The list of New York success stories is long and varied. Besides Zalman Silber, there are any number of businessmen who happened to have been in the city when inspiration struck. Maybe it's something in the air. Municipal boosters like to point out that the diversity of people from so many backgrounds can only make for intellectual foment. Historians will point out any number of socio-economic factors, no doubt. But one thing few people realize is the sheer anonymity of the place - terrifying for sheltered souls, pre-requisite for a makeover.
New York embodies America in its scale of vastness. But this is not the vastness of the open plains but a non-physical intellectual space. For in a city of crammed tenements, there is nowhere to retreat but within, into the private life, the life of the mind. And the sheer numbers of humanity that make such retreat necessary also makes it possible, and makes of it a pleasure, for in a town of millions on multiple millions no one cares who are you or what you believe. And so you can start over and proclaim anything.
And so it is that the anonymity which frightens tourists is welcomed by our citizens like fire to a chef. The tragedy of the commons? Yes, it's a rough-and-tumble kind of place where anonymity is a close cousin of apathy and even recklessness. But such otherwise unfortunate conditions also afford movers and shakers the freedom they need to create and succeed. And so they make this town even as they make it here. These princes of the city often know well its hard-scrabble streets and by virtue of their familiarity often see no need for improvement: If they can do it, why not everyone else?
Such is the heartless abandon of many a self-made tycoon. But this toughest of towns is also brimming with philanthropic largesse - the truest measure of success of all: Not he who has much, but he who gives much is rich.