We live in a neighborhood with rich people. Literally buildings of billionaires. Bezos lives down the street. Bono. We see Spielberg in Starbucks. Bloomberg lives across the park. Trump has buildings littered around here like hot dog wrappers at a ballpark.
We’re not the monied elite, but New York is that kind of place. All mashed up. We have a full spectrum of wealth — from dripping with it to living on the street.
I’m fourth generation. My great-grandfather came here in the 19th century. My grandfather was a mailman on the East Side. My mom and dad met at the telephone company.
People see this city as a place you visit, or move to get rich, as crazy, and expensive, and out of control, but to millions of us it’s simply home.
When New York is your home there’s certain things you live by. Everything changes all the time. Subways are the only way to get around. You stay tough. You learn the street.
I don’t want to romanticize it. It’s noisy. The air can get foul. A garbage strike is something you do not want to experience.
But there’s one cardinal rule: When the city goes into a crisis you stay, you help your neighbors, you support your local shops, you clean up your block, you get tight with the cops, the firemen, the bus drivers. You support each other. That’s what makes you a New Yorker. You pay those dues.
We get more than our fair share of crisis around here. They become the measure of your time in the city. We go through it together. And then we rebuild.
Every rebuild is an opportunity to make a better city. And when we’ve done the hard work, the rich return from the Hamptons, the moving vans return from the suburbs, and people start bitching about the city again.
But we know who left and who stayed. We know who has urban blood. Every single crisis I make new friends, I feel the soul of the city and I forge deeper connections with the bedrock of the place.
COVID-19 was seriously rough. I lost some good friends. I watched hospital workers struggle with the hours and the deaths. I saw a refrigerated truck set up as a temporary morgue. Grocery store workers became heroes. Bus drivers too. I learned who’s an essential worker and who’s ‘non-essential.’
The rich fled. Big buildings with no lights on. Abandoned brownstones. Next door to us a woman spent millions renovating her home. We haven’t seen her or her family in months.
I’ve never seen the city in this deep a crisis. We’ve been abandoned by the federal government. We’ll have serious budget shortfalls. Republicans in DC say we want to Defund The Police, but it’s Republicans defunding our police, our firemen, our schools.
So many small businesses have closed. Who knows when kids will get back to school. Broadway is shuttered.
But we’ll make it. We’ll clean up our blocks. We’ll figure it out. Because we always do. We’re New Yorkers. This is our home. And when the city needs us, we stay. Rule #1.