Are you relatively new to this fine metropolis? Hey, don't be shy about it, everyone was new to New York at one time... except, of course, those battle-hardened residents who've lived here their whole lives and Know It All. One of these lifers works among us at Gothamist—publisher Jake Dobkin grew up in Park Slope and currently resides in Brooklyn Heights. He is now fielding questions—ask him anything by sending an email here, but be advised that Dobkin is "not sure you guys will be able to handle my realness." We can keep you anonymous if you prefer; just let us know what neighborhood you live in.
This week's Q&A is a variety pack of inquires from three readers on the topic of geography and authenticity:
- "I was born and grew up in Staten Island. Do you consider me a Real New Yorker?"
- "Hi, I've lived here in Manhattan for 31 years, moved her when I was 20 years old, and was wondering if I am more of a NYer than say, a 25 year old who was born here. I know a 26 year old kid who was born in the Bronx, but when I talk to him about my punk days in the East Village during the '80s and Koch, he thinks that's so 'old timey' and says 'oh that was before I was born.' Am I a Real New Yorker?"
- Can Jersey City residents be considered New Yorkers?
A Native New Yorker replies:
Everyone with a brain in their head understands that someone from Westchester or Long Island is not a Real New Yorker. But what about these more difficult cases?
The Staten Island one is easy—though it looks and smells like Jersey, it's been part of New York City since 1898 (and part of New York State since the 1600s.) When I was in High School, classes started early, at 8 a.m. This meant a lot of the kids from Staten Island would arrive late if there were any delays on the ferry or subway. I remember one year, every time the few Staten Island kids came into class, the teacher would say something like "Oh, the boat people have arrived." Even at the time, this seemed like a dick move. Since that time I've firmly believed our Staten Island brethren deserved the respect and full civil rights we accord to other New Yorkers.
Recent transplants, like this guy who's only been in town for 31 years, are a tougher call. Sure, he's more New York than those tourists in Times Square, but obviously less so than someone who was born here and who's been drinking tap water since they were in utero. On the other hand, he's old, and Real New Yorkers do respect antiquity and anyone who actually used that disgusting bathroom at CBGB.
So it's a tossup. Solon, the ancient Greek, said "count no man happy until he be dead." I think being a New Yorker is kind of like that too: it's always provisional until you die here, preferably in a really hardcore New York way like getting hit by bus. This is true even for people who were born here—if you move to Philly when you're 23, and never come back, then you've definitely lost your cred.
But Jersey? No way. If there's one thing I'm sure of is that anyone who lives on the wrong side of the Hudson is definitely not a New Yorker. I don't care if you're Frank Fucking Sinatra: if you ride PATH, you aren't one of us. That's probably fine—with The Sopranos and Chris Christie, New Jersey pride seems like it's on the upswing. Why would you need to usurp an identity that you'll never be able to truly understand? Enjoy your cheap rent, frat bars, and stunning views of our skyline, Jersey City kid. And that goes double for you guys from Yonkers, New Rochelle, etc.
N.B.: Whether you are a New Yorker or not is part of what Buddhists would call "relative truth." They're just one of the many petty, meaningless facts you use to create your identity, which is actually just a stubborn illusion. The absolute truth is that your ego is a pointless construct that's just separating you from unmediated contact with reality. So think about that while you're waiting for the PATH train, yo.
Ask A Native New Yorker anything by emailing our Tips address here.