Urban Flight

Blog/Produced by The High Calling

Urban Flight

My American friends told me that Hong Kong was ‘like New York on steroids.’

Having grown up on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, I was skeptical about the Asian city’s intensity or impressiveness. Yet, I must admit I was astounded by China’s ‘Special Administrative Region.’ After 23 meetings in 13 days— all meetings but two held in Central and Wan Chai districts —I knew why the city was known for juicing. I later asked a Chinese friend about this.

"It’s such a dense city," he said, referring to how easily business people have access to each other. While Manhattan exceeds its Chinese counterpart in both population and population density, I found that you can move among appointments in Hong Kong by plentiful red taxis, the MTR, and the glassed-in walkways, leaving you little time to stop in at Louis Vuitton or Prada in one of the many skyscrapered malls while hoofing it to do more private equity or real estate deals.

He continued. "This means I can do four meetings a day when I travel to New York, but here I can do six." It’s no wonder that many young Hong Kongers work six or even six and one half days per week.

This is not a slam against Hong Kong.

This is not a slam against New York.

This is certainly not a slam against cities, since it is in cities that I make a living doing what I do.

Because even in my city of eight million, and of 52,000 people per square-mile, I can sit on the terrace outside my Upper West Side apartment and hear the scream of an adult red-tailed hawk. I might have said the ‘cry,’ the ‘screech,’ or the ‘caw’ of the hawk, but these are incorrect terms and are aural nomenclature applied instead to shoppers from New Jersey trying to hail a cab outside of Macy’s. It is a ‘scream,’ according to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. They should know, because their town of Ithaca has only about 5,000 people per square mile, about as many as ride my rush-hour morning subway train, and these academics can hear the scream well enough to be able to describe it as a ‘kee-eeeee-arr.’

So I sat on the terrace and took out my earbuds after hearing the first kee-eeeee-arr.

I’ve seen a number of hawks in Riverside Park, about 50 yards from us, and know that they feed on the rats who get into our garbage cans along 84th Street. Sometimes, however, landlords will illegally place strychnine by the cans, and the poisoned rats will be killed and eaten by the adult hawks and their chicks, thereby poisoning them and killing them in turn.

Another hawk died when it flew against the windshield of a moving van headed south on Riverside Drive, but that could have happened in Ithaca as well.

You learn these things and you hear the ghostly scream of an unlikely New York City bird, and it makes you consider the pigeon differently.

That is, if you have a few extra minutes between meetings and if you also decide to skip Prada and Louis Vuitton around the corner.

Image by Thomas and Dianne Jones. Used with permission. Sourced via Flickr. Post by Howard Freeman.