Manhattan is a city divided by power: uptown thrives and strengthens on electricity and wifi and artisanal cheese, while downtown grows meaner and leaner with each passing day in the dark. There are 1.6 million coexisting on 23 square miles with a clear, dangerous divide between them, and power likely won’t return until the weekend. The center cannot hold. Chaos is imminent. And so we ask: Who will win the inevitable Uptown-Down Civil War of 2012?
Hamilton Nolan: At this particular moment in time, downtown, operating on pure rage at days of blackouts and meager restaurant offerings, could burst forth and seize uptown for itself. Uptown is fat, happy, and complacent. Sitting up in their apartments, with electricity, reading the internet, eating Zabar’s food. Downtown has NOTHING. And it is TIRED of it. Also, practically speaking, the UES is full of old people and the UWS is full of nearly-old people. Downtown kids could run through those neighborhoods like teeth through Ramen noodles. It’s only above 125th where the fighting would turn more intense. So logically downtown should just take the UES and the UWS and declare victory.
Rich Juzwiak: Downtown will win because so many of its inhabitants are staying with people uptown already. Those uptowners assume that downtown people would only want to pay back the generosity, that everyone is safe within the homes they have extended. That would make for an easy stealth attack on downtown’s part. By the time uptown knows what’s hit it, it will already be dead.
Neetzan Zimmerman: My vote goes to uptown. True, I’ve only been here a couple of months, but I’ve already seen uptown withstand a gigantic Superstorm. Can downtown say the same? Case closed.
Robert Kessler: As we’ve seen in the last few days, downtown is scrappy. Besides, alliance with the outer-boroughs is completely beneath the snobbish uptowners. To win this civil war, downtown will ally with the outer boroughs. It is the residents of these boroughs that control the basic commerce of New York City. Without car services, uptown is completely cutoff.
Uptown’s Central Park gives downtowners the ideal location to enact guerilla warfare. Downtown will set up camp along the reservoir and use the survival skills learned from The Hunger Games to Katniss Everdeen the shit out of unsuspecting Lululemon-clad Upper West Side joggers.
And let’s not forget the gay populations of the villages. A people who have endured decades of oppression have some pent up aggression and would not hesitate to ransack a Fifth Avenue boutique.
Emma Carmichael: The downtown survivors are currently subsisting on a diet of crackers, peanut butter, booze, and home-delivery marijuana. They are consumed by a raging, motivating hunger, and they will stop at nothing to secure uptown’s spare outlets and fancy cheese. Add to this the fact that these people have been living in the dark for some 70-plus hours—they’ve likely developed night vision and special-ops survival tactics by now. Downtown is gritty again; uptown is just old.
Consider the celebrity scale, too: Downtown can call in De Niro and Gandolfini to reprise Bickle and Soprano, respectively. UES is looking at Didion and Woody. Game over.
John Cook: Manhattan is an unpleasant, over-crowded, preposterously loud, foul-smelling, skyless island full of impolite people who have no sense of how to properly and considerately negotiate a sidewalk. While I offer my heartfelt sympathies to those Manhattanites that are currently suffering from the legacy of Hurricane Sandy, there is an impassable, implacable gulf between us: The decision to reside on Manhattan renders those who live there a cipher to me. I will never understand their motivations or state of mind. That said, I guess uptown would win because there are more wealthy people there, and in war, as in all things, the poor people get fucked.
Caity Weaver: The main arguments in favor of an Uptown victory will focus on its large coffers (for funding war-mongering) and profusion of residents who fulfill leadership roles as part of their everyday lives (presidents of museum committees, viceroys of investment banks, etc.).
To which I say:
- Money is irrelevant in guerilla warfare.
- Having residents accustomed to leading means that Uptown would quickly succumb to a “too many chefs in the kitchen; not enough sous-chefs in the kitchen” extended cooking metaphor.
Uptown’s wide avenues would prove much more difficult to defend than Downtown’s labyrinthine maze of streets. Staten Island Ferry means that Downtown would have a superior navy.
Furthermore, history has already shown us the outcome of an Uptown/Downtown Civil War, in the form of Bravo’s 2012 Uptown/Downtown reality series, Gallery Girls. By season’s end, the Uptown house had been divided against itself by Diva Attitudes and almost everyone liked Amy, which was crazy. The Downtown faction, while regularly rocked by reports of people talking about other people behind other people’s backs, managed to maintain an uneasy peace.
Kate Bennert: Downtown—because resource-deprived, rage-driven, cracked-out millennials are, culturally speaking, zombies. And who wins a zombie attack? Zombies do.
Adrian Chen: When I was biking around the deadzone yesterday I stopped into a bar off Tompkins Square park. Inside, candles burned and tall-boys of Natural Light fished from coolers was the only beer in the place. A bro sat at the bar griping to his friends about how other residents in his apartment had been passing the time without eletricity. “Since the hurricane, everyone in my apartment has turned into a fucking amateur musician,” he said. “A dozen people were playing guitars all night. I wanted to go into their apartments and smash their instruments over their head.” The fact that he both looked utterly capable of doing this—would have delighted in tearing the doors off of every apartment on his floor and tossing their guitar-strumming inhabitants from the fire escape—but managed to restrain himself from doing it is why my money is on downtown in any intra-Manhattan civil war. Stone cold mother-fuckers.
Leah Beckmann: Uptown. I think the instinct here is to declare downtown the winner because they’re a scrappy coalition of desperate survivors who have been bathing in Starbucks bathrooms for days. But that instinct would be wrong. Uptown is old school New York; they’ve seen it all. They’ve seen the black-outs, the fires, the ’80s- with that kind of stamina (and fine china) they are not going anywhere. Beyond their refined experience, the Uptowners are rested. They’ve been eating warm meals and DVR’ing The Voice. They’ve been BORED at least once in the past week. What’s more, Uptown probably already knows that the downtown urchins are coming for them, not because of a blue blooded sense of restlessness in the plebeians below, but because they have internet and have therefore had time to prepare. They’ve been emailing battle plans to each other all week. Never underestimate the home court advantage. Above all, Uptown has their staff who have been promised rubies and freedom if they protect their masters. I don’t like it anymore than you do, but the truth is hard and the world is cruel.
Max Read: THE ATLANTIC OCEAN, 2143 — Earlier this month, underwater archaeologists excavating what is believed to be the old New York transportation hub known as Grand Central discovered a sealed metal box containing a series of remarkably well-preserved papers. Subsequent dating revealed the papers, which appear to be unsent letters and messages, to date back to at least the early 21st century. The McDonald’s University of California - Barstow plans on publishing an annotated selection of the papers later this year. An excerpt below:
"The station has been silent for 36 hours, and the fighters are restless and hungry, their faces drawn, their figures gaunt. We received word earlier that the troop in Herald Square was forced to fall back to 50th Street, overwhelmed by sheer numbers. That makes us the front line. Rumors circulate the stuffy air: Downtown has allied itself with Brooklyn. Times Square signed a treaty. Among the more superstitious, there are whispers that Downtown has developed a magical, non-electric power source; that on Long Island, a child-king is raising an army to come to our aid. Some of our number have taken to wearing around their necks a token in the form of a dangling crane as a kind of mystical protection against the awesome occult power Downtown is said to wield. But that which goes unspoken is far more terrifying: few of us, if any, will survive through the week; those that do will be taken prisoner, tortured for information, and if rumors are true, roasted on the enormous sidewalk grill as a feast for the children of Lower Manhattan. We are skeptical about the news that passes from one soldier’s mouth to another, but no one can disagree that Uptown has lost, and all that is left is to die."
The verdict: Downtown conquers Uptown. Good luck, Manhattan.
Illustration by Jim Cooke.