In Case You Needed Reminding.
Felix Quiñonez Jr.
NYC is Over! NYC is dead!
At least that’s what some people would have you believe. We’ve seen these ridiculous claims popping up everywhere and can’t help but collectively roll our eyes at the idea that the people fleeing the city to their second homes get to decide when a city as incredible as New York is “over.”
But the fact is that even they don’t believe that. The real reason these people write those ridiculous articles is that they need to convince themselves that’s why they left. No one wants to say, “I left because it got tough. I left because I couldn’t handle it. I left because after all this time, I was still just a tourist.”
So, they make loud proclamations on their way out, hoping to reassure themselves. And when they’re bored in their new homes, they won’t feel as bad if they convince themselves that New York City was “over” anyway.
No one in their right mind would deny that things are bad. Crime rates and deficits are up, industries of all kinds are suffering, unemployment rates have soared, and the tourism that was always a boon to the city’s economy has all but dried up.
But it takes almost willful negligence to, only, see the bad side of things. This isn’t the first time the city has faced great adversity, and just like every time before, the people have stepped up to meet the challenge head-on. When the medical system was on the verge of being overwhelmed, New York leaders put out a call for help. Within one day, 2,000 retired health care professionals stepped up to help. In the Upper West Side, a 7th grader (!) and his mom set up a crowdsourcing page to help elderly residents. Over 200 people stepped up to help with grocery shopping, walking pets, or even just by chatting on the phone. A Brooklyn woman created an online exchange to give unused Metro Cards to essential workers.
Of course, that doesn’t even scratch the surface of how New Yorkers came together to pull through. Since March, close to 1,000 bars and restaurants have permanently closed due to the pandemic. And as high as that number is, it unfortunately only represents a portion of the losses. The closing of so many of these places has gone undocumented, so it could take a long time to get the full picture of just how devastating the pandemic has been to our city.
We’ve all become familiar with the dread that comes after finding out that some of our favorite spots won’t be around when the pandemic passes. Every New Yorker would put money on the fact that they know where to get the BEST pizza, falafels, egg sandwiches, frankly, the list could go on and on. This is New York City, we’re talking about, and we have the best of, pretty much everything. Some of these places have monumental yet extremely personal importance to us, and they won’t be around anymore.
My heart breaks a little, thinking that I will never be able to listen to live music or watch movies while having a couple of beers at The Way Station. My mouth waters just thinking about the delicious buns and rice bowls from Bunsmith, a place I just found out was among the casualties.
But the tragedy of those losses isn’t that our favorite drinking or food spots are gone. The tragedy is that people lost their livelihoods, businesses, and places they invested their blood, sweat, tears, and years into. But that’s all the more reason to stick around. We need to be here to support them when they open up something new or even to support the new businesses that come in.
What especially grabs my attention about these people fleeing is that they always seem to focus on the things that they will be losing. They have the privilege and ability to relocate and somehow imagine that they are the victims in all this, not the people who lost their livelihoods or sometimes, even their lives. And it’s the lives lost that we will mourn, not the people who fled the city.
The people lamenting the death of nightlife, the lack of live music, loss of culture probably think these things only exist inside clubs, theaters, or museums. They’re probably the kind of people who only ever see New York City through the window of their Ubers. And they don’t realize that NYC exists on the sidewalks, on every corner, in the parks. It’s alive; it’s all around us.
But if you’re a new yorker, you’re a new yorker when things get tough, not just when things are great. And yeah, it’s tough right now, and it’ll be a while before we get through this, but we will. Things won’t be the same, but things never stay the same, and neither does this city. It’ll evolve like it always has, but it’ll still be New York City, and it will still be amazing.
The fact is that even before the pandemic hit, people wanted to declare the city dead because it had evolved into something they no longer recognized as their own. Everybody wants to think of New York as their city. But the fact is that that this great city doesn’t belong to any of us. New York City is not a chapter in our individual stories. We are all footnotes in its story. It’s a story that started long before we got here, and it will keep going long after we are gone.