Things I’ve Learned from Living in NYC for One Year
Posted on Last updated: 17 July 2023
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This week marks my one-year anniversary of living in New York City. I arrived here in March, when it was still cold (but sunny) outside. I remember my arrival, the $60 taxi ride from the airport to my makeshift accommodation (a friend’s couch). The excitement and the anxiety.
After years of enjoying European culture while living in Berlin, I faced a lot of immediate shock on my return to the USA. Before I moved to New York City , I’d been here countless times.
But living in NYC is nothing like visiting. The culture shock of returning back to America was very real; but even more so were the things I’d learn about life in New York.
They say if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere. I don’t know if that’s exactly true, but NYC is like nowhere else. Not just in the NYC culture , but in the way this city acts and the way this city looks.
Here’s what I’ve learned since living in NYC.
Life in NYC: 15 Things I’ve Learned from Living in NYC for 12 Months
Nyc is loud.
SO LOUD. There are sirens—constantly. Screaming, yelling, the hustle and bustle of city life, I guess. But there is just so. much. noise. You don’t even always know where it’s coming from; it’s just there!
Manhattan is the biggest offender, but it’s hard to find quiet places no matter where you are.
There’s always something to do
When I first moved to my Brooklyn apartment and got settled into a semi-regular, day-to-day life, I started looking for things to do and see.
Not just those touristy things to do in NYC; but parties, clubs, activities, events, festivals. The first thing that was recommended to me (especially for those of us on a budget), was to sign up for the Skint mailing list .
I instantly regretted it. Every day I get the email with 50+ things to do, often free or cheap. It’s overwhelming. There’s just too much to do in NYC and it never stops.
That’s not a bad thing, of course, but sometimes the paradox of too many choices is just…too much. “Too much amazing” doesn’t make it easy to find stuff to do; it makes it harder. So sometimes you’ve just got to gamble and go for it.
Dating fucking sucks
Speaking of gambling, dating in NYC is largely not fun . No matter your gender or sexuality, it seems it’s universal knowledge that dating in NYC is awful.
In a city of too many things to do and too many people, how do you limit your choices?!
It seems everyone in NYC is looking for a partner—even when they’re already partnered up. That’s not the case for everyone, but the dating game in NYC is largely numbers based and quickly gets competitive.
Of course, it is possible to find love when you’re willing to have an open mind and take those risks for responsibility and commitment. Fingers crossed!
Sex is easy to find
Even when dating in NYC is challenging, sex is surprisingly easy to come by. Hookup culture is intertwined with nightlife and so much of the dating apps culture—so it’s never really hard to find if it’s what you really, really want.
We live in a pretty sex-positive world at the moment (that’s a good thing). So much so, that sex clubs are increasingly popular in NYC—having been written about by many mainstream media publications.
Don’t ride the subways on weekends
I’d heard all the complaints about the MTA before I moved to NYC, and having lived in countless cities with public transportation in the past, I was prepared for the worst.
And good thing, too! Because while the NYC subway run by the MTA does work well at moving people around, there are more problems than can be counted!
Besides the old-fashioned system ( hopefully contactless pay is coming soon ), repairs on the subway are often debilitating for travel—especially on weekends. Between Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan, some subway lines are down for days at a time making travel between the boroughs nearly impossible.
Uber is a necessary evil
Because of the many failings of the MTA transport system, rideshare services and taxis have picked up a lot of the slack. And living in Brooklyn , I find myself using Uber to get around more and more often; sometimes it’s the only connection that doesn’t take an hour or more!
The skyline is always amazing
Something about the NYC skyline is truly striking. No matter where I am, if a 100+ story building pops up in your perspective, it’s hard to avoid looking up. Personally, I just can’t resist taking a photo even when I’ve got a million photos already.
Food is not always necessary
Okay, obviously this is an exaggeration because we do, in fact, require food to survive. But in NYC, there seem to be a few issues which affect the intake of our foods.
One: food is sometimes cheap; but not always. Grocery stores can be pricey (compared to other cities). Yes, there are plenty of $1 pizza slices, but that’ll only help you survive for so long. Restaurants across NYC vary widely in price and quality .
Two: There’s just not enough time! With all the million things to do in NYC, it’s sometimes just hard to make time to eat. And three: there’s an innate culture to be “thin” in NYC. A recent Reddit thread talked about the pressure to stay fit and how/why it might be such an issue especially in NYC.
Pressure to be lean/thin in NYC by u/pressure2bethin in AskNYC
Personally, I’ve found myself eating less in NYC than I have before. The gay culture to stay fit has certainly meant I spend more time in the gym and more time watching what I eat.
And truthfully, the time/money thing has affected my eating habits.
Sometimes there’s just no time to eat lunch, and then from all the evening activities, you might miss dinner until you can grab a food truck taco or a slice of pizza on the way home.
Happy hours are a way of life
Everyone in NYC is perpetually busy—and loves to use that as a professional excuse. But that’s just made the everyday “Happy Hour” so important. So many bars and restaurants offer evening deals (sometimes all-day or all-night deals), and that often defines the beginning of any social event.
Read more: NYC Travel Tips & Guide
There’s little reason to leave your borough
Partly because traveling on the MTA can take forever, and partly because NYC is just so damn big, it’s hard to travel too far.
The #1 dating recommendation I’ve read on every NYC blog is to simply avoid dating people who don’t live in your borough. It’s just too hard to travel between boroughs that might be too far apart.
Out-of-town roommates are the best roommates
No shade to my current roommates who I love spending time with, but in a city where it’s really difficult to live alone as a 20-something (or 30-something, or 40-something), those brief moments when you might have a full apartment to yourself are really special.
Related: An honest guide on how to find an apartment in NYC
Parks & green spaces DO exist—if you know where to find them
NYC is a city of steel & glass; buildings that stretch to the sky. And besides its most famous parks, there are actually bits of green throughout the city.
Finding NYC parks aren’t exactly easy, but thankfully this is a very walkable city, so when you’re out and about, it’s possible to spot and enjoy little bits of nature here and there.
New Yorkers are nicer than you think
There’s a common misconception that New Yorkers are unfriendly; it’s the thing most travelers to the city immediately realize is a myth. Because truthfully: New Yorkers are often very nice.
Sure, there are jerks among the masses, but in more instances than not, New Yorkers are happy to help strangers, their fellow city-dwellers, the tourists & the foreigners.
NYC is an incredibly diverse city; more so than just about anywhere else. And it’s that diversity has made the people here so special, so unique, so friendly, and so helpful. It’s a beautiful kaleidoscope of people and ideas which has made New Yorkers so open to others. New Yorkers are nicer than you think.
Everyone wants something, always
If ever there was a city at the heart of capitalism, it’s New York. Manhattan is home to just about every major enterprise. Money and power fuel so much of the city and the people who live here, that there’s this strong push to always need something more.
There are plenty of creatives in NYC, but in a city as money and image-obsessed as here, it’s hard to not fall into the trap of wanting (or needing) something from someone at some time. NYC is at the center of the business world for so many people.
Related: How to Visit NYC on a Budget
Nowhere is as interesting or amazing as NYC
Listen, I know I’m still in a bit of a honeymoon phase but living in NYC has truly been one of the best decisions of my life. It’s changed me in ways I didn’t even expect.
For better or worse, living in NYC has been an incredible experience (and one I don’t plan to quit anytime soon). There’s just so much culture here, so much to experience and see and do and touch and eat and smell.
I’m addicted to it. I’m obsessed with it. NYC is unlike anywhere else and while living in New York City might not be for everyone, it’s honestly still so exciting and interesting. I love NYC.
• • •
Did you enjoy this post? Please also follow me on Instagram for my day-to-day photos & life updates from living in NYC. I try to keep my posts as real and “authentic” as possible, and Instagram is where it’s all at.
You do not need to worry about your weight, you’re already skinny!
Your descriptions of living in NYC sound exhausting. I know you’re totally enjoying it, and I’m happy for you. I think it would crush me. But then you’re also a much more social person than me.
Congrats on one year! I’m so glad you’re doing good!
Aww thank you Ali! Yeah, NYC is a lot of excitement – definitely the city that never sleeps! I’m really happy here. It was a scary change, but I’m so happy with what’s happened to date.
Having spent the first 35 years of my life a mere hour and 20 minutes train ride to G.C.S. , little seems to have changed other than the skyline. No question that culturally New York is still the center of the universe but first and always it’s been about perceived success and $. Several years after moving to California, I decided to spend my 40TH b-day in the city. I was astonished at the prices. No wonder people were fleeing to Hoboken (now gentrified and fleeing to Jersey City). I fully get the stay in your own neighborhood lifestyle. Once you’ve done all the “tourist things”, the only reason to leave is for special art exhibits. My best advice is use the internet to find bargains and new openings in your “hood”. ENJOY !
Thank you Barry! Yeah, there’s always so much going on here, it’s impossible to do it all…
‘Nice one Adam. We miss you in Berlin but of course NYC is another kettle of fish!
I haven’t yet been to New York, but I certainly want to. Congratulations on your first year! :D
Thank you Victoria! Hope things are well for you back in Germany :) and I’m surprised with all your traveling you haven’t made it yet to NYC! You’ve got to make it happen ;)
Very Interesting post! I guess you would have great fun in NY.
Thank you Azzi!
Looks like you are enjoying New York! I have also been living in my place for 2 years now and at first it has been quite a huge adjustment but now I feel like a local :)
You can find people in the different region in NYC. It is pretty fun to live there
Thanks for your good information
I completely agree with most of the points
Hey Adam looking forward for you new blog!
Hey adam Really Impressive! I am following you:) you are absolutely perfect in blogging. Nice to visit.
Hey Really Impressive! I am following you:) you are absolutely perfect in blogging. Nice to visit.
While reading this I realize that it is the best blog as compare to others. So keep posting this type of blogs.
I have been to NYC. I can relate to your blog
Thank you so much for sharing great post very detailed explanation about competitor Keyword and learned somethings new.
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20 HONEST Pros & Cons of Living in New York City
August 1, 2023 ·
Are you thinking about moving to New York City? You thrill seeker, you.
There’s no adequate way to describe the way living in New York City feels. The Big Apple casts both shadows and spells and your experience will depend entirely on you .
But there’s no denying that living in New York City is an extraordinary feat, any way you slice it. The city tempts people in hoards and millions of residents are willing to overlook the inevitable cons of life in NYC because the pros are too hard to resist.
Read on to learn about the my personal list of the HONEST pros and cons of living in New York City.
Visiting New York City? If you haven’t decided where to stay (yet) check out our helpful guide on Where to Stay in New York City (The best neighborhoods for first timers +2 to avoid) . Don’t have time? Here’s our favorite hotel in NYC, hands down.
Living in New York City
“New Yorkers are born all over the country, and then they come to New York City and it hits them: Oh, that’s who I am.” — Delia Ephron
First, the pros of living in New York City
#1. new york city is (truly) the land of opportunity.
Cue: “If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.” New York City is where dreamers go to make their dreams come true. In my experience, this is true in two ways:
- If you’re an entrepreneur (way to go, you!), there’s no better place than New York City to try and make it big. The opportunities and networking connections you can make while living in New York City are hard to beat.
- Career-wise, New York City has the biggest names in tech, marketing, apparel, journalism, sports, you name it. So if you can’t follow your dreams (yet), there’s definitely a job for you, but I highly suggest having a gig lined up before moving to NYC otherwise you won’t be setting yourself up for success.
New York City is home to 65 Fortune 500 companies , the second-highest concentration of Fortune 500 companies in the world, outside of Tokyo.
In terms of finding a job in New York City, you need to be keenly aware of finding a gig that works well with your lifestyle. Because one thing you’ll quickly learn after moving to New York City is that you will need to hustle hard and that means long hours at the office.
With a population of 8.4 million, competition is fierce . Securing a job and keeping it will require more effort than it does in smaller cities, which is why New Yorkers are often considered workaholics (I’ll cover this in more detail below).
But at the end of the day, one thing is certain: if you’re passionate enough to move to New York City then chances are good you’ll find a way to make it work, one way or another.
This is the city of dreamers and time and again it’s the place where the greatest dream of all, the American dream, has been tested and has triumphed. Michael Bloomberg
#2. New York City is a safe place to live
It may surprise you to learn that living in New York City is not unsafe, as most folks assume. It’s hard to blame anyone for thinking that life in New York City could be dangerous. With 8.4 million residents, NYC is the most populous city in America and things are bound to happen.
However, relative to its size, New York City is considered one of the top 5 safest large cities in America.
After living in New York City for 8+ years, I can honestly say I’ve never felt unsafe in the city and that’s mostly because I’ve never really been alone on the streets.
There’s so many folks exploring the city at any given hour that you’re seldom alone. You just have to know which main streets to stick to and which areas to avoid.
For instance, I don’t walk through Central Park after dark.
Instead, I stick to the main streets where eager tourists and locals alike meander through the city streets while returning home from late night meals or libations. There’s powers in numbers.
I currently live in Manhattan and understand that busy streets are not as common in the other boroughs, so make sure to do deep research on the area you plan to move to NYC.
Gun laws have changed recently to become more lenient in NYC but it’s still a far cry from living in Texas .
If you’re seriously considering moving to New York City, I suggest reading: Don’t Move to New York City Without Knowing These 20 Crucial Things First
#3. Exposure to the arts (and history)
New York City is often described at the cultural capital of the world, and I’d be damned if I didn’t confess that this is quite possibly my favorite thing about living in New York City.
New York City is home to a whopping 83 museums, including the fifth largest museum in the world , The Metropolitan Museum of Art (colloquially known as the MET).
NYC is also home to one of the most gorgeous libraries in the world , the New York Public Library, which is also the third largest library in the world.
If history is more your thing, why not visit the birthplace of Theodore Roosevelt, grab a drink at the bar where George Washington bid an emotional farewell to his troops or check out Alexander Hamilton’s final resting place?
The point is, you’ll be hard pressed to find a more culturally exciting city than New York.
For example, my friend starts every weekend by exploring a museum with her kids and at the rate she’s going, her kids will see more world-renowned art by the age of 7 than most people do in a lifetime!
Love museums? Read: The 15 Most Exciting Museums in NYC (& What to See at Each)
If you want to become a real New Yorker, there’s only one rule: You have to believe New York is, has been, and always will be the greatest city on earth. The center of the universe. – Ellen R. Shapiro
#4. New York City is diverse
It’s probably no surprise that with more than 200+ languages spoken on a daily basis, the habits, food and dress reflect the vibrant diversity of life in New York City. In fact, New York City is the most diverse city in the country.
As a result, no matter what you do, you will always “fit” in. In many ways, it feels like there’s zero judgement while living in New York City. I personally feel like I can be whoever I want to be – seriously .
This realization, and subsequent freedom, makes me more confident and allows me to take risks I normally wouldn’t. Talk about liberating .
For example, within two months of moving to NYC, I found that my wardrobe had completely changed.
I started wearing clothing that just didn’t make sense in my previous city (Portland, Oregon) because there was seldom an occasion to get dressed for. After living in NYC, I’ve realized that the city is occasion enough.
All this to say, if you need a fresh start in life then moving to New York City is a great place to start. I swear, this city makes you self sufficient.
Further reading: 25 Thought-Provoking Facts About NYC (You Probably Don’t Know, Yet )
#5. Networking & social scene
One of the biggest pros of living in New York City is that you’re in the heart of everything. This is the city where trends are born and million-dollar ideas take root.
In fact, New York City was home to more billionaires than anywhere else in the world , before being surpassed by Beijing not too long ago.
And since everyone is hustling hard to get their piece of the pie, you will make some serious connections while living in NYC.
If you’re open to meeting new people and putting yourself out there, you’ll find that there’s never a shortage of new folks to grab dinner or drinks with.
I will add, the social atmosphere in NYC is downright addicting and has changed me. I went from hanging out with close friends once a month to grabbing drinks with friends 2 times a week after moving to New York City.
When in Rome, right?
#6. There’s (always) something to do
When you live in New York City, it’s hard to justify staying home because there’s ALWAYS something going on.
Whether it’s a new exhibit at a museum, a famous musician playing at the Blue Note, sunset yoga in Central Park or a five-course meal at a Michelin-star restaurant, you’ll never have a reason to be bored while living in New York City.
Even random walks sometimes end on a magical note.
For example, my husband and I took a morning stroll through Central Park and stumbled across a film production at Bethesda Fountain where we watched Sarah Jessica Parker film a scene for the Sex and the City reboot.
I couldn’t believe it, it was so cool!
Another time I was once crossing through Washington Square Park on my way home at midnight. Lo and behold – there was a full blown piano concert in the park.
The best part? Visitors were invited to lay under the piano for a unique experience, it was so magical.
All this to say – long gone are the days of “there’s nothing to do around here” because when you move to New York City, that excuse is no longer valid.
In the country, there are a few chances of sudden rejuvenation–a shift in weather, perhaps, or something arriving in the mail. But in New York the chances are endless. E.B. White
#7. The food in New York City is incredible
We can’t talk about the pros of moving to New York City without mentioning the food. Oh my goodness! If there’s one thing I love most about living in NYC, it’s the incredible food scene.
With 69 Michelin-Starred restaurants, New York City is has the 5th highest concentration of Michelin-Starred restaurants in the world. And sure, you’ll need a trust fund to try them all, but you know the best part?
You don’t need to eat at these fancy places to enjoy a memorable meal because NYC’s culinary abilities range a diverse spectrum and you can find great cheap eats.
New York City is a melting pot of different cultures so you are privy to the best-of-the-best regarding all types of cuisine.
After living in New York City, it’s hard to find other cities that satisfy my cravings for good food.
I mean, let’s get real real, you haven’t lived until you find yourself with a hot bowl of award-winning ramen at 1am. But fair warning, you’ll never be the same.
P.S. I’m currently working on a post about the best cheap eats in NYC, so sign up for the email list to be notified when it comes out. I share gems and photos, not spam.
Read: The 10 BEST Pizzas in New York City & 15 Mouthwatering Bagels in Manhattan
#8. New York City has great public parks
The amount of public parks sprinkled throughout the city is a huge perk of living in the Concrete Jungle.
Obviously Central Park takes the cake, spanning nearly 850 acres, this gem is bigger than the country of Monaco and is the most filmed location in the world.
And it’s true, Central Park is picture-perfect, but don’t make the mistake of overlooking the other 1,700+ parks in NYC.
It’s clear that New York City understands the importance public green spaces and acts on that knowledge.
In fact, 22% of the city is dedicated specially for public parks and 99% of New York City residents are a mere 10-minute walk from a park .
I can attest that having access to green spaces makes living in NYC easy because when the city feels overwhelming it’s not hard to find a little slice of greenery to escape to.
Further Reading: 10 Enchanting & Iconic Parks in New York City (Local’s Guide)
#9. The street fashion
For the most part, New Yorkers dress very well, especially when compared to other US cities.
Now, I’m not saying we’re held to European standards, but close enough.
Living in New York City means you’re constantly exposed to new trends and you can’t help but benefit.
There’s something exciting about living in a city where people take pride in the way they dress that makes you want to put your best foot forward, too.
Personally, I noticed this change in myself. As mentioned earlier, my wardrobe has substantially changed since moving to New York City and I love it.
There’s no pressure to dress a certain way, so you can wear whatever you want.
I’ve been noticing a lot of maxi dresses this year and it turns out that I absolutely love wearing them, even though I never wore them in Portland – go figure.
It’s funny, sometimes I leave the house feeling like a 10 only to see a mom pushing a stroller in a killer dress and realizing that if I’m a 10 she must be a 20. It cracks me up.
#10. Efficient public transportation
I know that most everyone likes to hate on their city’s public transportation, but New York City’s public transportation is pretty dang efficient.
We chose to move to NYC without a car and are glad we made the decision because you definitely don’t need a car to get around.
Honestly, I can’t imagine the headache of owning a car while living in NYC. Plus, the savings are starting to add up. We don’t pay for gas and regular vehicle maintenance, not to mention the savings on car insurance.
A monthly subway pass will set you back $133 but is worth the cost if you take the subway more than twice a day. Or you can opt for the weekly passes which give you unlimited rides for 7 consecutive days for $33.
In my opinion, NYC’s public transportation is efficient and affordable. Using it is a no-brainer for us and we don’t dread it, which is saying a lot.
We’re on time 80-90% of the time and can get wherever we need to go in a reasonable time, even the airport.
But don’t just take my word for it, more than 10 million people ride the subway daily.
All this to say, if you’re moving to New York City, leave the car behind because you won’t need it here.
#11. The city never sleeps
You may not realize how big of a perk this is until you move out of New York City but just wait until you move somewhere else and find yourself craving cookies at 2am. There’s always something lively going on in the city, so you can find something fun to do after work even if you get off closer to 9pm.
Great bars, awesome jazz clubs, romantic restaurants, you name it and it’s at your fingertips well into the evening.
Yeah, this pro of living in NYC can’t be overstated because (for foodies and party alike) it’s a lifeline. We recently met up with some friends from Portland and found ourselves out until 2am.
We capped the night with a slice of pizza before heading home. We didn’t even have to search hard to find a restaurant open near us, we had 10+ options within three city blocks.
And New York is the most beautiful city in the world? It is not far from it. No urban night is like the night there…. Squares after squares of flame, set up, and cut into the aether. Here is our poetry, for we have pulled down the stars to our will. Ezra Pound
Cons of Moving to New York City
#1. honestly, the rent is too damn high.
Let’s be honest, living in New York City is not realistic for a lot of people because of the astronomical cost of housing in the city.
New York City is not even in the same time zone as affordable!
I first fell in love with NYC after visiting for the first time after college, since then, I’ve spent 6+ years day dreaming about living in NYC but it felt out of reach because of the cost.
I saved as much as I could to finally make the big move to New York City, but boy — I don’t want to fool you, it was far from easy.
The high cost of housing is why so many people live with roommates or find themselves far from the center (and then have to commute 45+ minute each way).
If helpful, our current rent for a 600 square foot apartment on the Upper West Side is $2,800. It’s charming but TINY!
The bathroom door doesn’t open all the way because of a small trash can, it’s hilarious and sad at the same time. But as most New Yorkers will tell you, you pay for the access, not the space.
Anyways, I’ll post photos of our apartment soon and will send an update through the newsletter, if you’re interested.
#2. The summer humidity & winter chill
You quickly learn after moving to New York City to take advantage of the blissful spring and fall seasons. The temperatures are perfect and the spring blooms and autumn leaves dazzle the city in breathtaking color.
However, summer is an absolute bear! It’s hot, muggy and oftentimes stinky. The average summer temperature hovers around 85 – 90° and the humidity is no joke.
As you may or may not know, trash bags are tossed on the sidewalk to be picked up by sanitation workers. So if you’re walking by during a 90° day, you can expect to pick up a few unpleasant whiffs.
All smells become amplified but the summer heat, brace yourself.
The winter weather sits on the other end of the spectrum. A brutal bone-chilling cold awaits you from November to March and you better be sure your tiny closet is full of good coats and wool socks.
Need help getting through New York City winters? Don’t move to NYC without getting this super handy device first, it helps drastically with the dark gray winter skies. My therapist recommended it and I use it daily, I can’t recommend it enough.
#3. Living in New York City is expensive
I know, understatement of the century, right? But bear with me. New York City is the 7 th most expensive city in the world .
Let that sink in.
I guess this goes hand-in-hand with the atrocious rent prices but that’s only the beginning.
Expect every day things, like haircuts, groceries and experiences, to be much more expensive while living in New York.
For example, an average cocktail in NYC will set you back $18-22, pre-tip ( ouch ). And since daily life in NYC is much more social than other cities, you can expect your friends to suggest meeting up at bars more often than not.
In fact, the high cost of living in New York City was the hardest adjustment for my husband and I. We had to have some serious talks about reigning in our finances shortly after moving to New York City because it became evident that our previous budget wouldn’t work here.
We mentioned this to a friend who has lived in NYC for 10+ years and he said that when people first move to New York City they feel like they’re on vacation.
All the new restaurants, museums, attractions, it’s all so exciting! So it takes a while to adjust to a more disciplined way of daily life in New York.
Additionally, I can’t speak for everyone (and I’m slightly embarrassed to admit this) but living in New York City has made me more materialistic.
There’s something in the atmosphere of this electric city that makes me want to buy things in a way I never cared for before. I’m still trying to get to the bottom of it and will report back if I ever figure it out.
#4. Crowds will become a part of your daily life
Do you like standing in line? Great! You’re going to LOVE loving in New York City.
Jokes aside, expect crowds and long lines anywhere you go.
You anticipate this as a tourist, but as a local, it’s a bear.
Not only will you wait in line for most popular restaurants, but the streets are crowded all the (dang) time. Comes with the territory, I guess.
I feel like all first dates in NYC should go something like this: Name, occupation, longest wait time. Because nothing proves commitment like a 2 hour line for donuts. That’s marriage material.
#5. New Yorkers are blunt
New Yorkers don’t sugarcoat. They are direct because they don’t like to waste time. You can tell this by how fast they walk … everywhere.
New Yorkers weren’t raised by southern mothers – forget manners, enter brevity. They have places to be and people to see.
It’s just the way things are around here. I can try to explain it away, but why bother? It is what it is, just don’t take it personally because it’s not.
#6. Moving to New York City? Apartment hunting is a bear
A big con of living in New York City is trying to find an apartment.
The competition is intense and you’ll need a broker to get an apartment, which greatly increases the overall expense. Most broker fees are equivalent to one month’s rent or 10-15% of your total annual rent.
It’s insane and adds an additional expense to moving to New York City.
Of course, some things have changed due to COVID and broker fees were paused for a while because landlord were having such a hard time finding renters.
But in any case, expect to find yourself refreshing apartment websites hourly and touring a handful of places before moving to NYC.
I wrote about our experience finding an apartment in New York City here . I talk about dead cockroaches, mouse traps and a few lessons we learned the hard way so you don’t have to.
#7. If you live in NYC, prepare to be labeled a workaholic
There’s no way around this. New York City is a hard working city. 40 hour work week? Sounds like a distant dream.
Living in NYC is not for the faint of heart, most come here to make a name for themselves, and it shows. Expect to put in long hours.
For example, both of our long-term NYC friends work until 8-9pm in the evening. They joke that they can hang out during the “other” 9-9.
It’s not uncommon to find them answering emails on the weekends or checking their phones during happy hour.
Some days it feels like anxiety is a second language and we are all proficient in it.
You can to hustle to make it here and everyone works hard. Some people work 150 hours a week, others have 2-3 jobs to scrape by.
Whatever you do, secure a job before moving to New York City.
#8. New York City is a dirty city
I know some people like to call New York City “grungy” because it sounds cute, but let’s get real the city is dirty. I mean, in 2018, New York City was rated the dirtiest city in America.
“When you leave New York, you are astonished at how clean the rest of the world is. Clean is not enough.” Fran Lebowitz
In recent years homelessness in New York City has reached its highest levels since the Great Depression.
Homelessness is a real problem in this city and it will become a part of your daily life if you move to New York City. As mentioned earlier, I’ve never felt unsafe here, but homelessness is noticeable.
Moving to New York City?
Moving to New York city is both a fascinating and (at times) overwhelming endeavor. Give yourself some grace while you work out the details. If helpful, I found a fascinating article that covers the best time to move to New York City. You can check it out here: The Best Time of Year to Move to NYC .
To make moving to New York City as smooth as possible, I suggest doing extensive research on the different neighborhoods. As with most cities, your life in NYC will greatly depend on the area you call home.
You neighborhood determines how how much you pay for rent, how far you need to walk to your favorite spots, how long your commute is, etc.
With average rents clocking in at $3,000 per month, I can’t stress the importance of getting a feel for what your daily life will look like before you move to New York City. I found reddit to be super helpful.
How many people live in New York City?
As of 2019, the population of New York City is 8.4 million , making it the most populous city in the country and the 11th most populated city in the world.
So yeah, let your hair down. You’ll always fit in here.
What salary do you need to live in NYC?
It depends on your lifestyle and the sacrifices you’re willing to make! OK with roommates? NYC just became a lot more affordable! Value your independence? A 1 bedroom unit won’t come cheap.
Theoretically you can live in NYC with a salary of 40k a year. You’ll have roommates (probably more than one) and won’t be eating out at sit-down restaurants too often. What’s more, Broadway shows and rooftop bars will be reserved for (very) special occasions.
A salary of 70k a year in New York City will afford you a more comfortable social life in the city that never sleeps. You may still have a roommate and eat out 2-3 times a week or you might find an apartment without a roommate – bagels all the way!
If you’re making a salary of 120k+ a year in NYC you will be able to enjoy the best of what the city has to offer. Getting drinks with friends after work, celebrating special occasions with a fancy dinner, attending the latest shows, and strolling down SOHO more than once a week (if you know, you know) 😉
Living in New York City (Post Summary)
In sum these are the pros and cons of living in New York City
- New York City is a safe city
- Land of opportunity
- Rich history and culture
- The food scene in New York City
- Social scene/networking
- You can be anyone here
- Central Park
- Fashion scene
- Everything is open well into the night
- Efficient transportation
- There’s always something to do
- High rent prices
- NYC is expensive
- Work culture
- Rude locals
- Apartment hunting
- NYC is dirty
- Summer and winter weather
Looking for the best things to do in New York City?
I wrote a comprehensive post on the best things to do in NYC, you can read all about it here: How to spend 4 EPIC Days in New York City . But if it’s helpful, here’s a quick roundup, too.
Catch sunset from Top of the Rock
I dare you to show me a more mesmerizing skyline than New York City’s. And if you’re looking for the absolute best view of New York City, it’s hard to beat the Top of the Rock NYC Observation Deck, especially at sunset.
Visitors can access three separate indoor/outdoor observation decks on the 67th, 69th, and 70th floors. The subsequent panoramic views from this iconic building makes this one of the most popular observation decks in NYC. As such, you can expect crowds practically every hour of the day.
But trust me when I tell you the crowds are worth it. The large glass panels offer unobstructed views the NYC skyline, unlike some of the other observation decks in NYC that use fencing — an inexcusable offense!
From Top of Rock you will see the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, Flatiron Building and the One World Trade Center.
P.S. Make sure to check the interactive Beam Walk during your visit. It simulates what it would feel like to balance on a beam 69-floors about the street while the building was being constructed (whew- I’m sweating just typing that!).
Walk the Brooklyn Bridge
Walking the Brooklyn Bridge is one of the most memorable things to do in New York City. How do I know? Well, for starters, my mom has visited me six times since I’ve moved to New York City and we’ve walked across this bridge every single time.
I don’t even fight her on it when she suggests the trek, it’s iconic and I love this popular NYC activity regardless of the amount of times I’ve crossed the bridge.
The bridge spans one mile and takes about 15-20 minutes to walk across, but you should allocate more time because you’ll want to take photos (you can see the Statue of Liberty from here!).
Visit Washington Square Park
Best known for the monolithic grand marble arch that sits at the northern entrance of the park and overlooks the central fountain, the Washington Square Arch was built to commemorate the centennial of George Washington’s inauguration.
Many folks consider this one of the most inviting parks in NYC and come from all over the city to let their hair down and be themselves. The welcoming atmosphere makes Washington Park a great NYC park for people-watching . The energetic mood is contagious and you’ll notice park visitors from all corners of the world.
From suited businesswomen to relaxed college students and nervous tourists, you’ll see it all. The stars of the show tend to be the talented street musicians that give the park an easy-going vibe.
Make an effort to see Washington Park during the spring season. There’s an undeniable cheery buzz in the air as both locals and tourists eagerly flock outdoors after the dreary winter months.
Quick history lesson: During the late 18th century, this area was a burial ground for indigent victims of illness and disease. As the property slowly morphed into Washington Park, it became the epicenter of many movements and protests. As such, Washington Square Park is one of the more important historic park in New York City.
Visit the New York Public Library
The New York Public Library is housed in one of the most iconic buildings in New York City. Designed in a Beaux-Arts style, this building stands in stark contrast to the glass and iron it surrounds.
When it opened to the public in 1911, the New York Public Library was officially the largest marble building ever built in the country.
No small task, considering it took 16 years to construct this monolithic structure, but the wait was worth it — more than 50,000 people showed up on opening day.
Fun fact: The two lions in front of the library are called Patience and Fortitude, here’s why .
Visit the Met
Founded in 1870, the Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met) is often considered the best museum in New York City and it’s not hard to see why.
With more than 2 million pieces of art spanning 5,000+ years, the Met is the largest museum in the country and the fifth largest museum in the world. Averaging 6 million visitors per year, it’s also the most visited museum in New York City
If you only have time to visit one museum in NYC, this is the one. Plus, it’s conveniently located within Central Park, so you don’t have to go far out of your way to visit.
Admittedly, the museum can get overwhelming if you don’t have a game plan. I suggest picking one or two topics you’re interested in and sticking to those. There’s also some notable pieces you absolutely can’t miss, such as:
Daily life in New York City (Some Inspiration)
New York City candle: The distinctive scents of spring days in Central Park, fine department stores, and concrete capture the energy of the greatest city on earth
And there you have it, my friends. These are the honest pros and cons of living in New York City. Don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions you may have. Always happy to help!
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April 9, 2022 at 2:28 pm
March 25, 2023 at 7:42 pm
I just left NYC was living in West Chelsea since 2014. It was convenient with my Whole Foods a 4 minute walk from my apartment and Walgreens downstairs plus I was right next door to the Hudson Yards and the Highline. I had the best life and my rent was only 30% of my income so I was able to save up enough to buy a house in the Suburbs. I had fun while I was there. It will be missed. But I was happy to leave when I did because the pandemic nearly destroyed the City from what it used to be. There’s too much unprovoked crime, mentally Ill homeless on the streets and subways. I was lucky enough to ride the City Bike to work it was a 4 mile ride one way to Wall Street. I started doing it at the beginning of the Pandemic because I refused to go into the subways then I started working from home and I decided to leave. There’s nothing but empty offices and store fronts in the City. It’s struggling for tax revenue I’m sure. But each year the kids keep coming. Oh and I also didn’t like the fact that everywhere you walk now it smells like skunky marijuana. It’s just trashy…
August 4, 2023 at 2:32 pm
New York City is the fastest and most energetic city and life there is a marathon.
June 28, 2022 at 11:07 pm
Ok not sure when this was written but having watching the news about crime waves that began peaking in 2020-are you still claiming NYC is safe?
July 3, 2022 at 7:15 pm
Hey Cindy, unfortunately it seems crime is on the rise nationwide and is not unique to NYC. As someone who currently lives in NYC I believe so long as you follow general common sense and are aware of your surroundings New York City is still an enjoyable and safe place to visit.
September 23, 2022 at 5:40 am
Great share. Enjoyed reading. Thanks for your time and efforts you took for writing this piece of content.
September 23, 2022 at 7:06 pm
Overall your article rings true. The clothes thing, never being bored, always people around which is why I also love this city. Great article!
October 6, 2022 at 7:21 am
Great share. NYC has been always one of the favorite city. Just Love it.
December 3, 2022 at 2:40 am
I met my wife in NYC 20 years ago next to the Empire State Building and we went back last year for a reunion. We love the city but the poverty, homelessness, and dirt was much higher than just 5 years ago from our previous visit. We’ve thought about moving there but frankly we’re spoiled. We live in Zurich and all the things you said that are great about NYC are somewhat true as well here but on a smaller scale….with the exception of the high cost of living. Clean (they even polish the outdoor trash cans), safe, efficient, but the energy is nothing like NYC. I think we’ll have to stick to visiting. BTW we don’t stay in mid-town, we much prefer the residential feel of the upper west side and stay at the Beacon. Cheers!
January 8, 2023 at 2:11 am
Love this thanks for writing it! My wife and I have been living in different cities all our careers, now that the children are all out in universities, my wife and i decided to try and live in NYC. We currently live in the EU. We purchased an apartment in 2019 ready to give it a go however the pandemic happened and put those plans in the back burner. Luckily somebody leased our place whilst waiting for the US to open up. The lease of our tenant had ended late last year and we are again playing with the idea of trying to live in NYC! Wanted to ask you a few questions but perhaps not in this public space. Keep the articles coming I personally enjoy these very much!
January 12, 2023 at 3:49 am
It should be very easy to find a job in New York, no matter what job you’re looking for. When I was living in Chicago, every time I wanted a temporary job in a fast food restaurant, took me anywhere between 3 days and 3 weeks to find one! and then, after I started working, three or five more places would call and say they’ll hire me, but I already had a job. And that was before the internet, and I walked from one Mcdonald’s to another, or to Burger King, whatever. Should be faster to send a resume online.
New York is also by the ocean, so there must be pretty nice beaches to take your dog for a walk, or jog, or swim.
But I heard there’s a problem with cockroaches. I drove through New York once on a Grayhound bus. The sidewalks were covered with sandwiches wrappers, paper cups, newspapers, plastic bags, you name it…
Maybe it was just a bad part of the city. I don’t know because I didn’t stay.
February 15, 2023 at 6:36 am
For anyone considering a move to New York City, this can be a valuable resource that can help inform their decision and prepare them for what to expect. While the city may not be for everyone, it’s clear that for many people, the energy, excitement, and endless possibilities of New York make it a truly special and unique place to call home.
April 16, 2023 at 7:41 pm
Thanks so much!
May 10, 2023 at 9:25 pm
I’m thinking of coming to New York and staying about two weeks. Also thinking to come after I retire within one year so I can stay longer. I have experience as an ESL teacher. I was there around Christmas and stayed at a hotel in Korea town, How are air B & Bs there?
I also love Philly but am concerned about the increase in crime there
May 11, 2023 at 7:37 pm
Hi! I lived in Manhattan from 1966 to 2016 and I’m writing a book on my experience during that half a century. But I’m writing to say that this posting is excellent and a good guideline for folks considering moving to NYC. Bravo! A. E. Hunter
May 22, 2023 at 2:19 am
Very enlightening and heartening. I also liked that you were so close to where I live right now ❤️ Thank you
June 12, 2023 at 10:41 am
Thank you so much. It was very interesting and helpful. I hope to visit NY one day. Born Melbourne Australia, living on the Red Sea Egypt.
15 Breathtaking Bakeries in the Lower East Side (You’ll Adore)
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Essay About New York City: World’s Most Breathtaking Place
Our world is full of wonders and every person should plunge into unforgettable feelings they give us. One of those wonders is New York City. It is considered to be the city of diversity, opportunities, and unbelievable beauty. This essay on New York will definitely help you find your own way in exploring it.
New York essay: Five delicious pieces of the Big Apple
Each of five boroughs is unique and characterized by specific features of living there. You can recognize Manhattan by its eminent skyscrapers such as the Empire State Building and Rockefeller Center, numerous universities and colleges and wonderful Central Park. It represents the financial heart of the city. You can see busy clerks and businessmen on Wall Street and hear continuous clicking and typing of office workers and programmers eager to make fortune. It is for sure, they would make money faster with the smart writing service like ours.
Brooklyn nowadays is a core of the powerful “machine” producing exclusive organic food and promoting modern art, cinema and indie music. All creativity is mostly presented by the Williamsburg neighborhood, the hot spot for the young people ready to enjoy every single breath of night. However, you can notice how the fascinating night clubs transform into calm and quiet Cobble Hill and Park Slope residences. Bushwick offers shopping for young families.
In the northern part of New York, the Bronx stretches its boundaries. Known for its agrarian past and the first settlers skilled at farming, hunting and fishing , the Bronx has parklands and gardens at its disposal now. New York Botanical Garden will amaze you with the beauty of rare flowers and plants and the Bronx Zoo is going to immerse you in the atmosphere of wildlife. Have you ever been to Italy? The Bronx is called “real Little Italy” , by the way. New York City makes it possible to fall for the charm of Bella Italia right on Arthur Avenue.
If you think about sports as the best way of entertainment or care for your body and want to keep trim, you are to visit Queens. Take your rollers and skates and be free to disclose vivid streets. Stroll by Flushing Meadows-Corona Park. Root for New Your Mets at Citi Field stadium. Go to Flushing Chinatown nearby to satisfy your hunger with some special Asian dainties. But be careful with those dainties, for instance, choose a healthy Mediterranean diet and make the right choice of your dietary pattern for effective training.
Staten Island is regarded as the keeper of the city’s past. This part of NYC encompasses museums and historical attractions such as prominent Historic Richmond Town where anyone may play the role of a person of the 19th century. Moreover, this place combines sunny beaches and the biggest and coolest forest preserve of the city. If you are interested in ordering an essay concerning New York boroughs, take a look at our services. Our company will help you save your money.
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New York City in five words
It is hard sometimes to describe a beautiful place just in a few words. Only a skilled writer expresses the right thought briefly and clearly. We know that New York welcomes everyone all over the world. Despite the great number of tourist attractions, its vividness and versatility also catch an eye. Take a look at five simple words describing New York:
New York is a real polygonal diamond in the jewel box of America. That is why it has about one hundred different names. For example, look at how the name “The Big Apple” appeared . John Fitzgerald, a sports reporter, was the first to use such a nickname in his articles. One day, he heard the horsemen in New Orleans talking about going to “the big apple”, the venue of horseracing, which was NYC. In the 17th century, New York City also got the name New Amsterdam due to Dutch West India company.
The city is the paradise for immigrants. It takes the first place among heavily-populated cities of America. Many foreigners from all over the world come here willing to open new possibilities and challenge themselves. This multicultural harbor is a combination of the true American lifestyle and international flavoring. Aliens can find here a place reminding their own cultural environment. For instance, Brooklyn is a borough where Ukrainian, Russian, Italian, Jamaican people etc. may encounter fellow countrymen and simply feel at home. Check our essay on American culture to get more information: http://smartwriters.org/blog/essay-on-american-culture-how-should-we-start
The Big Apple can boast its staginess of the onstage and musical life. Dozens of theaters open their doors for visitors in Broadway. Many essays on New York cover great Broadway performances including astonishing “Cats” and “Chicago”. These are the must-see performances accompanied by incredible acting and pompous dancing. You can hear music everywhere in the city. Feel its sound from the windows of huge dwellings and especially on the streets of Times Square and even underground. Lots of street musicians and dancers entertain passers-by and devote themselves entirely to the rhythm and endless passion of music.
By the way, famous Times Square, the place of giant shining billboards, big screens, fashionable shopping centers and glam, gathers lots of extraordinary personalities. You can meet here specific characters form the Statue of Liberty in human guise to cartoons and even daring naked cowboy with the guitar hiding the most “shocking” parts of his body in his hands. So getting amazing emotions is possible for free right in Times Square. Here, you can allow yourself being a bit of weirdo especially when it comes to putting your personal goals into life. Look here for some interesting ideas on achieving success in our essay about career goals .
Did you know how many bridges there are in New York? In total, almost 2,000 bridges and tunnels were built here. Today, the most outstanding of them comprises Brooklyn, Manhattan and Verrazzano Bridges. All they are the symbolic architectural embodiment of a connection between things, which seem utterly differ at first glance. Considering the contrast between nations, religions, sights, and territories that the city represents, the feeling of unity there is quite impressive. This contrast is based on the grounds of respect and friendship. Look at this essay to enquire the importance of friendship in our life: http://smartwriters.org/blog/what-is-friendship-essay-who-is-a-friend
Consider this descriptive essay on New York City as your guide. Now it is up to you to choose your path in the kingdom where everything is so different and similar at the same time. Keep in mind that there are plenty of options. At one moment you find yourself inside the boiling business pot like Wall Street or rejoice over bright sun of the beaches standing with your toes in the warm sand, listening to the sound of the sea at another moment. Whatever you want to do, New York has it all. If you liked this essay, you can find out more about our company and writing services.
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Living in New York’s Unloved Neighborhood
By Rivka Galchen
For ten years, I have lived in a neighborhood defined by the Port Authority Bus Station to the north, Penn Station to the south, the Lincoln Tunnel to the west, and, to the east, a thirty-one-foot stainless-steel sculpture of a needle threaded through a fourteen-foot button. Though there are many, many people here, the neighborhood is not a people place. It is better suited to the picking up and dropping off of large pallets. Within this homey quadrilateral are a methadone clinic, a parole office, liquor shops with cashiers behind thick plastic screens, a fancy Japanese clothing store, plenty of pawnshops, the Times Building, drumming studios, seven subway lines, and at least four places to get your sewing machine repaired. A young runaway, emerging from one of the many transit hubs, might find herself—after maybe buying a coffee-cart doughnut and being shouted at for hesitating at a crosswalk, and being nearly hit by a bus—sheepishly deciding to give it one more go back home. There is, though, a lot of office space here. To walk north on Eighth Avenue in order to get to the subway entrance on Fortieth Street is to know what it is to be a migrating lemming.
This is where I have raised my daughter, from birth to her current age of seven. I moved here for pragmatic reasons. I do wonder at times what it means that when my daughter sees someone passed out on the sidewalk, or walking erratically and maybe threatening people with a 7-Eleven Big Gulp cup, she neither panics nor thinks to ask if that person needs help—she just holds my hand a smidge tighter and keeps walking. There aren’t a lot of young children in this neighborhood. She seems at ease with her exceptional state, and will one day be confused, I suspect, to live somewhere with many people her same-ish size.
I realize that it sounds like I’m bragging about my neighborhood. I am never sure where my bragging and my complaining meet up for coffee to agree about their views on the world. Arguably, these blocks resemble the nineteen-seventies New York romanticized in film and on TV. But do we really want ourselves or anyone we love to live in “Taxi Driver”? Until recently, there were dusty and tattered pennant banners announcing the “Grand Opening” of the Big Apple Meat Market on Ninth Avenue, a market that had been open for at least twenty years. I used to see very good-looking, well-dressed people getting professional photos taken there. Also sometimes at an abandoned lot nearby. The photographers have had to location-scout again, however, as the market was torn down not long ago and replaced with a tall and as yet unoccupied glass building. The community complained about the loss of the Big Apple market, where you could buy a gallon of mayonnaise and cheap hot food, so a new, affordable home has been found for the store, a couple of blocks south, though there are no banners or “Grand Opening” sign. I am what I am: I have grown into an adult who likes pumpernickel bread and red cabbage, but there were years when my partner’s young sons longed for Eggo waffles and bacon and Campbell’s chicken soup, and Big Apple was there for us.
I was born, somewhat randomly, in Toronto, and between the first and twelfth grades I lived in Norman, Oklahoma, and after that I moved East. I have lived in New York since 1998. I’ve long held the belief that being a fan or a cheerleader of New York is ethically and aesthetically dubious. Like the Yankees and, for that matter, the Mets, New York needs no more fans. This place is dense with wealth, with cultural capital, with anecdote; it is the setting for too many movies, books, and television shows. To be a vocal fan of New York is like hanging out with the popular kids. Norman, Oklahoma, where so many people I love and admire live—now there’s a place that could use a fan club. Loving New York, which I do, has often made me feel morally compromised, even alien to myself. Moving to the neighborhood, for pragmatic reasons, solved that emotional tangle for me. Almost no one likes this neighborhood or wants to live here. It would be O.K. to cheer for it, if I could learn how to.
At first, we kept our windows open for fresh air, but soon we noticed a pervasive black soot. It turned up on our dishware, our shelving. It was unimpressed with Palmolive and a scratch-free sponge. Was this substance, which was likely lining our alveoli, the kind of character-producing grit for which people move to the city? I have almost never chosen the neighborhood I lived in—it was always determined by external factors, often institutional housing. So I’m accustomed to a time of getting to know a neighborhood, of trying to convince oneself of its unelected virtues.
I went on walks, amid the soot. Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe, an obese detective who never leaves his apartment and raises orchids, lives on Thirty-fifth Street, according to a plaque there. Bob’s Park is nearby. Bob, I learned, had a pet boa constrictor, wore Scottish kilts and an Indian headdress, and was an adopted member of the Blackfoot tribe. He did a lot of good work for tenants’ rights in his building. In 1992, he was found stabbed to death in his apartment; the crime was never solved. One afternoon, I see Baryshnikov at a bagel place. This neighborhood is full of dancers, I notice. The Trisha Brown Dance Company has an office here. There are also many strip clubs. Now and again, I’ll see a velvet rope I have no interest in being invited to cross. I keep thinking that at any moment I’ll find the durably gentle side of this neighborhood. Instead, I find a stable where livery horses are kept, on levels, like parked cars. The DHL building is kind of cheery, as parts of it are painted yellow.
Our favorite twenty-four-hour deli, on the corner of Thirty-seventh Street and Ninth Avenue, is owned by a Yemeni immigrant who has been running it for nearly forty years. It has never been closed for even a day. Not through 9/11, not through the blackouts, not through Hurricane Sandy, not through the pandemic . The owner tells me he slept on a cot in the basement during the first six years of the business. Our neighborhood is home for many homeless people, and I’ve seen him give food and drinks to people who don’t pay and I’ve also seen him ask people who are causing a problem to leave. He’s at the register less often these days; instead, we see his children and grandchildren. When I’m tired or overwhelmed, my partner orders me a special treat: an egg-white-and-bacon breakfast sandwich on a toasted English muffin. It arrives home wrapped in thin foil, and tastes like someone taking care of you.
Our apartment overlooks the entrance to the Lincoln Tunnel, which I estimate to be the source of at least two-thirds of the soot. The traffic is particularly heavy one night. My daughter looks out the window, noticing the long line of red brake lights that distinguishes the outgoing traffic from the long line of white headlights that characterizes the incoming. It’s a beautiful view, she says. A memory comes to me, of a friend telling me how her grandmother, when she visited from New Delhi, used to describe a night scene like this as “a necklace of rubies and a necklace of diamonds.”
The Two Bros pizza at the corner of Eighth Avenue and Thirty-eighth Street sells a fresh, hot slice of cheese pizza for a dollar. There are other Two Bros in the city—there are other Two Bros in the neighborhood—but this one is the best. It is nearly always busy, and it has a fast-moving and efficient line. I fell in love with Two Bros when I was pregnant. I would sometimes step out to have a slice there an hour or two after dinner. You could eat the slice at a table in the back and feel companioned and alone at once. The lighting is like that of a surgical theatre. The Mexican pop music is a reliable endorphin generator. And though the ingredients that go into a dollar slice of pizza do not come from a family farm in the Hudson Valley, these slices are supreme. The clientele, those evenings, was a mix of transgender prostitutes, thin young men, and quiet immigrant families, often with suitcases, headed I have no idea where.
After my daughter was born, I would still get a slice now and again, and, as soon as she was old enough, a slice was a special treat, better than a balloon. By the time she was two or so, she liked holding the dollar and paying for her slice herself. When she was three, she could proudly hold the paper plate with the hot slice on it, and now she can even take that hesitant first bite, where you gauge how hot the slice is and how much of a triangle you can bite off.
Because there are so few babies or children in this neighborhood, when you travel with a baby or a child you and the child are treated like a majestic presence, almost like tigers. My daughter is celebrated at the grocery store, at the pizza place, at the deli, and even on the street. In this neighborhood, crowded with mentally unwell people, and with drug dealers and panhandlers, and with tired office workers and sex workers and fruit venders and psychics and police officers—all these people, nearly to a one, say something tender to a child, whether you want them to or not. I remember once journeying to the idyllic family neighborhood of Carroll Gardens, in Brooklyn, where there were more babies and children than pigeons, and no one seemed interested in my baby at all, and I felt like a pigeon.
I have lived in other New York neighborhoods. For a time, I lived near the Mount Sinai Hospital Complex, on Ninety-eighth Street, right near where the Metro-North northbound train changes its path from underground to aboveground. All conversation would pause when a train went by, as in a running gag in a sitcom. Later, I lived in Morningside Heights, near Columbia University, a neighborhood that some find boring, and none find cool, but, as the city changes and changes and changes, Morningside Heights has a permanent population of thousands of eighteen- to twenty-two-year-olds. They reside, forever young, alongside a mysteriously eternal elderly community. Time does not pass in Morningside Heights. In my seven years there, I never changed age. The Cathedral of St. John the Divine will always be partially under renovation. The Hungarian Pastry Shop, now owned by a Greek family, will always be crowded and will never have Internet service or music; the outdoor seating is in use even now. I lived briefly in two Brooklyn neighborhoods: Fort Greene and Brooklyn Heights. Both were so pleasant as to make me feel uncomfortable. Maybe because I grew up the daughter of Israeli immigrants in Oklahoma, a neighborhood feels “right” to me only when it suits me in no particular way—when it seems unlikely that I’ll run into another household like my own. If I wear the clothing that might earn me compliments in Fort Greene or Brooklyn Heights, here, near the Lincoln Tunnel, those same clothes make me look as if I’m demented.
When my yearning for a sense of softness and sanity in the neighborhood really soars, I go to Esposito’s butcher shop on Thirty-eighth Street. A handful of businesses have been in this neighborhood for decades, and the butcher shop has been here since 1932. When I go in there, the staff ask me about my kids. They ask everyone about their kids, or their dogs, or their parents, or whatever there is to ask about. In the ten years I’ve lived here, the owner has been there every operating day, six days a week, working alongside his staff. One of the butchers is strikingly handsome. He always smiles and says it’s nice to see me. He says that to everyone and gives everyone that smile. Still, it retains its power. It took me years to realize that the floor on the butchers’ side of the glass display case is elevated by about six inches; the butchers look like gods on that side.
Esposito’s has a take-a-number ticket dispenser. The slips of paper come out like interlocking Escher frog tiles. Of course, my daughter loves to pull those numbered papers. When your number gets called, it’s heraldic. With that take-a-number ticket in hand, I get something I very rarely get—a felt connection to my childhood. I pulled this same kind of numbered ticket at the Skaggs Alpha Beta, in Norman. I would wait, with my mother, to be called on. My mom would ask for Muenster cheese “very thinly sliced, please.” Sometimes the deli-counter worker had trouble with my mom’s accent. You could measure the deli person’s character by how thin he sliced the Muenster. That was my mother’s thinking, and I guess it’s mine, too. To this day, a thick slice of Muenster signals an uncaring soul. These Thirty-eighth Street butcher guys would slice the Muenster very thin, I’m sure of it, even if I no longer like Muenster, and recently for the first time heard it called the children’s cheese.
It was my daughter’s reaching toddler age that began to alter my relationship to this neighborhood. For the first years, my heart had been open to it. I had been proud of its lack of charm, as if this were a consequence of its integrity. I had gone so far as to mildly dislike the perfectly clean and inoffensive “short-term luxury-rental” building that went up on this otherwise rough block—the Emerald Green. The complex planted ginkgo trees all along the block’s sidewalk. The trees were thin and pathetic and nearly leafless at first. In winter, the building’s staff lit up the trunks of the trees by wrapping them with white Christmas lights. In summer, they planted tulips in the enclosures in front of the entrance. As it grew cold, they planted some sort of hearty kale. We don’t need this! I remember thinking. This is even less charming than the lack of charm! Now I worship that building. My daughter and I both wait with anticipation for the November day when they wrap the ginkgo trees in those white lights. In fall, the ginkgo leaves tumble down as elegant yellow fans. The Emerald Green employee who hoses down the sidewalks every single morning, always pausing as we approach—he has my heart.
A recent pandemic afternoon, in socially distanced line yet again with my daughter for two dollars’ worth of Two Bros pizza, the normal sonic atmosphere of honking and Mexican pop music is augmented by more shouting than usual. I can’t make out what’s going on. Two fashionably dressed Japanese teen-agers start singing Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York.” There’s a fight going on. We cross the street. One of the shouting protagonists tells us that he’s glad we crossed the street, that there’s a guy with a wrench over there and he’s crazy. It’s unclear who provoked whom, and in the end the only violence involves thrown soda bottles—though, another recent night, someone was stabbed to death on this corner.
It’s not the violence in the neighborhood that makes me, at times, really hate living here. If anything, it’s clearer than ever how safe my family and I are, relatively, except from maybe being hit by a car or dying of lung disease. But the neighborhood used to feel to me like a rough part of a softer place, and nowadays the roughness feels more general, and this makes it harder to cheer for a neighborhood that is so loud and dirty and uninterested in or unfit for human life. It feels fit for delivery trucks and construction dust and as a postcard of man’s inhumanity to man. Years ago, under the Port Authority crossway, there was some sort of shelter—or at least meal, phone, and shower service—provided, and there is no such thing there anymore, only lots of people with substance-abuse and mental-health problems wandering around with a memory of this being a place where one could find help. There’s also a ubiquitous day-and-night smell of pot. Some people love that smell. I don’t. I complain about it to my partner one day, on the sidewalk. My daughter says, What smell? Of skunk, her dad says. What does skunk smell like? she asks. Do you mean that smell that is like burnt mushrooms with lots of spices? I don’t like spicy food, she concludes.
Twelve years ago—before my time!—the fifth floor of our building was often lit up with red lights. The street at night was crowded with limousines and S.U.V.s. This was the side effect of an improvised and lucrative business run by a man known as Big Daddy Lou. He and his wife made nearly a million dollars in ten months running a sex club favored by bankers and lawyers. For building-code purposes, certain small rooms were designated for recording books on tape. Big Daddy Lou paid at least two hundred and sixty thousand dollars in a no-jail-time plea deal that barred him from strip clubs and similar businesses. He could recently be seen on Twitter, posting about voter suppression in Georgia. A custodian on the second floor said that he hadn’t known about the club, but that he had “seen many pretty girls coming through, and no one caused a problem.” Judging by the movies and TV shows I see advertised on posters, this is precisely the kind of caper that millions of Americans dream of being near. I am living the dream, or almost.
Oh, I know your neighborhood, a man I was interviewing for a journalism piece once said. He was a scientist who was working on robotics that could land, and then rove, on the moon. He said he had worked in a space not far from Penn Station. He loved it, he said. He said that the company used a fine red Mars simulant dust, and that the dust had caused troubles, as it sifted down onto the silk-tie-manufacturing business that was one floor below. The problem had been resolved, and the two businesses had mutually admired each other’s work.
For my daughter, this neighborhood is dense with magic and love. This is her childhood. I will give you an example, one that involves the Lot-Less store that we pass on the way to the subway. In this memory, she is three years old, and we are headed to her preschool. My daughter is supposed to bring in her blankie from home, to be used for nap time for the rest of the year. My daughter has always been very interested in fulfilling these sorts of expectations.
On the sidewalk that day, I realize that I’ve forgotten the blankie. I suggest that we go into this Lot-Less store, that maybe we’ll find something. “I want a Minnie Mouse blanket,” my daughter says, in probably the most clearly enunciated sentence of her life up to that moment. She used to watch “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse” every time she stayed with my mother, and her love for Minnie Mouse mirrored the depth of love between a grandmother and a granddaughter. I try to say that we may not find a Minnie Mouse blanket, but that we shouldn’t cry or panic or worry, etc. As it turns out, there is only one blanket on sale in the Lot-Less. It is a Minnie Mouse blanket.
I know the neighborhood so well—know the old Hartford Courant building, the countless vape shops, the Hamed Fabric, with its clearance sale, the Money Change/Weed World/NY Gift & Luggage, and Daytona Trimming, with its boas—on account of the carrying, and then the strollering, and then the very slow walking, and then the normal-paced walking of these same streets year and again with this child of mine. When she was a baby, the only way to reliably get her to fall asleep was to push her round and round these blocks in her stroller. Amid the honking, shouting, and backfiring, and the music coming from the Wakamba bar, her eyes would close, then stay closed.
She began walking. I was made aware that every tree enclosure and every concrete border was an irresistible balance-beam challenge. To get from our door to the corner took twenty minutes. Each challenge needed to be met, step by careful step, whether coming home or leaving. Some of the enclosures were flat brick. Some were curved metal. What a playground. She knew she could run up to the barrier near the parking garage but then had to wait to pass by it. In any month on any day, she might ask when the ginkgo leaves would turn yellow, when the Christmas lights would go up, when the illuminated snowflake would be hung over the intersection of Ninth Avenue and Thirty-eighth Street. When we neared the corner butcher shop, she would sing a little made-up tune about the butcher, Bobby Esposito (though he goes by, and we always call him, Robert). The tune has a nineteen-forties cadence that I think she picked up from her Irish grandfather.
One afternoon, when we were on a tree-lined, picturesque block of Brooklyn Heights, near where I had once lived, with clean sidewalks and elegant buildings and gaslit lamps and no smell of garbage, my daughter turned to me very seriously and said, “This place is spoooooo-ky.”
“It would be terrible—terrible!—to live here.”
I do my best to adopt her view of our not beautiful neighborhood. After all, what is the Staples store but the enchanted red place that had a sequin notebook in the window for sale? Here is the 7-Eleven, with its bounty of stuffed animals and key chains, where on her birthday she got to pick out, after long deliberation, an owl Beanie Baby. The fruit man, whom I find slightly “off” but who is cheerful and always gives her an extra banana whenever we buy anything—where has he been since March? The hat-and-glove sidewalk vender called her Madam President when he gave her that double-bobbled hat which was pretty but itchy. Near that large sculpture of a needle going through a button, there appeared, in a plant enclosure, a metal sculpture of the head of a woman. It looked odd, unlabelled, just that head. I told my daughter that I thought it was someone named Emma Goldman, maybe, but the next time we passed by the sculpture was mysteriously gone.
One day, I have my own experience of magic in the neighborhood. A rack of plastic-wrapped dresses is being wheeled across the street. Its bars are wrapped in tape labelled “Hjelm, Hjelm, Hjelm.” That is very near to the name of the family who lived across the street from me as a child, who were a second family to me. There are so many stories there, but that is not where my mind goes. I realize in that moment that I have been walking, all these years, on the same streets I walked as a seven-year-old girl. These fabric shops, these button emporiums, these sewing-machine-repair shops, even the sparsely populated Ben’s Kosher Delicatessen, which is so large and hard for me to believe in: is it possible that this was exactly where I was once or twice or three times before? With my aunt ordering cheesecake for dessert and taking only a bite and leaving me with the burden of trying to eat the rest out of politeness?
My aunt, who lives in Sydney, Australia, used to come to New York—to these same streets—to buy fabric for her line of clothing for young women. She used to give me leopard-print jeans and crop tops and clingy polyester dresses that no other kid in Oklahoma had. When my aunt went to New York, sometimes my mother and I would fly out to see her.
We are in the back rooms of the third and fourth floors of these buildings. These are my earliest memories of seeing the suits and hats of Orthodox Jewish men. We are being shown bolts of fabric. We are told that they are very special prints, and that not everyone gets to see these. My aunt has introduced my mother as her “assistant,” and my mother holds a notebook and pen—not something that I have ever seen her do. Usually she holds large stacks of computer code printed on that old dot-matrix computer paper with those side strips you can tear off. My aunt tells the men that she has seen better prices, and that the fabric pills, or tears, or something. We leave, maybe we return, I don’t remember. Later, there is matzo-ball soup with matzo balls of unfathomable scale and fluffiness. These trips are also marked by the marvel of my aunt, her four-inch red fingernails and her resemblance to Tina Turner. It makes the most sense to meet her in New York, or sometimes Los Angeles, since why would she fly all the way out to the Will Rogers World Airport, in Oklahoma City?
I’ve lived my adult life so far away from my childhood, away from whatever madeleines might return it to me, and yet here I am, in some sense having never left this neighborhood. Time has and hasn’t wrought its transformational power. Now it’s my aunt’s children who shop for fabric. They don’t come to these streets; they go to Guangzhou. There are still fabric stores here, but there’s something nostalgic and aspirational about calling the area the garment district. If you look up, there are magnificent Art Deco buildings, one after the other, but in the windows you see dusty stacks, sometimes mannequins, and very little that looks as if it had been moved in years. These are a thousand Miss Havisham stage sets, though before the pandemic there was some trend of expensive, often “organic,” “Made in NYC” brands settling in the area. Here and there, one would see a beautiful person. Café Grumpy, of trendy Greenpoint, had opened a branch here. And Pacific Trimming had recently remodelled, so that if you walked by on Thirty-ninth Street, between Seventh and Eighth Avenues, even the least crafty among us might be filled with a desire for rickrack, for zippers in thirty-six colors, for shank buttons. Shortly before the pandemic made itself credible to New Yorkers, in early March, a fancy food court was opening across the way from Pacific Trimming, the kind of place where one could pay as much for a cup of coffee as you might ever dream of, where three soft tacos could be sixteen dollars. I wonder what will happen to that food court.
So much has closed, and now there are no crowds to navigate up Eighth Avenue in the morning. The pandemic has revealed that, apart from all my grousing, this neighborhood was working very well. It lacked sweetness, sure, and hygiene, but it had office space, and it had office workers, and it had breakfast carts and restaurants, and it even had—I saw this three times—unremarkable-looking pedestrians who, seeing someone slumped over in a crosswalk, in the line of traffic, would pick that person up and help him onto the sidewalk. There may be little or no sunny side to the prostitution in this neighborhood, but there’s something cheering about walking by the Holiday Inn park benches at 7:30 A.M ., and seeing the tall, long-limbed sex workers in leggings and false eyelashes, sitting together over a coffee, chatting, laughing, adjusting their bras, their hair.
I know it would be wrong to get romantic about it, just as I know that the people on the sidewalk near Fortieth Street who shout at me that they love my hair and where do I get it done are just hawking their salon on the second floor, but what can I say? It sometimes feels as if these chaotic crowds were here because we were all inside the velvet rope to the one club that would interest me, the one where we all belong.
I used to wonder about people who were born in New York and who still lived here. Did it not annoy them that any block they walked down, any business they passed, was liable to bring up a ghoulish or irritating memory? Even good memories can be exhausting. Maybe especially good memories. For this reason, I pitied the New York natives. And envied them, naturally. Lately, I find myself awake in the middle of the night in a panic, wondering, Why am I here? Where are all the people I have known? My mother lives only two miles away, but I still sometimes think, Where is my mom? Where is my black-sheep stuffed animal? Now my child is a native New Yorker. The pandemic will be over one day. She will again make her way up a very crowded Eighth Avenue. New businesses will open. Maybe, years from now, she will wonder what happened to these irreplaceable days. ♦
By Eric Lach
By Helen Rosner
By Stuart Dybek
Why Writers Love New York City (and Then Leave It)
Sari Botton, Melissa Febos, Mira Ptacin, and Cheryl Strayed discuss what inspired their contributions to Goodbye to All That: Writers on Loving and Leaving New York .
In the new anthology Goodbye to All That: Writers on Loving and Leaving New York , contributors share the experience of moving to New York in pursuit of the writing life. In essay after essay, writers describe their experiences moving to New York from Long Island, New Jersey, California, and overseas. Anyone from anywhere can come to New York City in pursuit of fame, riches, and romance, and as a result, Goodbye to All That captures New York’s uniquely nuanced, overlapping landscape of cultures and geographies that for millions feels at once deeply personal and communal.
But while something deeper also reveals itself in the pages, some thread of pure accident runs through the story of each writer’s dream of making it in the big city.
Goodbye to All That features several familiar names from the Manhattan and (mostly) Brooklyn literary community, including editor Sari Botton and several other 20- and 30-something women writers. Through a series of emails, I asked Sari and contributors Cheryl Strayed, Melissa Febos, and Mira Ptacin about the differences and similarities between their experiences in the city of so many of our dreams.
In Cheryl Strayed’s essay for this anthology, “Minnesota Nice,” she writes,
I’d entered the city the way one enters any grand love affair: with no exit plan. I went willing to live there forever, to become one of the women clad in slim pants and killer shoes and interesting coats. I was ready for the city to sweep me into its arms, but instead it held me at a cool distance. And so I left New York the way one leaves a love affair too: because, much as I loved it, I wasn’t truly in love. I had no compelling reason to stay.
This is a phenomenon many of us seem to get swept up in: feeling that our relationship to the city is as alive and intimate as that of fiery, fateful lovers. What is it about New York that compels us to believe the city is a human entity unto itself: one capable of offering earth-shattering sex, endlessly stimulating conversation, and eventual transcendence, too?
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Cheryl Strayed: New York City isn't just a city, it's an idea—a projection of our fantasies and desires, like Paris or California or that beautiful person across the room. Because so many have imbued New York City with such meaning, it's hard not to be a bit over the top in one's reaction to it.
Sari Botton: You'll find earth-shattering sex, endlessly stimulating conversation, and transcendence in New York City, in great multitudes. The sheer number of people—many of whom are looking for the same things, who have similar stars in their eyes— allows for all kinds of possibility. It makes it very magnetic and alluring, like the most charismatic person you'll ever know.
Mira Ptacin: Define “earth-shattering sex.”
No, really, I came to New York City knowing nothing about it other than its reputation. It was about the fame. It was about that sentimental song wisdom. “If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere.” To me, New York was like that popular captain of the football team from high school, while I was the weirdo in orchestra class with Kool-Aid dyed red hair and a skateboard. And, for some strange reason (ego, really), I was determined to convince the football captain to fall in love with me. So it was all about the challenge.
New York did have some to do with my career, too, but it had a lot more to do with my self-esteem. I wanted to see if I could win over this great city. The thing is, it’s been my experience that some years after graduating from high school and moving on, we nerds go on to make ourselves happy and that popular football jock has a drinking problem and is still attending high school parties.
Melissa Febos: New York is an iconic place, and one of the symptoms of iconography is that we graft our identities onto that image, borrow the certainty of its familiar dimensions, at least until we find our own. Also, the city is a kind of human entity, isn’t it? What part of it is not made up of or by humans?
I think it’s natural, even useful, to have an idolized place. The Elysian Fields, heaven, New York—romanticization helps us move through the pains of the place we are in.
We idolize and worship and romanticize the people we fall in love with, and when that fantasy cannot withstand the human reality of the beloved, we either stop loving them, or begin loving them in a more complete way.
Later in “Minnesota Nice,” Cheryl writes,
In the end, I had to realize it was never meant to be. It wasn’t New York. It was me.
I found this exact sentence— It was me— in other essays; it’s a sentiment that echoes throughout the whole collection. Is there a sense that leaving New York—because one’s constitution or circumstances can no longer withstand the city’s exigencies –constitutes a failure of character?
Botton: As Mira said, brings to mind "If I can make it there, I'll make it anywhere," that famous line from Kander & Ebb's theme song from New York, New York . I think there's also a reverse corollary people subscribe to: "If I can't make it there, I won't make it anywhere," which means, I'm not so strong.
Strayed: I didn’t experience leaving New York City so much as a failure of character as an acknowledgment that in spite of its reputation, I didn't have to love this city. I didn't have to want to stay. For me it was part of growing up, of deciding to seek what I really wanted and who I really was rather than pursuing an idea of myself. I love New York City, but I don't want to live there. It was living there that taught me that.
Febos: I knew that leaving was very much like leaving a lover—a symptom not of failure, but of change.
Ptacin: In some cases, I think it’s actually the opposite of failure. In my case everything vital and healthy about me began to fall apart in New York: my inner peace, my marriage, my health, my sensitivities, my gentleness … my personality, really. But I kept insisting that I wouldn’t leave until I had made it. The thing is, once I made it to one rung on the ladder of success, there was always another rung above to reach for. And another, and another.
As I wrote in my essay, “we go to New York City to make our careers but end up stepping over homeless people on our way to work.” I never wanted to become that person. To me, losing my sensitive nature would be a failure of character. So by finally saying “fuck it” and doing what was best for me as a human as opposed to me as a brand, I think I did the hard thing but the best thing by leaving. The right thing. I am proud of spray-bottling myself in the face.
I noticed certain details starting to repeat throughout the essays, like a kind of collective nostalgia: Interesting jackets (and I know from reading Megan Daum’s essay not to call these jackets chic ), whiskey, and literary readings, as well as places like Citarella or Washington Square Park, and neighborhoods like the West Village, and Park Slope in the 1990s and early 2000s, came up over and over again. And of course brownstones were the most common motif.
When you’re away from New York, what are the details—whether they’re a place, a smell, a season, a particular kind of night sky—that transport you to a place of nostalgia?
Strayed: I love the feel on the streets, of so many people walking and talking and conducting their lives in a shared space of the sidewalk. Of course it can be the thing that annoys me about the city too, but mostly I love it. I'm always entertained by how aggressive the pedestrians are, how they step right out into the street regardless of what the traffic lights instruct them to do.
Botton: Lousy karaoke makes me long desperately for places like Baby Grand. The smell of pizza takes me right back.
Febos: Autumn. And Christmas. Though, that season and that time of year make me nostalgic for most things. I live in New York again right now, so it’s hard to get in touch with missing it. Right now, New York is my ball and chain.
Ptacin: I miss the way the city feels after a big snowstorm. Everything. Just. Stops.
I miss the food—all food, any time. I live on a small island in Maine now, and if you don’t make it to the grocery store before it closes at 8 p.m., you’re screwed.
I miss getting nervous before going out on the town. I miss going to Prospect Park very, very early in the morning and letting my dogs run off-leash before the rest of the city wakes up. I miss celebrity sightings, and I miss getting annoyed at tourists for walking too slowly. I miss the ambitious humans, and the jazz musicians.
I miss being drunk in a cab and watching the flickering skyline zip past my window while I realize, I’m in fucking New York City.
What is it about New York that compels millions of people to risk everything in order to try and make it in the city?
Botton: It's the greatest city in the world, with the greatest assortment of cultures and culture, and a great variety of experiences that allows each person to have a different set of memories and sentiments. New York offers great opportunities at a great cost. You have to sacrifice a lot to make it there, and the pieces of the pie keep getting smaller as more people throng to it.
Ptacin: New Yorkers are willing to sacrifice and they just accept the hardships of being there by purely just being there because there is just this expectation that it will pay back. And that the harder it is, the bigger the payback will be. It’s kind of like the same sentiment behind some religions: The worse you have it, the bigger the reward will be.
How is it that—despite the projected hopes and adolescent ideals of millions of intelligent human beings—this city still manages, both in love and in tragedy, to exceed our wildest dreams? I guess what I want to know is, do you think New York is an eternal, unattainable romantic, or a deceitful, highly intelligent sociopath?
Botton: Ha! I think that when it's not working for you, you see it as the intelligent sociopath, and when there still seem to be great possibilities, it is that elusive, perfect romantic ideal that you keep striving for.
Ptacin: It’s both! For many people it is livable and it does pay back and make people happy, and for some you just can’t get it to be empathetic or sympathetic. It can flip from romantic to sociopath at the drop of a hat.
In her essay “My City,” Dani Shapiro writes about returning to the city for a visit, years after leaving for Los Angeles. Upon returning, Shapiro takes a taxi with her husband, to the hotel where they’re staying. She communicates a fear of finding herself in New York City not as a New Yorker, but as a tourist. Do any of you share this fear? Have you ever returned and felt like you were a tourist in New York City?
Botton: This is a great source of anxiety for me. It’s why I carry a Metrocard, and refuse to trade in my 646 cell phone area code for an 845. Moving out of New York City incited sort of an identity crisis in me. Intellectually, I believe that you can never return to being a tourist, or "bridge and tunnel," as I once was, growing up on Long Island. I believe that once you’re a New Yorker you're always a New Yorker. But try telling me that when I try to make plans to meet someone at a favorite old haunt, and the person I'm making plans with, who still lives there, says, "Um... that went out of business five years ago, and has been replaced by a Duane Reade."
Strayed: I return to the city often, and I do feel like a tourist. I don't think I ever got over that feeling when I was living there, actually. I lived there for less than a year and the place felt so different from any other place I'd ever lived that I never truly felt like a New Yorker. I don't mind being a tourist.
Melissa, it may be impossible to predict, but do you think you’ll move away from New York again?
Febos: I do. I’ll admit, this answer is colored by the fact that I am in love with someone who lives 2,500 miles away from New York, but independent of that, my commitment to New York is not what it used to be. The list of reasons to leave New York grows slowly but steadily as I age. That said, having lived here for nearly all of my adult life, it’s hard to imagine New York not being my home, at least in some part.
By the same token, do the rest of you ever imagine yourselves returning to the city?
Strayed: I don't. I live in Portland, Oregon. It's the best city in the world. Don't tell anyone.
Ptacin: HELL TO THE NO. Unless I become a bazillionaire.
Botton: I said this in the intro to the collection, I've said it in several interviews, and I hold it to be true: If I win the lottery, I am so there.
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I’m a doctor who studied 5k near-death experiences — there is life after death, social links for adriana diaz.
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A radiation oncologist in Kentucky who has studied more than 5,000 near-death experiences believes his research has proven the existence of life after death — “without a doubt.”
Dr. Jeffrey Long founded the Near-Death Experience Research Foundation in 1998, having become fascinated with near-death experiences (NDE) while completing his medical residency.
In a new essay for Insider , he defines NDEs as “someone who is either comatose or clinically dead, without a heartbeat, having a lucid experience where they see, hear, feel emotions, and interact with other beings.”
Long collects stories from those who have reported NDEs and scientifically analyzes the accounts.
“In the face of overwhelming evidence, I’ve come to believe there’s certainly an afterlife,” he said.
While each NDE is different, Long has noticed several consistent patterns .
About 45% of patients report an out-of-body experience. Long explained that people claim “their consciousness separates from their physical body, usually hovering above,” allowing them to see and hear what happens around them.
Long says these narratives have been confirmed by witnesses.
He cited the case of a woman who lost consciousness while riding a horse on a trail — “her consciousness traveled with her horse as he galloped back to the barn.”
She was later “able to describe exactly what happened at the barn” even though her body wasn’t physically there.
Others “say they’re transported into another realm,” with many claiming to have passed through a tunnel, seen a bright light, been greeted by a deceased loved one and watched their life “flashing before their eyes.”
Long admitted that these sightings have become cliché, but said young children (who likely have not been exposed to those stories) have described similar experiences.
“I haven’t found any scientific explanation for these experiences,” Long confessed, but noted the breadth of the reports.
“I’ve read brain research and considered every possible explanation for NDEs. The bottom line is that none of them hold water.”
Long isn’t the only one conducting this research.
Dr. Bruce Greyson, professor emeritus of psychiatry and neurobehavioral sciences at the University of Virginia, was inspired to study NDEs after he had one of his own.
He agrees with Long that no two NDEs are exactly alike, but he has also cataloged a few familiar traits .
According to his research, NDEs are fairly common, with some 10-20% of people who come close to death reporting them — about 5% of the population at large.
He also shared that many people claimed to have an out-of-body experience, a bright light sighting, and a reunion with a dead loved one.
“I think the evidence overwhelmingly points to the physical body not being all that we are,” he told The Post in 2021 . “There seems to be something that is able to continue after the body dies. I don’t know what to make of it.”
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My family kept secrets. ‘Oppenheimer’ drives home how complex those secrets were
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Out of the blue in 2011, I received an email from a historian at the Los Alamos Historical Society in New Mexico. She said that because I was a descendant of settlers on the Pajarito Plateau in northern New Mexico in the decades before World War II, I was entitled to receive a history book commissioned by Congress.
It was part of an effort to make amends for the government’s abrupt seizure of the land in 1942 to build the Los Alamos laboratory, where the first atomic bomb was developed.
I was dumbfounded.
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When I was growing up, neither my father nor my grandmother, Constance Smithwick, ever said a word to me about having lived in New Mexico. My mother, who was only briefly married to my father, rarely spoke of him. And both my parents and grandmother died in the late 1970s, so their stories were lost to me. When the Los Alamos historian asked me if I had any photos or stories about my family’s life in the area, I said I had nothing to share.
The book, “Homesteading on the Pajarito Plateau, 1887-1942,” arrived a short time later.
Reading the parts about my family only deepened the mystery of the silence of my father and grandmother about their lives on the plateau. But it clarified historical aspects of their story, including issues of power, race, privilege and loss made newly relevant by the movie “Oppenheimer.”
In the American West, homesteaders on government land, by law, became owners of their land after at least five years of farming, ranching or otherwise improving the acreage. The Pajarito Plateau, a high-altitude volcanic region of mesas and canyons, had a settler community. Hispanic farmers and ranchers, many whose families had lived there for generations, owned most of the few dozen homesteads , which ranged from 10 to 160 acres. The land was semi-arid, water was scarce, and the growing season was short. But by no means was the land vacant when the government chose the area for the Los Alamos facility and evicted the people.
My grandparents, of Irish descent, were part of that community. Starting in 1921, they lived on and managed the plateau’s Anchor Ranch, a 320-acre spread. The ranch was owned by the Ross family of New York. In exchange for providing care at the ranch for a mentally disabled son of that family, my grandparents had run of the place. They are credited with creating a viable enterprise and improving some of the roads that ran through the canyons.
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They left the plateau in 1937 due to my grandfather Francis’ failing health and relocated to Desert Hot Springs in California, another off-the-grid location in those days. Any hope my grandmother may have had to return to Anchor Ranch was dashed in 1942, when the Rosses sold the land to the U.S. government for $43 an acre .
That transaction was later cited in a petition to the U.S. government by the descendants of Hispanic homesteaders who sought reparations because their relatives were paid as little as $7 an acre for their land. In 2004, when Congress established a $10-million fund to repay the descendants, the settlement included a provision to create the book I received.
Although everything the Los Alamos historian wrote in her email was news to me, it jogged my memory.
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When my grandmother died in 1977, I was given a box labeled “Connie’s stuff” by the person who had gathered her belongings. I never looked through it. But during a move in the mid-1990s, the box buckled and a large manila envelope spilled its contents. There were photos of log cabins, children playing with puppies, women on horseback, picnics, sledding. Having never heard my father or grandmother say anything remotely related to these images, I put the photos into a new box and stored it in the garage.
I took another look in 2011, after the email from the Los Alamos historian. I spread my grandmother’s papers on my living room floor, and there, along with the pictures, was a tattered clipping from the Los Alamos Times of an interview with Constance in 1947 entitled “Mesa Old Timer Recalls Pre-Atom Project Period.”
The interviewer asked Constance how she felt visiting the Pajarito Plateau, now unrecognizable and the site of the “unfolding of the most revolutionary development in the history of the world — the atomic power project.”
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“I have no resentment whatsoever that my old world here has been turned upside down by all of this,” she said. When I knew her, my grandmother was anything but accepting.
In the interview, Constance described their happy and harsh life on Anchor Ranch. She referred to her family as pioneers who built cabins, raised horses and cattle, grew alfalfa, hunted, fished, went sledding after brutal snowstorms and attended “gala affairs where women rode to parties on horseback in their elegant finery with their dancing shoes in their saddlebags.” The family had a passion for dogs — Airedales and St. Bernards . In her telling, life was a long, wholesome, outdoor adventure.
All of it only raised more questions for me. If life at Anchor Ranch was so idyllic, why did she never tell me about it? Why did my father maintain a lifelong silence on the topic?
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In 2021, I was invited by the Los Alamos Historical Society to visit the Pajarito Plateau. The historian showed me the pond on the site of Anchor Ranch where my father would have gone swimming and the foundations of cabins my grandparents built. I was shown records of phone calls (a luxury at the time), shopping lists and accounting records in my grandmother’s loopy handwriting.
I still can’t reconcile the evidence of their lives on the Pajarito Plateau with their later lives. But I did come away with a sense of the inscrutable spirit of the plateau, a mix of beauty and horror. I have also come to understand the power of secrecy.
Secrecy is a theme of “Oppenheimer.” It was the bedrock of the Manhattan Project. It is also the blanket my father and grandmother wrapped around their lives on the Pajarito Plateau, leaving me to piece together their story and mine. I am still at it, trying to fill in the blanks left by their silence about that strange era and place.
Francesca Smithwick-Driver lives in Manhattan Beach. She is writing a memoir, “No One to Ask.”
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The Worst People Run for Office. It’s Time for a Better Way.
By Adam Grant
Dr. Grant, a contributing Opinion writer, is an organizational psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, the author of “ Think Again ” and the host of the TED podcast “ Re:Thinking .”
On the eve of the first debate of the 2024 presidential race, trust in government is rivaling historic lows . Officials have been working hard to safeguard elections and assure citizens of their integrity. But if we want public office to have integrity, we might be better off eliminating elections altogether.
If you think that sounds anti-democratic, think again. The ancient Greeks invented democracy, and in Athens many government officials were selected through sortition — a random lottery from a pool of candidates. In the United States, we already use a version of a lottery to select jurors. What if we did the same with mayors, governors, legislators, justices and even presidents?
People expect leaders chosen at random to be less effective than those picked systematically. But in multiple experiments led by the psychologist Alexander Haslam, the opposite held true. Groups actually made smarter decisions when leaders were chosen at random than when they were elected by a group or chosen based on leadership skill.
Why were randomly chosen leaders more effective? They led more democratically. “Systematically selected leaders can undermine group goals,” Dr. Haslam and his colleagues suggest , because they have a tendency to “assert their personal superiority.” When you’re anointed by the group, it can quickly go to your head: I’m the chosen one.
When you know you’re picked at random, you don’t experience enough power to be corrupted by it. Instead, you feel a heightened sense of responsibility: I did nothing to earn this, so I need to make sure I represent the group well. And in one of the Haslam experiments, when a leader was picked at random, members were more likely to stand by the group’s decisions.
Over the past year I’ve floated the idea of sortition with a number of current members of Congress. Their immediate concern is ability: How do we make sure that citizens chosen randomly are capable of governing?
In ancient Athens, people had a choice about whether to participate in the lottery. They also had to pass an examination of their capacity to exercise public rights and duties. In America, imagine that anyone who wants to enter the pool has to pass a civics test — the same standard as immigrants applying for citizenship. We might wind up with leaders who understand the Constitution.
A lottery would also improve our odds of avoiding the worst candidates in the first place. When it comes to character, our elected officials aren’t exactly crushing it. To paraphrase William F. Buckley Jr., I’d rather be governed by the first 535 people in the phone book. That’s because the people most drawn to power are usually the least fit to wield it.
The most dangerous traits in a leader are what psychologists call the dark triad of personality traits: narcissism, Machiavellianism and psychopathy. What these traits share is a willingness to exploit others for personal gain. People with dark triad traits tend to be more politically ambitious — they’re attracted to authority for its own sake. But we often fall under their spell. Is that you, George Santos?
In a study of elections worldwide, candidates who were rated by experts as having high psychopathy scores actually did better at the ballot box. In the United States, presidents assessed as having psychopathic and narcissistic tendencies were more persuasive with the public than their peers. A common explanation is that they’re masters of fearless dominance and superficial charm, and we mistake their confidence for competence. Sadly, it starts early : Even kids who display narcissistic personality traits get more leadership nominations and claim to be better leaders. (They aren’t.)
If the dark triad wins an election, we all lose. When psychologists rated the first 42 American presidents, the narcissists were more likely to take reckless risks, make unethical decisions and get impeached. Add a dash of Machiavellianism and a pinch of psychopathy, and you get autocrats like Putin, Erdogan, Orban and Duterte.
Eliminate voting, and candidates with dark triad traits would be less likely than they are now to rise to the top. Of course, there’s also a risk that a lottery would deprive us of the chance to select a leader with distinctive skills . At this point, that’s a risk I’m willing to take. As lucky as America was to have Lincoln at the helm, it’s more important to limit our exposure to bad character than to roll the dice on the hopes of finding the best.
Besides, if Lincoln were alive now, it’s hard to imagine that he’d even put his top hat in the ring. In a world filled with divisiveness and derision, evidence shows that members of Congress are increasingly rewarded for incivility. And they know it.
A lottery would give a fair shot to people who aren’t tall enough or male enough to win. It would also open the door to people who aren’t connected or wealthy enough to run. Our broken campaign finance system lets the rich and powerful buy their way into races while preventing people without money or influence from getting on the ballot. They’re probably better candidates: Research suggests that on average, people who grow up in low-income families tend to be more effective leaders and less likely to cheat — they’re less prone to narcissism and entitlement.
Switching to sortition would save a lot of money too. The 2020 elections alone cost upward of $14 billion. And if there’s no campaign, there are no special interests offering to help pay for it.
Finally, no voting also means no boundaries to gerrymander and no Electoral College to dispute. Instead of questioning whether millions of ballots were counted accurately, we could watch the lottery live, just as we do with teams getting their lottery picks in the N.B.A. draft.
Other countries have begun to see the promise of sortition. Two decades ago, Canadian provinces and the Dutch government started using sortition to create citizens’ assemblies that generated ideas for improving democracy. In the past few years, the French, British and German governments have run lotteries to select citizens to work on climate change policies. Ireland tried a hybrid model, gathering 33 politicians and 66 randomly chosen citizens for its 2012 constitutional convention. In Bolivia, the nonprofit Democracy in Practice works with schools to replace student council elections with lotteries . Instead of elevating the usual suspects, it welcomes a wider range of students to lead and solve real problems in their schools and their communities.
As we prepare for America to turn 250 years old, it may be time to rethink and renew our approach to choosing officials. The lifeblood of a democracy is the active participation of the people. There is nothing more democratic than offering each and every citizen an equal opportunity to lead.
Adam Grant, a contributing Opinion writer, is an organizational psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, the author of “Think Again” and the host of the TED podcast “Re:Thinking.”
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