What does "cultural heritage" mean to people living in NYC?

Morganne Shelford

Will Eisner thought that a building has something to tell us about the lives of the people that built it and lived in it. "Cultural heritage" is the past in the present, and New Yorkers make a lot of effort to preserve it, sometimes even giving it a new lease of life, cf. the High line, the NYC Centre, etc. The Guggenheim, ethnic diversity, musical eclecticism, the Statue of Liberty, Harlem, are all examples of the rich cultural heritage New Yorkers have reason to be proud of. Ground Zero became “cultural heritage” because of the symbolic value New Yorkers gave it, and 1WTC will not be just another oversized office block; it will be a landmark, symbolizing New York and its people united against chaos. In NYC, each building says something about the values of New Yorkers; think of Cornell Tech, which is not just an educational establishment, it has to be the best… NYC’s cultural heritage in one word: pride.

Victor Guillon

“Cultural heritage” is viewed differently from one person to the next in NYC. For some, cultural heritage is about shared fundamental values, about keeping the city as dynamic as it has always been, recycling old places into new ones not only for the present but also for the generations to come. For others, it’s preserving, intact, what the past has bestowed upon us (cf. the Lower East Side Tenement Museum or even the NYC Center).
Besides buildings and monuments, cultural heritage also means cultural diversity. Isn’t New York the world’s capital, a Babel of ethnic groups? Its musical eclecticism and plethora of parades and festivals are its live and kicking’ cultural heritage!
New York swallows you up and makes you its own; but, since 9/11, New Yorkers also know that it is also up to them what their City is to be. They make the stones speak of what is right and wrong…

Claire Plassart

New York’s cultural heritage is about civic pride but also about dominance. NYC considers itself the world’s capital, and its buildings and monuments display this: Guggenheim, Chrysler, UN, Empire State, 1WTC, etc. New Yorkers wish to preserve their immense cultural heritage, sometimes modernizing buildings or finding new uses for redundant infrastructure (cf. the Highline project).
New York is a cosmopolitan place, each community affirming its identity through art and music. There are also massive cultural and sports events which unite the population.
NYC is a dynamic, forward-looking place, the latest example of this is the development project for Roosevelt Island. Cultural heritage for New Yorkers is not just about the past and things from the past that are still with us, it’s also about maintaining the values of hard work and the spirit of conquest inherited from those that came before. "Cultural heritage" in NYC is the imperative to build...
New Yorkers still commemorate 9/11 - they cannot afford to forget it - but they, as always, move on: 1WTC is rising up from Ground Zero…

Rémi Kondjoyan

New Yorkers have good reasons to be proud of their cultural heritage. NYC is attractive to visitors and residents alike because of its extraordinary cultural facilities and places of historic interest. But, though wanting to keep the city the way it is, New Yorkers also want to make NYC a city of the future. They are therefore modernising the town’s infrastructure and investing in research to stay competitive, building prestigious high-tech but ecologically-friendly research centres (cf. the Roosevelt Island project).
Security has become a priority, since 9/11, since Sandy. All the disaster movies which use NYC as backdrop seem all of a sudden very real… One of the results of catastrophe is to have made New Yorkers realize that their “cultural heritage” is important to them because it is not just “old buildings”, it is what they have built together over the centuries. Cultural heritage is essentially about people: who we were, are, and hope to be…
New York, the place, the people, the ideal, is synonymous with resilience and optimism, with individual opportunity, but also with necessary tolerance. Whatever part of the world you may have come from, whatever your customs, in NYC you will become a New Yorker, because NYC thrives on diversity. But NYC works - at least it does today -  because newcomers buy into a set of values and practices common to all New Yorkers, if you will, a “cultural heritage” they learn to share.

Vincent Pinneau

New York City has for a long time been the principal entry point for immigrants. Their first impression of the New World was New York; they came hoping to fulfil their personal American Dream. The result was NYC’s extraordinary cultural diversity; people from more than two hundred countries cohabit more or less peacefully in this dynamic metropolis. What all these people have in common is, to various degrees, the will to succeed; this fundamental value defines the “cultural heritage” of NYC. One example: the Manhattan skyline, so familiar the world over, is in fact ever-changing, the result of the pioneering and ambitious spirit of its inhabitants.
How New Yorkers have coped with 9/11 says much about them and how they consider their built environment; 1WTC, being constructed on the site of Ground Zero, serves as both a memorial to the victims and a symbol of New Yorkers’ defiance of terrorism and their will to build a brighter future.

Marie de Langlade

For New Yorkers, “cultural heritage” is both literally part of their everyday lives as a built environment, and part of their routine existence as a set of shared values and practices.
Some, through preservation initiatives, want to keep the City as is, to save its “soul”. Others would like to transform old landmarks into something useful, which they consider is in the spirit of their dynamic city.
NYC is undeniably multicultural. Parades, the annual marathon, and other such traditions, are at the same time an expression of the City’s unity and of its cultural diversity.
The 9/11 terrorist attack increased solidarity; in this context, “cultural heritage” took on a strong emotional significance, places and buildings becoming symbols of defiance and hope, something the inhabitants had to defend in the face of anarchy…

Elina Chandezon

New York City, futuristic metropolis, is incredibly wealthy, especially as regards its cultural heritage. New Yorkers, for obvious reasons, love NY! It is hard to tell though if all of them really appreciate how much they possess…
Some New Yorkers are keen enough to devote time and money to the preservation of the Big Apple (as much as to its development). Doesn’t the High line project show New Yorkers want to both modernize the city whilst keeping its “roots” strong?
New Yorkers use their cultural heritage, add to it everyday, and make use of it to express who they are to the world. For example, the construction of 1WTC on Ground Zero shows New Yorkers’ defiance of terrorism; it is a building that, though not yet complete, is, in a sense, already part of their cultural heritage…

Solène Gauthier

Everything in NYC is “cultural heritage”, because, whatever you look at, it is famous! Some New Yorkers are more keen than others in keeping the Big Apple beautiful; the High line is a great example of how they have made from something old, something new. This is keeping cultural heritage sites alive (by making them relevant and useful). For others, NYC is not some museum. Most people are proud of the world-wide fame of the town they have built but they don’t think about it much, not at least as a place of particular interest from a “cultural heritage” point of view. It’s just where they live and try to earn a living!

Miléna Chapot

New York’s cultural heritage is extremely diverse because the city is a “mixing bowl” of 254 different nationalities. This diversity is displayed through music and art. George Gershwin’s work epitomises this eclecticism, uniting many musical styles into one.
New York’s architecture, famous worldwide (e.g. the Statue of Liberty), is the most visible part of that cultural heritage. New Yorkers choose to preserve their cultural heritage sites by sometimes “recycling” them (for example the High line). They also create buildings and monuments in the tradition of NYC (i.e. on a grand scale such as the Roosevelt Island Project).
The tragic events of 9/11 united people and increased their determination to reconstruct, no matter the cost, the buildings which they condidered important from a cultural heritage standpoint; 1WTC will be an extraordinary landmark… In NYC, “cultural heritage” is made by the people, for the people; the affirmation of liberty is therefore an intrinsic part of it.

Simon Breillad

Cultural heritage is the customs, knowledge, behavior, and material objects (including the built environment) that are transmitted from one generation to the next… But what importance does “cultural heritage” have in New York City, where 245 countries are represented and 200 languages are spoken?
Cultural heritage is the thing that makes all those different ethnic groups live peacefully together: they have something to share. This sense of a common heritage (and destiny?) has been accentuated since the 11th September 2001… The attachment to their cultural heritage that new Yorkers feel is well represented by the festive crowds like for Thanksgiving or St Patrick’s day, when they listen to all the different styles of music or even when they give million dollar donations to help the reconstruction of an historic building. Nevertheless, in the Big Apple, newness, energy and modernity are by definition part of the cultural heritage, and so finding a new use for an old place (like the High line) is a great way to both save money and preserve the “soul” of this modern high-tech dynamic city.

Hughes Thorin

New-Yorkers don’t live with cultural heritage, they live “in” their cultural heritage! I mean that New Yorkers consider what their parents have transmitted to them and what is being built as cultural heritage. New Yorkers aren’t oppressed by their past. They live with their past in the present to drive it into the future.
For New Yorkers, everything which they associate with strong memories is cultural heritage; they have to transmit it to the next generation. These cosmopolitan inhabitants are proud of their town and want to keep it the way it is, despite their differences. It is this will to keep NYC the way it is which makes its unity. It gives a soul to the city and makes it overflow with imagination, which gives incredible inspiration to New Yorkers. It is the inspiration of today’s New Yorkers, which will inspire the artists of tomorrow.

Emma Nicolas

For New Yorkers, everything in the city is part of their cultural heritage, whether it be buildings, memorials, or architecture, or immaterial things like music, ethnic diversity, or even the city’s very soul! Some inhabitants are very involved in preservation of this common heritage, whereas others just live in New York without knowing all the efforts being made to keep it in a good state.
NYC is like the world's capital, especially as there are people from 245 countries there. This, plus  9/11 which has made for a more united city, means that the population of NYC is constantly looking forward; they create new places every day or “recycle” buildings they find important. For New Yorkers, the past needs to be present.

François Dischamp

Through music, art, architecture, etc., culture heritage seems to be omnipresent in New York. However, all New Yorkers don’t have the same conception of the term. Some consider that culture heritage is a fabulous gift from past generations that needs to be preserved for themselves, and passed on from one generation to the other. But for other New Yorkers, it is important that every generation leave a mark and try to improve the work of their forebears, New Yorkers themselves being the people in charge of this difficult mission.
New York, the city of innovation, wants to always be a step ahead of everyone. New Yorkers are keen to preserve this status and they have understood that they were the ones controlling New York’s fate.

Vianney Lepoutre

For New Yorkers, the past is what has been achieved and an example to follow; for them, time is synonymous with progress…
Buildings of importance from a cultural heritage point of view, have immense symbolic value: the Statue of the Liberty stands for hope and freedom, the Twin Towers for economic power, etc.
These places and buildings are also, more simply, places in which they live and work.
They are also reminders of past events, associated with personal and collective memories. That is perhaps the main reason they protect these buildings, even if they have to change their original function, such as for the New York City Center.
New Yorkers protect their buildings because they are a source of civic pride. This civic pride is also expressed through art and music, which is part of their rich cultural heritage.
Some feel any changes to their landmarks or traditions are an attack on the very soul of the city, on its particular atmosphere; the protests against the High line project were carried out by a few die-hard nostalgics...

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