the great debate

Bad Answers to the Great ‘Real New Yorker’ Question

Mayor Bloomberg: Not a New Yorker.

In our recurring “21 Questions” feature, one thing we ask of notable people is who, in this melting-pot city of ours, constitutes a New Yorker. Recent answers have pointed to learned skills (the ability to direct taxi drivers, knowledge of “great Chinese food”), a state of mind (being “energized” by the fast-paced city life, a “nothing-shocks-me attitude,”), or simple residency requirements (the “ten-year rule”, or, alternatively, the three-year rule). Their wildly varying answers speak to the nebulous nature of the question itself, but they all have one thing in common: They allow that becoming a New Yorker is attainable to anyone. Today in a Post editorial, Danica Lo takes a much less inclusive approach to the question.

According to Lo’s decidedly nativist definition, you’re a real New Yorker “if you completed the majority of your formative years’ pre-college education — elementary, middle, junior and high school — somewhere in the five boroughs.” Sorry, anyone who didn’t grow up within the city limits — you can live the rest of your life here doing the New York–iest things imaginable and you still can’t become a real New Yorker. (This group, not incidentally, includes every Intel editor, which is probably why we greet it with such umbrage.) Thankfully, Lo adds the caveat that her requirements are “tenuous and negotiable,” and then, later, seemingly directly contradicting her own definition, she writes, “Although it helps to have been born or grown up here, it’s not necessary.” Tenuous indeed! It’s hard to pinpoint what really does make someone a New Yorker — which, if we’re being honest, is only a fabricated distinction that exists to instill a feeling of superiority in those who believe it includes them — but, at the very least, let’s grant outsiders the possibility to get there without the use of a time machine.


Bad Answers to the Great ‘Real New Yorker’ Question