midtown is on a grid.lower manhattan and brooklyn is not.
this landscape difference matters, and technology is changing how.
years ago i remember discussing with my dad how the fact that manhattan is on a numbered gird must have some subtle but meaningful impact on the efficiency of the city, especially for foreign business travelers. it is hard to get lost in midtown, or not know where you are supposed to go -- making it a great spot for international business and which makes it easily navigable and likely saves millions of hours of work and missed meetings.
let's update this story
google maps, the iphone, and much much more are all chipping away at the grid-advantage of midtown. all of a sudden, getting to restaurants and bars downtown has become much much easier, even if you don't live in new york/don't have a sense of how the city works or where you are going. the friction of maps/not knowing the cross street on an address is a thing of the past.
based on zero information, i would guess that the amount of tourist traffic below 14th street (where things start to get really crazy) has been rising as a percentage of all tourist visits/foot traffic like crazy.
mid-town's grid-based structural advantage is over, probably bringing down the appeal/rents on the grid, and raising the appeal/rents of places which are harder to navigate to without location based services and always on instant maps.
and all those cool bars/restaurants
which used to be insulated from tourist traffic/ and over exposure. so long.... information on how to get around lower manhattan has been commodetized, more people rush in - and there is no more excess margin in the system for hipsters that know the really awesome local spots. everyone now knows those spots, and knows exactly how to get to them
so, a return to speakeasy and clubs
when the informational landscape equalizes, the hipsters/oh la la chic new yorkers seek other refuge. 1. they start going to places that are not on google maps and have unmarked doors -- that will keep those pesky equalibrum driving tourists out 2. private clubs work well also... sure, there is some extortion in the system, but at least you keep the rif-raff out.
just like exotic world destinations, physical location is dropping as a barrier -- so the key is to create other types of informational barriers (like cool bars tucked down unmarked alleys) in order to maintain profits from informational asymmetry.
p.s. -- just in case you don't know me that well i am that yuppie that now feels comfortable navigating lower manhattan/brooklyn -- i am not at all the 'hipster' who actually is in the know