|Posted on Friday, January 27, 2006 - 11:14 pm: |
The argument erupted again the other day on the Internet: Chicago or New York? Which city is better?
New York has more culture, more energy and better restaurants, lovers of the Big Apple wrote on craigslist.org. Chicago is cleaner, nicer and has better architecture, its fans shot back.
Chicago magazine got into the debate in its February issue with a statistical comparison of the USA's largest cities: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston and Philadelphia. The bottom line: Chicago has more per-capita murders, burglaries and bars than NYC, cheaper homes, higher property taxes and more golf courses.
"This isn't an exercise in trying to determine the best big city - a futile endeavor, given the vagaries of taste - or to bolster our hometown," the magazine said. "Besides, everyone knows which city can claim a 2005 World Series champion."
The feud began in 1890, when Chicago overtook Philadelphia as the second-largest U.S. city and earned the permanent and much-disputed "Second City" nickname.
King Cormack, 50, a media designer who has lived in both cities and is now in Chicago, prefers the Windy City. He gives New York the advantage when it comes to museums and opera, but wrote on craigslist that Chicago "exceeds NY on so many other quality-of-life issues that there's no contest."
Cormack says in an interview that a lot of New York's energy is generated by "the too many rats in the box theory." Chicagoans are more down to earth, he says, and the city's array of ethnic restaurants matches New York's. "Chicago suffers from the 'Second City' thing," he says. "But that's a legacy, that's not the truth anymore."
Deanna Witkowski, 33, a jazz musician who also has lived in both cities and now makes her home in Manhattan, disagrees. Chicago is more relaxed and manageable and feels smaller, she says. But when she's here, she misses New York's "fast-paced, high energy" and audiences open to "a lot of different kinds of music."
"I have to honestly say that New York is my preferred place to live," Witkowski says.
When it comes to raw numbers, the Chicago-NYC rivalry doesn't quite add up. New York has 8.1 million residents. Los Angeles, which surpassed Chicago to become the second-largest city in the 1990 Census, has 3.8 million. Chicago is third with 2.7 million, and Houston is fourth with 2 million.
New York has about 41 million visitors a year; Chicago has about 10 million fewer. Cristyne Nicholas, CEO and president of NYC & Company, the city's official tourism marketing organization, concedes that Chicago has an edge in the number of conventions it hosts. It's the country's No. 1 destination for business travelers, drawing 13 million in 2004.
"Chicago has a corner on the market when it comes to conventions," Nicholas says. That's because Chicago's McCormick Center, with 2 million square feet of space, surpasses the Javits Center's 815,000 square feet. "But more people want to come to New York," she adds.
Chicago is an increasingly popular destination for corporations and their employees, says Paul O'Connor, executive director of World Business Chicago, a non-profit group that works to attract businesses.
The trend began in 2001, when Boeing Co. moved its headquarters here from Seattle, he says, putting Chicago "on the list" when companies think about relocating.
"New York is New York, and there's no competing with it," O'Connor says. "But what you can get in Chicago that you cannot get in New York is continuous, high quality of life."
Simi Sernaker, 27, moved to Chicago two years ago after a decade in New York City. She's the lead singer for the rock band Suffrajett and admits she misses some things about New York, including bars open until 4 a.m. and all-night delis. She's not crazy about Chicago's all-day traffic jams. "But there's more space here," she says, "and people party harder here."
"There's a real vitality" to New York, Sernaker says, but it "can be so hard-core and feel so cold. I'm really liking Chicago right now."
Nicholas, head of New York's tourism group, agrees that the competition emanates mostly from the Central Time Zone.
"New York looks at Boston as our rival," she says. "We're always duking it out with our sports teams. And back in Colonial days, we probably duked it out for different tea manufacturers." As for Chicago's obsession with matching the Big Apple, she says, "We're flattered."
Francesco, 51, the one-named manager of the New Yorker Styling Salon on Chicago's west side, says the former owners told him to keep the name because it conveys sophistication. "They were from New York," he says.