By Christian Decker
I’m sure by now that many of you are familiar with that recent op-ed that appeared in the New York Times about how New York City is dead, that all the scenes and places that used to be so vibrant are now empty, and people can’t go to their favorite brunch places. All the clubs are closed, nobody is out anymore, it is a ghost town. Maybe it’s not my place to comment about such things, but something about this idea struck me as patently offensive. I wanted to talk about my thoughts about this line of thinking because New York has always been my home, and it’s been my family’s home for almost a century now.
Like many people, both in this state and in this country, my family immigrated to the U.S. via Ellis Island. My grandfather’s family, from Germany, my grandmother’s family from Italy, and my mom’s family from Poland. Like many immigrants of that time and those who continue to immigrate here to this day, they saw a promise of hope and opportunity. New York was a manifestation of that hope. With New York, I wouldn’t be here.
Today still, my grandma lives on Sedgewick Avenue. I have fond memories of visiting her when I was younger, staying up late to play board games and a really old version of the Game of Life on her old computer. To this day, barring the pandemic, we would try to visit my grandma at least twice a year, if not more. My uncle still lives in Queens. My cousin, the Bronx.
I miss seeing my grandma, she lives alone and has had few visitors, and does not get to see much of her family anymore due to the pandemic. She’s been getting by the best she can talking with her neighbors and calling us on the phone. And here I read that New York is dead. I am tired of it.
Now I assume a lot of you who read this article may not be from New York City, I know for a lot of you this may your first time. I know that many people are here for their 4 years and then ready to get the hell out. I know that some of you might think that New York is a liberal paradise, with taxes being too high and you’d rather live in the suburbs or in the big house that your parents bought you. I understand that many of you are sad that your favorite bars are closed so you can’t buy overpriced drinks and pretend to know how to dance for an evening. But to be honest with you, I don’t care.
Yeah, I’m sad I can hang out with my friends the way I used to, but the point is that we have a responsibility to look after everybody. New York is more than just the place you hang out on weekends or the restaurants you love so much. There are so many amazing people who run those restaurants, who make you drinks at those clubs. These are the people we should be caring about. So forgive me if I don’t believe the words of a finance-bro who bought a luxury apartment on the Upper East Side to “get a feel of the city.”
The fact of the matter is, we need to be thinking about people. People, who didn’t have the luxury to flee to their second home when the chips were down. People, who don’t have access to adequate healthcare during one of the worst pandemics in modern history. People, who are out on the streets and are at high risk. People, who are being forcibly removed from their homes because they can’t afford to pay rent. It’s not about getting back to brunch, it’s about saving lives, and hopefully improving them.
So, I’m sorry if New York isn’t “fun” enough for you right now. I’m sorry that you couldn’t stick through during the tough times. You’re just fair-weather friends for the people of New York, if even that. The city will be here when you leave and will remain long after your gone. As much as we like to joke about how New York drivers will run you over in the crosswalk, there’s still a sense of community here. People will take care of each other. Now I’m not the biggest fan of Governor Cuomo, but I’ll echo his words: We are New York Tough.