Wow, that’s an incredible story about how you missed seasons so hard living in LA and the toxic culture you helped perpetrate drove you to move across the country to Williamsburg where you’ve been soo inspired by your glassy condo building, our “dope walking culture” and the variety of juice bars. So inspired you want to make an app for imposing the facade’s of glass, postmodern supertalls onto our “gross” historic housing stock, to imagine what could be? So inspired you’ve secured funding to found a startup dedicated to some other initiative which seems safe in your mind but in fact has an aim, aesthetic or publicity strategy which will force you to apologize for upsetting everyone less than a week after launching?
Ahh New York values. When you get this place, they seem obvious – meanwhile, Ted Cruz, Silicon Valley and the rest of the world struggle to understand. There are basics which can be conveyed in adjectives alone – liberal, local – but in a city of so many, the nuanced core of the moral priorities which define New York reflect much less on the path we’re heading down and much more on the city we want this to be. Playing off the biggest and brightest aspects of the city – our economy, our giant apartment buildings – or the superlatives which define this place to outsiders – most populous, richest, least sleep – aren’t foolproof ways to create or market an appealing product. In fact, the type of people who are going to call you out for being tone deaf and cause you a Twitter-fueled PR nightmare may just be cogs in the machine but you’re likely going to alienate them faster if you market your app / startup / hedge fund-backed lifestyle brand with a New York trope of which you only exploit the surface of. Or worse, you can exploit something near and dear to our hearts.
Bodegas are beloved; all mom and pop businesses are, increasingly so as their existence is threatened by escalating rents and corporate competition. You know what else is beloved? Hole in the wall food spots which give you massive heapings of homemade foreign food on styrofoam plates, respect for old timers who grew up with a neighborhood, love for our public transit even as it crumbles beneath us, empathy for the homeless as human beings and not crime generators, prioritization of local immigrant businesses over more high-tech Californian equivalents, not sacrificing experience for efficiency, appreciating our neighbors, not letting our city be turned into a Bradburian dystopia even if it means walking to the corner store instead of buying chips from a machine.
It shouldn’t be that hard, we’re all humans here, and yet Silicon Valley and homegrown developers continually put out products which any local could immediately identify as deplorable. Maybe it’s different on the West Coast, but New York is a shtetl at the end of the day and for all the rat race rhetoric we care about our cityscape and our communities more than saving a few minutes at the end of a busy day – or we should, anyway.
Now that you understand some of our priorities and the by extension the things we don’t want replacements for, here are some apps New Yorkers could use:
- An accurate subway service sign for every train line, accessible from everywhere.
- A time machine crime map to see all the illegal deeds ever done at a specific spot.
- SnapChat but for smells – SmellChat, to be used to send enemies the scent of subway trash.
- An in-phone, city-funded laser printer to be used for fixing pot holes.
- A live feed of Silicon Valley app development ideas which we as a city could vote down.
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Presumably the way one measures sufficient demand is by trying something and see if one can do it profitably. It’s a little too easy for people to write articles moralising or guessing whether something might work out.