Once the refuge for the terminally uncurious and those who wished to create a suburb within a city, Murray Hill was the best 10 city block and 3 avenue long bar, gym and sushi restaurant east of the Upper West Side. Or, for that matter, south of the Upper East Side. Or, better yet, north of Brooklyn Heights.
Upon their Bar-Mitzvah from SUNY schools, ZBT and SAMMY frat boys flocked to its generous happy hour specials and shared renovated 2 BR, HWF, doorman apartment buildings with names that sound like the Catskill camps they stayed at as children. Girls, too rich to be anything worse than just plain looking, in their tit-curtain shirts and William Rast jeans with pants leg tucked into too high shoes, fellated these same boys in the bathrooms of chain bars, while chain smoking and imitating daisy chains while they made out with one another for attention and one more round of Jaeger bombs.
But, it is not my place to mock or guffaw. Many, including those who live in the neighborhood itself, do so. Some are bragging, pride being mis-indicated by its bitter defensiveness as self-emulation. Others have caught the irony bug and sing ditties, like the Murray Hill song, knowing that, like their lacrosse and frat brothers taught them, hazing is the sincerest form of flattery. And, even for all the missed opportunities and cultural murdering that occurs daily there, there is something to be said for being a clean, safe and generally unobtrusive, if comatose, community.
I am a disinterested outside observer who is here to share the very bad news that the dream or, better yet, collective unconsciousness, is dead. Murray Hill is slowly descending into the cesspit that is the rest of New York and, without the artistic or cultural signifigance that makes other parts of dirty, downtrodden and bum-ridden New York worthwhile, Murray Hill might never recover.
A block away from Windsor Court and three blocks down from the self-named The Murray Hill is a methadone clinic and a homeless shelter, disrespectfully. But, as the economy continues to stage-dive, the addicts and the destitute continue to grow. The doors become too thin and the rooms to small to hold the various derelicts and others who populate their halls. So, they spill onto the streets. The bums and assorted riff-raff attracted by the same once clean and safe streets that attracted so many young professionals.
24 hour stores, meant to service an oft-partying crowd become refugee population control centers that outperform FEMA trailers. The local McDonalds, where black tank-topped girls would eat fries before vomiting them out in their bathroom with the picture of an old liquor add above the toilet now become holding centers for the destitute. The all-night deli, a bodega if it were in Brooklyn, finds it easier selling clichéd malt liquors to 16 year old punks then concerning itself with stocking the latest organic groceries.
What then to become of a neighborhood with little integrity and less muscle when the rats, human shaped and pest-sized, begin forcing their way in. It is better to walk away, slowly, scared, and look for the next clean, safe community.