Say New York and most will have a mental image of Manhattan, not any of the other boroughs. Where in Manhattan will depend largely on if your mental picture is derived from television, movies or personal experience. I rarely get there these days, and when I do it is almost always a hurried event, but for me New York is a 20 block section of mid-town radiating out from the Algonquin hotel.
Even though my personal picture of New York tracks largely with the areas often depicted in film, I rarely see the same types of people show on the screen. But every now and then a little bit of the city's vibe can be experienced.
In 2005, after more then a decade without a visit I was in the city, I was treated to what I have always considered the trifecta of quintessential New York street theater. In one 10 minute period I saw a cab driver get into a very loud argument with a man in a limousine trying to get somewhere important; a young lady being literally dragged down the sidewalk by a pack of dogs she was no doubt paid to take out for their business; and a game of three card monte get busted up with the purveyor and his shill each grabbing what they could and fleeing from a very motivated tourist who seemed to have at last caught a hint of his stupidity with an attempt to reclaim his money. While such thing probably happen in other large cities each day, they will always be my picture, right or wrong, of New York.