Best of Manhattan 2001: Normal’s Not an Ordinary Word

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Not surprisingly, New York Press' 14th annual Best of Manhattan issue is as subdued as the city itself.

It was originally planned for Sept. 19, but we pushed back publishing our largest annual edition for several obvious reasons. Primarily, in the midst of New York City's most severe crisis, with so many citizens mourning the innocents murdered by terrorists, there wasn't much enthusiasm among our staff to proceed on schedule. Also, like so many other businesses disrupted by the surprise attack, our own infrastructure?phone lines, website, computers?was compromised to the extent that it would've been difficult to produce our most popular issue.

Despite the pleas from Mayor Giuliani and President Bush for Americans to return to a semblance of "normalcy," any New Yorker knows that that's impossible. Still, as always, there's much to celebrate about the city, and in the following pages you'll find several hundred idiosyncratic snippets of opinion from our heterogeneous group of writers about this slice of the United States we're all proud to call home.

Bear in mind that much of "Best of" was researched, composed and factchecked before the unspeakable tragedy of Sept. 11; sadly, some of the downtown establishments touted inside were devastated by the events of that day. It's our hope that readers will consider the pages of recommendations, discover and possibly patronize the restaurants, boutiques and unique shops that were, and still are, affected by the immediate destruction and ensuing lack of access to their front doors.

That's not to say this Best of Manhattan is a sugar-coated testimonial to the city, in the tradition of feckless publications like New York, countless weeklies that trade editorial endorsements for advertisements, or condescending (and perhaps clueless) booster-magazines like Time Out New York. Switching gears in such a manner wouldn't be honest; in fact, it would justifiably call into question the very integrity of New York Press.

Those who've had the fortitude to read accounts of the bombings and the aftermath already know about the colossal heroism demonstrated by the FDNY, NYPD, Rudy Giuliani, doctors, nurses, countless volunteers and the men and women who rushed from other states to help in any way they could. The number of blood donors, restaurateurs who donated food to the rescue workers and people who've given money for the cause?including philanthropists, corporations and kids emptying their wallets and piggy banks?has been astonishing, and is certainly proof of why so many of us choose to live in New York City.

Typically, not every story is uplifting. Those who've looted damaged stores, perpetrated cruel hoaxes about missing persons and tried to turn a buck from the tragedy with bogus website appeals and telemarketing are the vermin that infest and infect any large city. We hope as many of these criminals as possible are apprehended and spared no mercy by the judicial system.

There are also New Yorkers who've hindered the recovery process in less heinous but still vaguely malevolent ways. I happen to live below Canal St.?as of this writing the demarcation line of the no-vehicle zone?and can say with certainty that it'll be a long time before Tribeca, the financial district and Battery Park return to a semblance of "normalcy." Fires still erupt from the wreckage; the smoke and stench in the air is thick; and the blank faces of neighbors trying to go about their daily lives are haunting. Just last week I was speaking to a cop?the process of presenting photo ID and proof of residence is now an ingrained routine?and he told me how dozens of tourists have begged him to retrieve a piece of rubble from "Ground Zero" for a souvenir.

No novelist could make up this sick state of mind.

Far worse has been not only the harassment of law-abiding Arab-Americans, but the xenophobic taunts aimed at almost every group of immigrants, whether they're Asian, Hispanic, Russian or Indian. There's a deli in my neighborhood, on Reade St., that remained open 24 hours a day after the bombings, despite the lack of electricity. The managers at the store provided flashlights for customers and quickly depleted their shelves of perishables and sent them to the rescue teams. About a week after Sept. 11, I was buying some groceries there when a nasty woman shrieked to the crowd outside that the proprietor of the deli was a "pirate," trying to take advantage of the crisis by jacking up prices.

Perhaps the woman was simply hysterical and unglued by the awful events, but her tirade, which caused a stir in the immediate vicinity, was wrong. Despicable. True, it's more expensive to shop at the bodegas and delis that dot the city?they haven't the financial strength of, say, a Food Emporium?but it's this kind of disinformation that's so harmful in an emergency and also propels discrimination against "foreigners."

The United States has justifiably declared a war against terrorism and the rogue nations that aid and abet the diabolical zealots who aim to destroy modern civilization. Predictably, our country's academic institutions have mobilized impressionable students to demonstrate against the U.S. government and provide moral succor to the people who murdered 7000 of their fellow citizens. Dissent and free speech are basic and crucial privileges of living in a democracy, and so there's no quarrel from this corner about the antiwar activity, however distasteful?and disrespectful of the dead?it may be.

But one of the awful consequences of Sept. 11 is that even if terrorism is eradicated to the extent possible, and the country does return to peacetime, President Bush's visionary views about immigration have been dealt a fatal blow. I don't expect students to fully understand the far-reaching implications of this national disaster?American history and the Constitution aren't emphasized in college curriculums?but surely the masses of citizens who've immigrated to the United States and prospered realize this is a catastrophic setback for the country.

That's not returning to "normal."

The following writers and artists contributed to this issue: Spencer Ackerman, Doug Allen, Andrew Baker, Lynda Barry, Katia Bassal, William Bryk, Alan Cabal, Christopher Carbone, Russell Christian, Mike Doughty, Marty Dundics, Tristan Eaton, Fly, Anna Godbersen, Marcellus Hall, Adam Heimlich, Danny Hellman, Nina Ippolito, Mary Karam, Lisa Kearns, Julee Kim, Jim Knipfel, Richard Kostelanetz, Mimi Kramer, mlteague, Lisa LeeKing, Paul Leschen, Lane Lipton, Jason Little, Don MacLeod, Erik Maniscalco, Noah Masterson, Adam Mazmanian, Sarah Miller, Tony Millionaire, MUGGERJr., Carolyn Nash, John Nebesney, Eva Neuberg, Andrew Perkowski, William S. Repsher, Wendy Reynolds, Tanya Richardson, Roxy, Jane Sanders, Emily Schuch, Sarah Shanok, Andrey Slivka, Russ Smith, Akiko Stehrenberger, John Strausbaugh, C.J. Sullivan, Neil Swaab, Stacey Szewczyk, George Tabb, Wendy Tabb, J.R. Taylor, Lionel Tiger, Don Trachte, Daria Vaisman, Christian Viveros-Fauné, Ned Vizzini, Mike Wartella, Wayno, Jessica Willis, Antony Zito.

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