New York v Birmingham

I have been back from New York for almost a year and having resigned myself to the fact that I’m going to be in England for at least another year, or two or three, I’m semi-settled in my favourite English city, Birmingham.
As with many places I go, I have compared the neighbourhoods of Birmingham with those in New York. This is what I have come up with:

Chinatown                                                                Chinatown
Chinatown is almost identical everywhere you go in the world, although in Birmingham, blink and you’ll miss it and in New York it’s impossible to miss it if you are downtown. You cannot get passed it either. Not in a hurry in any case.

Colmore Business District                            Wall Street
Business is business but Wall Street is noticeably faster paced and the crowd starts earlier. I do enjoy being around at 8am when the people on ‘London time’ have already being working for a few hours and the rest are just starting to arrive, coffee and pastry in hand. Although Wall Street is steeped in history in that America was pretty much built from this point, Colmore has class, heritage and charm. And less sky scrapers.

St Paul’s                                                                       Morningside
Morningside Park runs just to the East of Columbia, has a big church close by, is eerily quiet with a few bars, restaurants and one or two coffee shops. St Paul’s is the closest match I can make with a pleasingly lovely, undiscovered part of New York

Jewellery Quarter                                              Diamond District
Just stating the obvious although residentially, JQT is more like East Village.

Balti Triangle                                                        Hells Kitchen
Hells Kitchen is in the region around 8th and 9th Avenues between 34th and 57th St and I’ve fallen in love with this area in recent years. It’s another obvious comparison as this area has ‘Restaurant Row’ in it. Hells Kitchen is now known as Clinton but locals in HK aren’t really up for that and are keeping the name that reminds them of the violence and riots that rocked this working class neighbourhood in the distant and recent pasts. The difference is that it has every type of restaurant you can think off. Especially popular with in the know theatre-goers from the bordering district.

Birmingham Cathedral (St Phillips)                St Patrick’s Cathedral
Birmingham’s predominant holy building is set on parkland, actually gravestones and enduringly filled with Goths, or whatever they call themselves these days and St Patrick’s is on 5th Avenue, in one the busiest noisiest, tourist filled areas of NYC outside Times Square.

Brindley Place                                                   Tribeca
Like Brindley Place, TriBeCa (Triangle below Canal St) has also been restyled in recent years from a ghost town to lofts, offices, hotels, restaurants, coffee shops and higher prices and it’s near the water, Hudson River. Sounds familiar?
Tribeca is in fact one of the oldest parts of New York with cobbled streets still intact, as my many visits to the cobblers of New York will testify.

Edgbaston                                                           Upper East Side
Old money                                                              Old Money

Soho                                                                     Harlem
Soho Birmingham style is unfortunately minus the sultry jazz and blues clubs and of course the Harlem Apollo but also minus the price rising tag ‘up and coming area’. It does have some of the West Indian culture though so close enough but doesn’t make me want to live there, whereas West Harlem is certainly do-able.

Theatreland                                                   Times Square
Although Theatreland also doubles with Chelsea for a true gay comparison.

International Convention Centre         Jacob Javitz Centre
Birmingham’s premier conference centre overlooking the canal.
New York’s premier conference centre overlooks Hudson River towards the Jersey skyline.
OK, New York wins that one.

Moseley                                                             Brooklyn
This is not New York, New York but that’s the thing about Moseley, you can see it from the big city and its only 5 minutes away but it’s a whole different vibe. It’s kind of friendlier and it’s where people go and live if they want more time to be creative and more room to spread out in, particularly as their families grow. However, it still has a sprinkling of students and singles along with a definite creative energy.

I can almost compare Moseley with Upper West with its artistic residency but it can fit in one side street of this, my favourite NYC neighbourhood situated to the west of the top half of Central Park.


Although Birmingham has many parks on the outskirts, it is sadly lacking in the uniqueness that is Central Park, proving that man can indeed make land beautiful, if we try just that little bit harder. Not only has New York succeeded in building some precious green land 50 blocks long, it is well used and collectively loved. This vast parkland is for sure one my favourite parts of New York whether it’s for a quick stroll on a white Christmas morning, to see live entertainment on a humid mid-summers day or just using it as scenic west to east walkway as an excuse for retail therapy at the Bath & Body Works on the east side of the city.
Also, I’m unable to do direct comparisons with my two favourite neighbourhoods Columbia and the Upper West Side where I lived. If I could, no doubt I wouldn’t miss New York as much.

And thankfully there’s only one Broad Street.

Finally we cannot compare the NEC to the sacred ground that is Madison Square Gardens. ‘You’re not a New Yorker until you’ve been to the Garden’.


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