I Still <3 NY

It’s been a tough week for NY. Luckily, the worst most of our Brooklyn and Manhattan friends experienced were power outages, and our Staten Island and Jersey Shore family live on high ground. Facebook was a great way for me to double-check on everyone and to keep updated on what wasn’t being reported by the news. But for every horrifying photo of entire Queens neighborhoods being wiped out by fire or subway stations flooded to the ceiling, there were photos like this, of neighbors helping neighbors:

from The Guardian

It’s that “we’re in this together” spirit that I particularly miss about living in the metro area. While a normal day in the City sees locals speed-walking and elbowing past each other, when disaster (or major inconvenience) strikes, suddenly everyone’s family. I lived in Brooklyn from 2000-2010, so obviously the event that remains most prevalent in my memory is 9-11. I was a sophomore in college and had literally just flown back from my grandfather’s funeral in Florida, so watching the towers fall from a rooftop in Brooklyn was almost more than I could handle. I still can’t look at photos/video from that day without feeling ill. I do remember some scattered instances of looting, but for the most part there was a sense of brotherhood. I don’t think I heard a discouraging word for at least a week.

But soon enough, things were back to normal.

from Tender Nuggets’ “Essentially the Odyssey” which is the truest tale of a late-night subway fiasco that has ever been blogged about

Then came the “Great Northeast Blackout of 2003,” which occurred on a smoldering April day when I just happened to have peddled my bike to work in Manhattan. I traveled back over the bridge to Brooklyn and met up with friends at a bar where one of them worked. The awesome owner handed out cold beers for free (I wish I could remember the name of the bar for a shout-out…) and ice cream truck drivers made out like bandits as we mobbed them for cold treats. One image that stands out the most to me from that day was a random citizen taking it upon himself to direct traffic at the Houston and Broadway since no traffic lights were working. The power was back on by the next day.

In 2005, there was a transit strike a few days before Christmas. At the time, I lived in East Williamsburg and work in Union Square, so the walk to work wasn’t too bad. I can’t imagine how people dealt with longer commutes, especially when, from what I understand, some bosses (the “1%”) were uncaring about the major inconvenience caused by no public transportation. In contrast, once my awesome boss (Maureen Lippe of Lippe Taylor PR & Marketing) heard about my 45 minute hike, she told me to stay home and enjoy the holiday. From the days I did walk, I remember the mobs of people traveling over the bridges, waving and joking with each other. Nothing stops New Yorkers who have a shared impatience from banding together.

And now, watching the Hurricane Sandy clean-up from afar, I am once again proud of my City and how its residents reject the stereotypical American “every man for himself” personae for one that is far more communal. Facebook and Twitter have been alive with posts and tweets about where to go for supplies and, most importantly, where to go to volunteer (#occupysandy). Besides neighbors helping neighbors, other good things have and will come from this disaster. The money-making NY Marathon was canceled due to public outcry, the ancient subway system may finally get an infrastructure upgrade and the truth of climate change is becoming harder and harder to deny (Gov. Cuomo may have said it best on NCPR: “That is not political statement, that is a factual statement. Anyone who says there’s not a dramatic change in weather patterns I think is denying reality.”).

I’ve been meaning to do a blog post about the million-and-one things I miss about NYC, from the food to the Met to all the friends I left behind, but others have done it better than I ever could (and in lego-format, no less – here and here). But right now, it’s that spirit of community that is lighting up the metro area, especially in the hardest hit neighborhoods, that I miss the most. NYC, I <3 you still.

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