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Call New York City what you will: The Big Apple. The City that Never Sleeps. The Capital of the World.
While the city has had a number of nicknames over the years, no official second appellation exists. Now, one elected official is pushing the City Council to designate “Gotham City” as New York City’s chief nickname just in time for the summer release of “Batman: The Dark Night.”
Queens Councilman Hiram Monserrate, who counts Batman as one of his childhood heroes, views his Gotham City pitch as a tourist lure. “I see that as a marketing tool, ‘Come visit the real Gotham City,’ taking advantage of this movie which will be one of those gate-breaking, record-selling movies like it always is,” he said.
Armed with this tagline and capitalizing on the flick’s buzz, Monserrate envisions theater-goers spending dollars on the streets of the living, breathing Gotham. “Come visit the real Gotham City and come visit our shops,” he said. “When we talk about Gotham we talk about tremendous, tremendous nightlife, restaurants, lounges, clubs and cafes, frappuccinos and everything else that we have in this City, the Village, Queens.”
The designation would also resonate with the art community, he added. “When we talk about Gotham we also talk about the rich architecture that our City enjoys. A lot of Gothic architecture exists in New York City. So Gotham’s also obviously related to Gothic and Gothic architecture which is a form of art, so it’s very important for our art community to strengthen its reconnection to being a Gotham City,” Monserrate said.
The dark and gritty streets of Batman fame were modeled after the landscape of Lower Manhattan. But long before the D.C. Comics depiction connected New York City and Gotham City, Washington Irving made the reference in 1807, drawing a comparison between the residents of the City and those of the town of Gotham in Nottinghamshire, England who evaded taxes by faking dementia, a condition thought to be contagious at the time.
Irving’s words, though referenced in the Council resolution, aren’t part of the marketing vision. When Monserrate plans to unleash a publicity campaign by the end of spring in an effort to energize the economy, he knows Batman is the real draw. “Batman is a childhood hero to millions of New Yorkers,” he said. “We all understand that Gotham is really about New York. So we are the Gotham City.”
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on March 24, 2008