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We've all heard it before: “New York is so dirty.” “New York is such a filthy city.” “New York smells like a festering swamp of warmed-over trash that’s been peed on.” Well, you know what? It could be a lot worse. (And it’s not like you didn’t know this going in.)
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This city is so large that even those of us who live here often struggle to comprehend it. In fact, the Big Apple isn’t just big—it’s gargantuan. And just as the city harbors 8 million people with 8 million stories, it also holds 8 million generators of trash—plus another 1.5 million bridge-and-tunnel commuters and tourists. Considering its size, the city does a pretty good job of keeping itself clean.
Sure, the midtown trash cans overflow after thousands of people stuff them with crippled umbrellas and crushed Starbucks cups. But how often would these receptacles need to be emptied before naysayers would consider Eighth Avenue to be truly “clean”? In 1893 (before yellow cabs and Lyfts), 2.5 million pounds of horse manure filled the streets of this city every single day. But no, please, tell me more about how you just had to step over a Styrofoam cup on 6th Street.
Maybe you should move somewhere that prides itself on cleanliness, like the spotless twin cities of Minneapols-St. Paul. Just think, if you get really lucky, you may never even have to leave your car and venture out onto a sidewalk at all! It’s not like New York was ever trying to trick you into thinking it was some sort of pristine, lightly Pine-Sol–scented Xanadu. If you want the excitement of New York’s street life then you have to come to terms with the reality of its streets—discarded coffee cups, NYU Freshman street vomit and all.