Showing posts with label New Yorkers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label New Yorkers. Show all posts

Friday, April 5, 2019

Q&A with Jake Dobkin, co-founder of Gothamist and author of 'Ask a Native New Yorker'

After helping launch Gothamist in 2003, co-founder and native New Yorker Jake Dobkin enjoyed answering questions and offering advice (often unsolicited!) about NYC to staffers who recently arrived here.

Eventually, Editor-in-Chief John Del Signore suggested that Dobkin, a third-generation New Yorker who grew up in Park Slope, share his humorous and opinionated perspective to readers who may have questions about adjusting to the NYC way of life or to longtime residents looking for a unique point of view.

And so, in the summer of 2013, Dobkin wrote his first "Ask a Native New Yorker" for the news site, tackling a topic that people may wonder about but couldn't find an answer to: "Is It Normal For Roaches To Crawl Through My Hair At Night?"

Now, after 150 columns — addressing questions ranging from "Should I Wash My Hands After Taking The Subway?" to "When Should I Call The Cops On My New Neighbors?" — the series has been turned into a book. I recently asked Dobkin a few questions about "Ask a Native New Yorker."

You've written some 150 "Ask a Native New Yorker" posts for Gothamist. However, the book isn't a repackaging of those. What can readers expect to find in this volume?

I wanted to start from scratch here and really create a volume of advice that could guide a New Yorker from birth until death. I thought a lot of the original columns on the web were pretty good, but they were written under the usual blogging time constraints.

For the book. I had a lot more time and so I think the answers are a lot more thoughtful, and hopefully more amusing. Turns out banging out eight blog posts a day ain't the best way to create quality writing!

In the book, you write that to be considered a native New Yorker, you must have, for starters, been born in one of the five boroughs. What are your feelings about people who say they are a native New Yorker — they just grew up a quick LIRR ride away in, oh, Valley Stream?

I feel bad for these people, because the truth always comes out, and then they look like real chumps. Listen, I grew up in Park Slope — it's not exactly the most hardcore neighborhood in New York, and so I understand why someone might want to shade the truth on their origin story. In college I used to tell people I grew up in South Brooklyn or something.

But ultimately to achieve wisdom you must be honest with the world and yourself about who you are and where you come from, and anyway, it could be worse — you could be from Jersey!

Do you allow for any wiggle room for iconic figures from the city's past or present — people who made an impression on NYC's culture and history though they weren't born here and hence not native New Yorkers? People such as Mickey Mantle, Andy Warhol, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Patrick Ewing, Debbie Harry and Patti Smith to randomly name six...

Newcomers, immigrants and refugees from the suburbs all contribute to the wonderful tossed-salad that is NYC culture — I'd never denigrate anyone who took the extreme act of courage it takes to move here. That said, I think it's fair to say that natives have a different, and valuable point of view, that is too often overlooked, and which I hope the book shines a light on.

You went to school at Columbia. At the time while making your collegiate choice, did it occur to you that attending, say, Brown or Dartmouth, would have watered down your native New Yorker status by being away for four years?

I was raised by hippie radical communists in Park Slope, whose style of parenting was to avoid parenting as much as possible. So when it came to applying to college I was pretty much on my own.

Stuyvesant High School in those days had about one college counselor for every 950 kids, so there wasn't much advice there either — it was pretty much "don't forget to apply to college!" So I was actually totally unaware Columbia existed until after I graduated from high school — basically everything above 14th Street was like one of those old maps where the far north is labelled "there be dragons."

So I didn't apply there, and actually got rejected by every school except Dartmouth and Binghamton. Now, I knew I couldn't go to Dartmouth, because I had a feeling my whole sarcastic Jew schtick wouldn't play well in New Hampshire. So I ended up going to SUNY Binghamton for 12 weeks, and then dropping out, and at that point, finally, someone suggested I check out Columbia, and I did. It was like I discovered El Dorado — an amazing lost city of gold.

So I wish I could say my college choice was the product of my New York Native realness, but it was actually just a kind of ridiculous stumbling ass-backwards into a situation that worked for me. The moral of the story is I'm not letting my kids apply to any school you can't get to on NYC public transit. Maybe I'd make an exception for Rutgers or something.

The book provides a lot of helpful tips for people new to the city. Do you have any specific advice for residents who are new to the East Village?

I remember when I first got to Stuy, back in 1990 — I was 13, and in those days it was on 15th and 1st, just outside the East Village. Everything south was this giant mystery which took me years to unravel. I actually think the first time I walked down St. Mark's I was 20 years old! But since then I've developed tons of favorite spots, none particularly original — Veselka, Sobaya, 7B, etc.

One of the best secret spots in all of NYC — the New York Marble Cemetery off Second Avenue — I love going in there whenever the gate is open.

Do you still believe — as you write — that New York is the greatest city in the world? You finished this book before Hudson Yards opened.

New York is the greatest city the world has ever seen, and probably will ever see, since between climate change and our current politics, the human race doesn't seem like it has so much time left.

You can't let things like Hudson Yards bother you too much — New York has always changed at a blistering pace, and somehow we always turn out OK. I was up there [the other day] shooting the Shed, and I saw like four hot-dog carts already colonizing the edges of the site. I have no doubt in 10 or 20 years the place will be totally over-run with real New York chaos.


"Ask a Native New Yorker: Hard-Earned Advice on Surviving and Thriving in the Big City" (Abrams Image) is now available wherever books are sold.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

54 years on 7th Street

The Post today talks with a handful of New Yorkers who have spent more than 50 years in their homes.

On the list: East Village resident Christine Sachko, 54, who has lived her whole life in the same building near McSorley's on Seventh Street.

Sachko still has the original lease; her parents first paid $26.45. Her monthly bill is $1,500. The apartment next door, once a mirror image of her own, has been renovated to add a second bathroom and more bedrooms, and is currently on the market for $4,690.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Sound off: Looking at the disappearing New York accent

A few weeks back, we excerpted a Fox News story -- based on a presentation at the Linguistic Society of America -- on the disappearing native New Yorker's accent ... (The story prompted a healthy comments section here.)

In yesterday's Post, Sheila McClear wrote a nice piece on the topic titled "Why the classic Noo Yawk accent is fading away."

Here's a little bit from her story:

First, a lesson in rhoticity. What, exactly, is the New York accent? One key component, linguists say, is the "R." Not only do New Yorkers drop Rs (call the doctah!), they add them in where they're not needed, usually when the next word starts with a vowel, which creates "I sawr it with my very own eyes!" and "The sofer in the living room is green." It all started across the pond. The New York accent, with its dropped Rs, is "absolutely from British English," says Kara Becker, a Ph.D. student at NYU who is writing her dissertation on New York City English. Londoners began to drop Rs around the end of the 1600s, according to Michael Newman, associate professor of lingusitics at Queens College.

The East Coast is referred to as the "R-less corridor" by linguists, and other coastal cities have accents with features in common with New York, like Boston and Charleston, S.C. Those cities "were settled around the same time, and the speakers came from a certain place" — South London — "using a certain type of British English," Becker says.


Then there's the curious case of the New York Honk, which Tom Wolfe wrote about in 1976. The Honk was a certain upper-class East Coast accent that persisted after WWII, spoken by wealthy prep-school types such as Bobby Kennedy and Nelson Rockefeller. Wolf called it "derived in the natural Anglophile bias of Eastern social life." The unique way that New Yorkers draw out their vowels is another important feature of the dialect. Raising the vowels is one of the first exercises Gabis does with actors learning the accent.

New York-style vowels are diphthongs — meaning they change into another sound during pronunciation. That's just a boring way to describe the musical "aww-uhh" that New Yorkers bring to their vowels, pulling them apart like taffy, turning "sausage" into "sawww-sage." Words like "talk" and "walk" turn into two-syllable words: "Taww-uhk" and "waww-uuhk." Travis Bickle's famous line from "Taxi Driver" actually sounds more like, "Yoo tawwhkin' ta may?"

So, as she wrote: "Will old Noo Yawk become a museum piece, the subway token of language?"

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Being a New Yorker vs. being from New York

I’m growing tired - have been tired for some time, I suppose - of writers using their New York residency as a rhetorical device. Maybe this was once acceptable, when being from the Upper West Side or the East Village had a concrete connotation, but increasingly the device feels like an amateurish way of bragging about living in New York, about - woah - renting an apartment in a city that’s - woah - big.
(Caine Blog)

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Noted: New Yorkers are neurotic, though not as neurotic as people from West Virginia

Researchers identify regional personality traits across America. With interactive maps! There goes the rest of my afternoon. (Wall Street Journal)