For New Yorkers, real estate is a consuming obsession. Whether they rent or own, virtually everyone has a tale of triumph and/or horror to tell, and tell they do. The only three — or rather five — factors that really count in this equation are size; price; and location, location, location. But what constitutes the quality of a "location" in New York, especially in the past 15-20 odd years and counting, is subject to change. And that is a vast understatement.
Twenty years ago, you didn't have to be rich to find an apartment in Manhattan. But even back then, "old-timers" who'd lived for years in rent-controlled or stabilized buildings had deals so sweet that newcomers would be green with envy. But still, in those days, if you swung into town, you could find a cheap hotel - not the Ritz, but a place to stay. Even bums could always find a Bowery flophouse for a pittance.
Today, on the other hand, in order to move to Manhattan you have to be wealthy or reside in one of the burgeoning number of residential dorms owned by New York University (downtown) or Columbia (uptown). The cheap hotels have either undergone luxe renovations or been demolished altogether, and the typical stay in a Manhattan hotel will set you back several hundred a night. The Bowery, which for more than a century was synonymous with the last stop for alcoholic bums on the skids, is now allegedly developing into a new art gallery district, with pricey restaurants and bars to match. Virtually all the flops are on the way out or long gone.
In roughly the past three decades, especially during the dotcom boom, New York City began to experience an amazing renaissance. As the city emerged from a horrible financial hole, the subways and streets became more user-friendly, and crime went down dramatically. Manhattan's major parks, which had become hellish havens for drug dealers and even squatters, were renovated and are now safe, clean, and hospitable for residents and tourists alike.
In due time, Manhattan became the place where everyone wanted to be. Hotels and high rises continued to spring up, and old buildings underwent luxury renovation. Commercial rents were unregulated, so an old mom and pop store or downscale bodega could be driven out of business overnight when their lease expired and their rent doubled. In their place came more upscale offerings suitable to artists, hipsters, and yuppies.