Melting Pot

images-1As the weather gets nicer in NYC I walk.  The other night I had finished the day and had the luxury of walking to the play we were seeing.  I walked Bleecker Street from beginning to end.  The neighborhoods change when you cross the large streets from Hudson to 7th Avenue to 6th Avenue to Broadway to Lafayette.

NYC is a melting pot.  Walking down the street looking at the people from kids to adults from small to large from white to black from local to tourists from dressed up to dressed down.  I can’t help but think about the anger being fueled around this country (and the globe) directly linked to prejudices.  The fear that people have of people who don’t look like themselves, who don’t believe in what they believe, who don’t raise their children the same way, who read different books to their kids, who just live different lives is alarming.

Years ago we were in Tel Aviv and I got into a cab and had a conversation that I still think about.  The taxi driver asks me where I am from.  I tell him NYC.  He asks if I live in the Bronx. He knows the Bronx from the movies.  I explain where I live in NYC and where the Bronx sits in the landscape of the city.  He then asks me if I have children.  I say I do.  He asks me if I am Jewish and I say yes.  He asks me where my children go to school.  I tell him that our kids go to a very diverse school where their peers are from all walks of live.  He is aghast.  He says how can you send your children to a school where they are not among their people?  I say to him that is what makes NYC so unique.  We are a city of over 8 million people that come from all walks of life and in general we all get along, respect each others beliefs, way of life and actually embrace it.  Embracing it makes us better people.  I said to him that Israel could learn from NYC’s way to life.  He laughs.  He says it’s never going to happen.  I told him that it was too bad because anger isn’t healthy and certainly doesn’t help anyone or any country move forward.

That conversation happened over 5 years ago and it really points to the issues that are happening in our own country.  Change will happen because history has proven to us that we move forward as a society not backward but right now the anger and fear out there around people that are different than them is disturbing.  The reality is that even people who look alike are different.

I love NYC for many reasons but one of the biggest reasons I love this town is how diverse it is.  That diversity is why we have incredible restaurants serving every cuisine possible, theater that is cutting edge, music venues for the artists breaking in to the ones that have already broken out, galleries that are from small to big, etc. etc.  It is the diversity in this town that makes NYC what it is. We can all learn from that.

Comments (Archived):

  1. Ella Dyer

    Knowledge overcomes fear; diversity provides a variety of learning opportunities!

    1. Gotham Gal

      knowledge is so the key. education, education, education.

      1. whitney doherty

        and EQUAL education. I helped start a school up in Harlem in 2002 and it was shocking to me that in an area with so many white and wealthy people moving in…they weren’t sending their kids to the public schools and worse…my friends that live in wealthy neighborhoods treat their public schools like private – giving enough money to add extra teachers in the classrooms, etc. so we have a very segregated school system and a very different experience for city kids depending on where they live.

        1. Gotham Gal


    2. whitney doherty

      agree but we could do a much better job with certain ‘hot spots’ – the crown heights black/jewish tension is still really thick. as is the Hasid/ hipster tension of Billyburg. We could do a better job bridging some groups as well as tenants that move into “transitional neighborhoods” and then want to squelch the spirit of the hood they moved into – think Fort Green.

      1. Gotham Gal

        Totally agree.

          1. Gotham Gal

            will listen on my car ride this weekend.

  2. Kirsten Lambertsen

    NYC could give lessons to a lot of companies out there on how to create a successful diverse culture. It’s not just the diversity – many big cities are diverse. It’s the harmony of the diversity. It defies so many common ideas around dense populations. And there are a thousand reasons that contribute to that.There are cities that may be more beautiful to look at, but none can beat the beauty of the people of NYC.

  3. Brandon Burns

    You already know that the job in Portland didn’t end up as awesome as I thought it would. But leaving the job didn’t mean I needed to leave Portland. The city itself is pretty great, there are job opportunities there, a nice little startup scene, and my apartment had double the square footage for a cheaper price.But in the end, I need to be in a melting pot. And Portland, with all the goodness it has to offer, can’t offer diversity — it is statistically one of the least diverse cities in the country. So here I am, back in NYC. And in Crown Heights, no less, where I have Hasid neighbors and Caribbean accents (and food!) all around me. I couldn’t be happier with my choice to come back home. And I doubt I’ll leave again.

    1. Gotham Gal

      thats NYC!

    2. Kirsten Lambertsen

      Omigoodness, welcome back!

  4. awaldstein

    Nailed it.The NYC I was brought up in and around was diverse by the focus of the neighborhoods–Chinese in China Town, Little Italy and so on. I never knew anyone who wasn’t Jewish early on and trust me the yiddish language is not kind to people different then themselves. It’s exclusively closed to difference not acceptance of it.NY today is diverse by definition of something else–not by race or nationality, not generational.Kind of like a remelting of the melting pot.This city rocks because of that. True is Paris, true in parts of LA. This remixing to a new world and a new sense diversity the core.Cool time to be alive and participating in making this happen.

  5. Matt Kruza

    Don’t want to be town crumudgeon here, and I am a die hard midwestener and huge advocate / believer in “midwest nice” vs coasts. All that being said, I think the one weakness of diversity narrative of the coasts is income / wealth. New york city is very segregated by income, (correct me if I am wrong.. but i don’t think so.. same as san fran, la etc.), and most of your daily interactions are at spots that middle to very wealthy people frequent. I am not trying to be insulting, but some of the restaurants you and fred go to could each meal could feed a family for a week or more. And perhaps you are the exception and have much more diversity in socio-economic friend circle. I guess my point is it is very grating on the nerves for many people to here the coasts talk about diversity, when what it usually means is racial / sexual diversity (which truly are great!) with upper middle income to the wealthy. The class divisions are much worse and high real estate prices are almost exclusively driven by zoning / property restrictions and NIMBYism by wealthier members in these coastal cities. I am curious for some rebuttals to these points because by and large I think readership here skews coastal, so welcome for other anecdotes contradicting what I say. I have traveled to the coasts a lot in my old consulting career so I have a moderate amount of experience with coastal life (not just spewing this from midwest), but have never lived full-time in a coastal city. Much longer comment than I intended, but just wanted to share a perspective that I genuinely think many here may not get to experience very often. And if you ever travel to Cleveland any reader her hit me up, will show you midwest nice and all the great amenities of the town!

    1. Gotham Gal

      NYC is a total melting pot. Mixed incomes in downtown NYC. It is changing but Bk and queens is very mixed. The UES isn’t but downtown is

      1. whitney doherty

        I don’t think this is true anymore at all – it WAS very true but gentrification has made once diverse social economic neighborhoods very unattainable to all but the very wealthy or those willing to pay VERY high rent and purchase prices EVEN for very sub-par housing. if you look at Carroll Gardens, Park Slope, Prospect Heights, the lower East Side, Chelsea, UWS, etc…you will see that these were very mixed neighborhoods with lots of diversity in color, money, etc – now…the poorer people of any color have been moved out and the wealthy have taken over. This is happening ALL over – Chicago, Boston, Providence, San Fran, etc. $$$ and greed is destroying the very thing that made so many places unique and desirable. NO banker wanted to live in the East Village or Williamsburg until some poor artists made it cool – then the bankers moved in and the artists were forced out…that’s sadly now even happening in Bushwick and Brownsville! where will it end??

    2. Erin

      The buzz word for cities now is mixed-income neighborhoods, which means creating neighborhoods that accomodate people from various levels of socio-economic status. There’s been a shift, but mainly in the most forward-thinking cities. City planners are realizing their mistakes of the past several decades, and yes, segregation of the classes is a serious problem.

    3. pointsnfigures

      Midwest nice!-never realized what that meant until I got out of the Midwest. Amazingly, that’s off putting to the coasts.

    4. LE

      Midwest is definitely different and “nice”. One thing that totally surprised me first about the internet and dealing with people from the midwest (in addition of course to talking much slower which can be annoying to someone on the east coast) [1] [2] is how they often start out a conversation with “hi how are you today!”, when calling on the phone. On the east coast, at least where I am, someone saying that (starting a phone conversation that way) is most likely a salesman trying to pitch you and not a customer. That took me a long time to adjust to.[1] NY ers tend to talks fast, be no bullshit to the point. I like that.[2] But not as bad as people from the South.

  6. Erin

    I wonder how do you create a melting pot in your own city? We’ve had a serious influx of new immigrants over the last ten years, but they stay for their minimum required stay and then they move to more exciting cities once they get their financial legs under them and they learn a bit of English. How do you get them to stay?

  7. laurie kalmanson

    saw a story the other day about the continual renewal of the us in general and nyc in particular through immigration.”immigrants: we get the job done,” hamilton.Immigration: Why the U.S. Doesn’t Have an Aging Crisis