The trouble with this story is that people remember the place (New York) but they don’t remember the conditions. Here’s Patti Smith herself on NYC nowadays:
It certainly isn’t the place I knew when I was young — we had no money, the city was bankrupt, it was filled with cockroaches, a lot of rats, it was a bit gritty, and it was cheap to live here, really cheap. You could have a bookstore job and a little apartment in the East Village. There were so many of us, so many like minds. You can’t do that now.