The book is an effortful reference for how New York morphed from a syncretic collection of diasporas—both extra-national and of the identity and mind—into a bland sovereignty of the mega-rich. Moss often tries to sound curmudgeonly, but is clearly heart-struck and psychically reliant upon New York’s wild singularity ... Moss’s factual, point-by-point analysis of New York’s perdition is based in context: Like the city, each event, person, and place exists in relation to what stands before, after, and beside it. The result is a remarkable atlas charting where New York has gone, and why.
The book is a full-throated argument for New York City as a particular kind of place, and for a certain kind of life lived within it ... The list of vanished places and things is long and ever growing, and in these pages Moss maps a litany of losses. Chapter by chapter, he inventories the history and heartbreaks of the main neighborhoods in Manhattan before turning his attention to parts of Brooklyn and Queens, with a foray into the South Bronx ... Moss’s indignation and moral clarity—his certainty about who belongs and who doesn’t, what values are worth upholding and who to blame for their downfall—is an audacious kind of idealism. As pissed off as Moss is, the power of this book and the blog that preceded it is that he doesn’t settle for outrage. He maintains that New York is worth standing up for and protecting.
What does it mean, or really why does it matter, for New York, or any city, to have its character or ‘soul’ go missing? The essential pain is not in the disappearance of wherever it was that used to serve the best 3 a.m. souvlaki (Moss feels that pain viscerally and often too indulgently), but in the transformation of the city into a place that no longer accommodates failure, a place that disavows mediocrity in the human form … The pleasure (or agony, depending on your predilection) of reading Moss is his purity...For Moss there is only one hand, and it is the hand of menacing greed and self-interest … Perhaps the nostalgist is always impeded by myopia. New York has become a less just, less thrilling, less original place for Moss and many, many people like him. While this is indisputable, is it unequivocally bad for the world?