For New Yorkers, buildings are not just useful, they are passed on from generation to generation and are therefore part of their cultural heritage; as such, they have symbolic significance.
Thanks to New York Historic Preservation (financed by public and private investors), older buildings, landscapes and objects with cultural significance (such as the 32-foot long boat discovered in 2010 during the rehabilitation of Ground Zero) (Wikipedia), are preserved in a way "that allows them to communicate meaningfully about past practices, events and people".
Architectural icons such as the Brooklyn Bridge, the Empire State Building or the Guggenheim play a cultural role. The first stands for optimism and the ability to control technology; the Empire State Building (which was the tallest building in the world until 1972) made the Big Apple's inhabitants very proud of their city and it is now visited for romantic meetings… (Wikipedia) As for the fashionably named "Gugg", this New York landmark, hosting some of the most famous art collections, is a star itself because of its Modernist style. Welcoming all types of people (happy or grumpy ones!), it seems that nobody can wait to discover the museum. It is a symbol of progress and innovation; this is also expressed by the guides who actually talk about progress with people of all ages at each turn of the spiral that makes up the inside of the building. This is quite an interesting experience that shows how New Yorkers feel about their cultural heritage and their willingness to share their civic pride with the millions of visitors each year! (NYC museum-a-thon)
From an historical point of view, the Statue of Liberty remains the most famous piece of NYC cultural heritage. Indeed, this monument was the first thing immigrants saw when arriving in America, full of hope. It is still seen as a symbol of freedom from oppression and tyranny by immigrants, New Yorkers and Americans generally. The Statue is about what they fought for, many years ago. Nowadays, it has also become a popular icon featured in movies, books, posters, etc. (unesco.org)(NYC architecture.com)
Great new buildings are quickly adopted by New Yorkers. Restored ones too; the NYC Center is now a great place for cultural events and for people from all communities to meet up. NYC culture is all about sharing after all. (archpaper.com)