THE CITY People who say New York is a big city generally haven't been here for long. You can get from Inwood to Cony in an hour and a half if your transfers line up just right. Stay here long enough and the whole city feels like your backyard, but that doesn't make it any less chaotic. The rest of the country might have settled down into comfortable hegemony, but we do things a little differently here. Up North you've got Harlem and the Heights. It's mostly black around the center, and graduates to a nice shade of Puerto Rican and Dominican the closer you get to the water. Not exactly the kind of place you'd want to walk through after dark if you don't look like a local. These days, the organized crime rings of the 80s and 90s, Crips and Bloods, have devolved into a Balkanized mess that varies block by block, week by week. Your flag don't mean a damn thing here if you've got nice shoes. You've got a sort of funnel effect as you go down toward Central Park. The North side of the greenest thing in the city is an ever shifting tent city, surrounded by gated high-rise communities on the East and West side of the park. The further South you go, the nicer the park, the taller the buildings, and the more secure the communities. A few of these enclaves are expansive enough to count as their own towns, with private streets, parking, and boutique shops. Don't expect to get in unless you know someone. Below the park, you've got the iconic times square. Tourist central. Broadway shows, hustlers, peep booths, hookers, and enough lights to make you wish you had a welding mask. If you're a local, the only reason you'd wind up there is to make a living, one way or another. Hard to believe the pigs turn a blind eye toward what goes on here, but that's probably because they've got their palms greased back and front by the Jews that run the place. Head West, and you'll wind up in Hell's Kitchen. Don't. Just don't. East will get you to middle class white housing. Cultural vacuum here, although there's a few good joints to eat. Move further South into Gramercy Park and the affluence picks up. Second only to Central Park in ritz, this is where a good number of the Cloth live. The new construction in the area doesn't hide it. Ornate masonry, gargoyles, and more depictions of Christ than you could shake a stick at has guilt tripped most of the crime out of the area. Chelsea stands in stark opposition on the other side of the city. People who call it a queer ghetto only do so because they can't find the right place to party there. It might be a little run down, but the nightlife scene is unprecedented whichever way you swing, assuming you're willing to take on the liability of being raided by the boys in blue and winding up with a fat lip, a court summons, or a nice stay down in Central Bookings. The Villages are hard to categorize. There's been several attempts to tame them over the years, with housing projects, gated communities, heavy police presence, but all have fallen short and been reclaimed by the inherent entropy of the region. The place is the same as it was 30 years ago: a multicultural hodge-podge of vacant lots, art-houses, drug dens, petty crime, expansive lofts, crowded tenements, empty streets, bonfires, wild parties, and the best music scene in the world. A little further South and you have Little Italy. In stark contrast to the villages, these orderly little streets are a quaint taste of the old world, with butcher shops, fine dining, a traditional way of life. They like to keep it that way; the junkies know to take the long way around... but everyone else? Show respect, and you'll get it in turn, unless you have the misfortune of getting into debt with one of the social clubs headquartered in the area. Chinatown has been a thorn in the side of the mayor since the early aughts. What started as a shutdown of Canal street in an anti-Trans-Quadrant Partnership demonstration turned into a full scale sit-in. Never ones to sit idle, local merchants took advantage of the new real-estate in the middle of the street and never left. Traffic is all but completely suspended these days in open air markets that stretch from Delancey to Worth. During the day, tourists flood the neighborhood for the best price on knock off goods, dumplings, and souvenirs. Don't let that fool you, though: Triads run the place. Come night time, the debauchery puts Times Square to shame. Off the main footpaths, a maze of claustrophobic streets, crowded residences, and sweatshops are much less welcoming. Getting lost is easy and dangerous. The mob eats in Little Italy, and it shits in Tribeca. An industrial region of meat processing warehouses, recycling plants, and shipping facilities, the streets are a hazard of forklifts and semis during the day, and utterly abandoned at night. And finally, on the ass-end of the island, the only reason any federal politicians tolerate the city's degeneracy: Wall Street, the nation's life-blood. The financial district is just as cut throat as any slum; they'll just shake your hand and look you in the eye while they do it. Security is tight here, and most of the commuters shack up in the glamorous Battery Park City right next door. City Hall and One Police Plaza are situated just North of here, twin fortresses at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge. Recent construction has just finished on a series of private islands off the South-West foot of Manhattan, around Governors Island. Most are residential, but rumors circulate regarding their occupants and the goings on inside a few of the more brutalist architectures displayed from the main island. I got nothing to say about that. THE ALIGNMENTS New York City is home to 9 million people, and the vast majority do their best to lead ordinary lives. The citizenry are neutral parties, involved in private affairs, living standard lives, with tidy nuclear families. Poor, Black, Hispanic, rich, middle-class, White, and Asian all neatly slotted away into their own geographical strata and doing their best to maintain some semblance of normalcy, or to make their mark, in the Capital of the World. These are the beings made into marks, into mooks, into johns and targets, but they're also the primary wheeler and dealers in the city: they're the lifeblood that keeps food on the table, the sick from over-flooding the hospitals, the cash flowing on Wall Street, and the lights on along Broadway. Shopkeepers, bankers, firefighters, doctors, lawyers, parish members - they all have a story to tell, and it's hard to keep it completely estranged from the other, more complex, elements of society. You can't throw a dirty water dog in the Big Apple without hitting someone with connections. People thought things would clean up after they rounded up guns in the mid-90s, but it turns out that a machete, a baseball bat, or a pair of pliers can be just as effective tools for those who know the trade. The Mob, with their gaming houses, loan agencies, garbage collection, union racketing, contracting, and shipping facilities, are one of the oldest and most established social clubs in the city. Although a lot of connections come in from Jersey and Queens, the old Manhattan families are mostly headquartered in Little Italy and Tribecca, where they run businesses that reach throughout the city. They're less about territory and more about service. You can walk through their turf flying whatever color you want, but the second you open up anything that could compete with their monopolies, you're asking for anything between protective taxes or winding up in the East River with a new pair of shoes. They don't deal, and asking if they do is liable to get you hurt. The Triads are the only group that dares to openly step on the mafia's toes, and they do so right on their doorstep. However, because they keep their business within the confines of Chinatown, the mob tolerates the behavior to some extent. They also dabble in counterfeit goods smuggled in despite the embargoes with the PRC, narcotics, prostitution - anything that'll make them some coin, they'll peddle in their winding maze of territory. The Bratva operate in South Brooklyn and generally don’t venture too far into Manhattan, save to tend to a few fronts in midtown. When they do, it’s all business. The landscape up North, in the Heights and Harlem, is a fragmented mess of former Bloods, Crips, Kings, and Salvatruchas that varies block by block, week by week. Most of these turf wars and arbitrary bouts of violence hide the real kingpins who pull the strings: OGs who’ve been running shit since the 70s and have both connections from Florida, to LA to South America, and the finest poison around. Coming to prominence with the rise of orthoconservatism, a variety of faith based organizations, affiliated with and funded by the Panaxial Initiative for public works, began a bidding war with New York University throughout the later half of the 1990s for Manhattan property. The only ones who saw them coming were bodies in real estate. Before the city realized it, they had spiritual figures both running their city and collecting their rent. These days, the Church is everywhere. Tax dollars fund their upkeep and the sizable income of their parish, and are slipped into the sizable media outlets that the Cloth controls. Candidates hailing from different factional permutations of the same faith compete in the political sphere, often times at odds with the only powerhouse sizable enough to compete with them: the mafia. Despite all this, the inner workings of the church are kept obfuscated from the general public. Secretive, regimented, and opulent, the church's public record is immaculate, and they tend to go out of their way to keep it that way. Even when they have a candidate in office to assure the NYPD keeps them safe, they employee a small army of private security to keep their property, and territory, clean and free of undesirables. They drive in unmarked cars, wear plain gray uniforms, and tend to be the only creatures in the city that pack heat as often as the fuzz does. A little empire blossoms here, a cultural dynamo of American spirit in the middle of the most debauched city in the nation... and the only thing that has the potential to collar it. The rejects, the druggies, the degenerates, and the queers. Society can pretend they don't exist, but that doesn't stop them from dancing in the shadows. These groups exist in parallel to the underworld. They're the consumers. They're the intellectuals. They're the contextualizers. Hard to define in a vacuum, these creatures are only remarkable in contrast to the world they live in. Beatniks, punks, ravers, hippies, junkies, subway surfers, taggers, skaters, and sex-fiends: the scene as as diverse as it is homogenized in its steadfast adherence to breaching the status quo. In the face of mindless authoritarianism, music in underground shows has grown progressively darker, or louder, or faster, taking each sub-genre to stronger, stranger extremes. The parties surrounding these scenes are all the wilder for their lack of mainstream acceptance, or, perhaps, in spite of it. Intellectuals, pushed out of academia, or alienated by arbitrary regulation, lurk on the fringes, either battered into obscurity to self-publish research in sloppy, unreviewed manuscripts, or bought out by private or criminal enterprise for quick and dirty application of untested theory. For some, bringing their lifestyle to New York City was the only way to continue it. Others were simply born into it. However one winds up in this chaotic, violent, and titillating vortex, however, the only way out is usually down. The biggest gang in New York City only flies a single color: blue. After a failed anti-corruption campaign in the early 90s, the Patrolmen's Benevolent Union reconsolidated itself into one of the largest and most powerful political tool in the state, partially because its sole interest, self-serving, was inoffensive enough to allow it without contest. These days, the NYPD is the iron fist of whichever faction controls the mayor's office. As long as their pensions are untouched, their overtime is honored, and the district attorney remains in their pocket to assure every civil case swings their way, they're willing to serve and protect with extreme prejudice. Instrumental in the obliteration of personal firearm ownership, they're generally content to carry around a six shooter, and their famed Special Weapons and Tactics team operates more as a riot squad capable of conducting warrantless, no-knock raids at a moment's notice. Rumors have been circulating for a few years regarding various detention black sites located throughout the city that some arrestees wind up at rather than Central Bookings, although the story has been avoided by the press. Thanks to @Koumakan for the alignment banners.