS STILL NOT OPEN.

Much like the 2nd Avenue subway line, which is now about, oh, 80 years overdue, I have a feeling the WTC site and station will be awkward and unfinished for years to come.

And in comparison? Downtown Denver is undergoing construction, tearing down the old State Judicial Building and Colorado History Museum/Historical Society (which I lovingly think of as “The Table,” and “A Great Skate Park” in my head).

"A Great Skate Park" and "The Table," both now gone.

The Judicial Building was dismantled piece by piece recently, leaving only a standing skeleton, and then officially demolished this past Sunday. I stopped by on Monday to take a photo, and on my drive by on Tuesday I saw the cleanup crew had already cleared out about half of the debris. The demolition project looks like it could be completed within the month. Glad I got my photo when I did!

And glad these guys got in their fun while they still could:

Fun in the Snow!

Meanwhile, the new History Colorado Center is going up swimmingly. In the few months since I noticed their having begun construction, one can see an actual building going up! Can you imagine? New Yorkers can't!

Verdict: Colorado. Hands down.

So our tally? Colorado: 2, NYC: 0, tie: 1.

Hey, I TOLD you this would be trivial.


  1. Ahh, well, both of these cities beat hands down the city I grew up nearby: Cleveland. Unless you compare sports misery. Then Cleveland reigns...unfortunately.

    PS: Who wins the weather round?

  2. Dag, Denver wins the weather! Sunshine, dry air and snuggly snowy winters beat most other places any day.

    Alicia, NY is bound to win some of the rounds--just not these three!

  3. And dear readers, I was informed by family today that the two now extinct buildings were popularly referred to as "The Typewriter and The Toaster."

    Makes sense!

  4. It's easy to get construction projects done in a city with a population of thirty. ZING!

    But seriously, that WTC construction is ridiculous. It's been almost ten years.

  5. At least the cash register is still standing!

  6. Oh, man. You brought up the nail clipping. That's just not fair. My all-time least favorite sound.

  7. Or even worse than nail clipping:

  8. I just googled "moving from brooklyn to denver" and came across your post. As a(n out-of-work) architect and former new yorker, I love it! Hopefully you'll keep posting for us east coasters new to the mile high city. I'm still a bit worried it won't be urban enough...and I recently had to buy a car. :-/ Anyway, compliments to the writer!

  9. Thanks, Marisa! I hope to be up and blogging again soon.

    On the car front, I found myself driving around downtown yesterday, looking for a parking space near Starbucks. The horror!

    Joking aside, though, Denver has a lot to offer. It might take you a bit to get used to the difference, but it's a great city.