Judith Regan: Why I Fell Out of Love With New York (Guest Column)

Illustration by: Jacqui Oakley

The bicoastal Regan Arts chief, one of publishing's most successful book editors (Howard Stern's 'Private Parts'), bites at the Big Apple.

This story first appeared in the April 24 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

The beginning of the end of my love affair with New York started with Rudy Giuliani. After 9/11, the vision of New York that he articulated set the stage for the future of Gotham. "Go shopping!" he proclaimed, advice he later followed, lining his pockets with lucrative security deals. Enter a decade of banker-robbers and world-class criminals rising higher in their condos, with tax credits granted to Whole Foods, Duane Reade and 2,800 chain stores that turned Manhattan into a high-rise strip mall.

New York City in the 1960s was Oz to me, the land of magical possibilities. After graduating college, I lived briefly with my boyfriend in The San Remo and then moved to a former welfare hotel on West 84th Street. I loved every second of it, including the hole in my studio floor, the walk home from work, the 99-cent hot bagel and lox at H&H. My friends and I could afford to live here and to pursue our ambitions, to go to plays and concerts and go out for dinner.

Those days are rare in Manhattan now. Dinner with friends costs a vast fortune. There’s no space to have children, build a business or a life. If you’re a young person, you have to share a pricy broom closet (in Queens!) with a dozen others. Then there’s the unending noise — Taxi-TV blaring when you grab a cab, drunken packs of Sex and the City-dressed women (still!) screaming into their bedazzled cellphones and 24-hour construction permits that subject entire neighborhoods to nonstop drilling, pounding, vibrating and grinding garbage trucks all day and night.

These days I find myself dreaming of L.A., where life is kinder. Still, aren’t New Yorkers just smarter, funnier, ruder and better dressed than anyone else? Yes, but only because we need to be. You have to be rude to be heard here. You have to be ruthless to get a parking space, a subway seat, an apartment, a reservation, a job, a mate, a school for your kid or even a good cemetery plot. If you stay too long at the party, you quickly age out, get bitter and always have to make a choice between being suicidal or homicidal. To last in NYC, you simply have to be more homicidal. That’s one thing New Yorkers really do better than anyone else.

I’ve said it for a long time: L.A. is the new New York. It’s not colonized by zillionaires. It’s diverse, beautiful and creative. The light is divine. There are still gritty pockets. And if you have a dream, you can still afford to chase it there. So go west, young strivers, and prosper!

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