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 question comes from another curious transplant:
Curious as to how you feel about people from New York, but not from New York City, calling themselves New Yorkers (or native New Yorkers). Specifically people from Long Island, Westchester, and Rockland come to mind, but you get people from Albany, Buffalo etc doing the same thing.
Not a Native New Yorker.
A Native New Yorker replies:
When I was a young man this sort of geographic fronting really bothered me. I first encountered it at YMCA Camp Sloane, which drew a lot of kids from Westchester. I'd ask them where they were from, and they'd say "New York." Technically, this was true, because they were from the state of New York, and the camp was a few miles across the state line, in Connecticut. But then License to Ill would come on and they wouldn't know what "Brass Monkey" was, and it always turned out they were from Ardsley or Mamaroneck. This bothered me, because being from Brooklyn was all I had, besides my attitude problem and allergy to fresh air.
Later, at Columbia, this experience continued. I'd ask a kid where he was from, and he'd say New York, and then I'd ask what High School he went to so I could be sure mine was more hardcore, and it'd turn out he graduated from the Hastings-on-Hudson School for Rich Boys or the Scarsdale Institute for Looking Down on Poor People or whatever.
This was always doubly annoying because by college most of these kids were better at fronting than I was—they could recite all the lyrics to Paul's Boutique and made an ostentatious habit of buying heroin on Manhattan Avenue just to prove how New York they really were. But they weren't, because New York's chief virtue is thoughtless honesty and a real sense of place, and try as you might, you can't make that stuff up.
Fifteen years on, I'm more sympathetic to these liars. First, at some point I recognized that everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle, be they from Rockland County or Ronkonkoma. Second, I think of the wise words of Ed Koch: "Have you ever lived in the suburbs? It's sterile. It's nothing. It's wasting your life." That's a heavy burden to carry through life, and I can forgive someone for dissembling about it. Also, sometimes I tell people I'm from Brooklyn, even though I'm really from Park Slope, and that's the same kind of hypocrisy. Go in peace!
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