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New York Stock Exchange

Image via Wikipedia

I knew, before moving here, that the financial services industry made its headquarters in New York City, in exactly the same way (I imagined) that so many other industries do. What I didn’t realize, what you can’t know until you’ve spent some time here, is that everything in New York revolves around the financial services industry. Which is to say, the money factory. All of the rest of it — the Broadway, the museums, the celebrities, the publishing, the broadcasting, the hustle and the honk and the flash — are secondary layers to the economy, there to service the titans of finance, the ones with the ready cash. New York is Wall Street. Everything else, everything you’ve ever heard about New York except for Wall Street, and I mean everything, is the exact equivalent of the titty bars and pawn shops that spring up around any town with an Army base: a side effect.

Let’s take a particularly counter-intuitive example: the art scene. Surely artists aren’t coming here for the money? News fucking flash. You can become a more successful artist in New York than you can in, say, Louisville, Kentucky, because there are lots of rich people here who like to impress their friends by buying art and pretending to understand it. There are lots of rich people here because the financial services industry — the business whose business is money — is here. That’s why, in the 50s, the Village became the Village (and why Williamsburg is currently in the process of becoming something other than Williamsburg).

New York, New York: there is nothing here but money. Which means, lately, that there is nothing here.

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