I never thought I would be writing this post. Or I did, but rather in the context of I’m moving to London. Not I’m moving back to New Jersey. I never once in all my years growing up near NYC thought I would want to leave it so badly.
I hate to be one of those people, that are like “NYC has died”. Let me tell you, NYC is very much alive and New Yorkers have found joy in being outside as much as possible, eating in the streets like we’re Parisian and ordering as much stuff as possible to our small apartments to make our studio or one bedrooms into a home office for multiple people and possible a home gym too,
I personally began to struggle. I mean really struggle. When the pandemic hit, we all (sillily) thought it would be for a week or two. Maybe a month. But spending month after month after month in our gorgeous apartment that overlooked Midtown, we began to realize this problem was not going away anytime soon.
In May I hit my breaking point. No longer surrounded by tourists, commuters, or really anyone else at that point, Dave and I decided to escape the city for a few weeks. As we were already paying way more than we should be for our fabulous apartment with great amenities (that had been closed since the beginning of the pandemic LOL) renting a house or airbnb somewhere wasn’t an option. We decided to stay with my parents for a few weeks, again hoping things would be different when we returned.
And by the end of the second week, with my brother moving home from college, and his girlfriend coming to stay ( I love you both) and my cat trying to fight my parents’ cat, we decided we had enough of the burbs and would manage a bit longer in our apartment.
Going back to NYC in the spring time felt like the city was breathing again. Starbucks reopened, and we spent many mornings walking the few blocks to get outside and feel like something hadn’t changed. Although we had eaten take out once or twice (and it was safe and fine we weren’t worried) many places had begun to open up that were previously closed.
It became easier to catch a cab as people began to go places again. It was no longer a relief to get outside for fresh air, but became part of my routine as I had to go to Duane Reade or the post office. I was masked up and in gloves and washing my hands to the point where they were peeling off in sheets, but nevertheless the city became alive again.
I would say it really was at this point though, when I stopped to think about what I wanted. I wanted a car, to be able to go visit people outside the city without relying on public transportation. I wanted green space to be able to sit and relax. But most importantly I wanted to be safe, As I mentioned before, there was literally no. one around before, besides the large amount (and growing everyday population) of homeless people around us.
In fact, all of the hotels on the west side from Chelsea to the UWS have turned into homeless shelters or host inmates released early from Rikers Island. These men do not want to hang out 4 to a room inside these buildings, so instead they sit in large groups on the sidewalks, making it hard for anyone to pass them.
This is one of the reasons we left in May. Right outside our building, there was a group of about 5 homeless men, who used to sit there before the pandemic as well (although far less frequently). As the restaurant they hung out outside of at night when it was closed didn’t open for a few months during the day, they hung out there during the day as well. Dave accuses me of being a “NIMBY” which apparently stands for “not in my backyard” and that’s something I don’t necessarily agree with. But I was no longer comfortable with these men sitting there day in and day out. It would be fine if they were sitting right, but they were calling me names (in Spanish and English) and even getting up in my face and following me at points. 9th Ave no longer felt safe to me. My home no longer felt safe to me.
Besides this particular rowdy group of men, we experienced two deaths in our neighborhood. Both stabbings of homeless people. One was on the fringe for us, although not even half a block from where we lived, we couldn’t access our car in the garage (this was already when we had decided to move and had a car in the city for about a month). The second time unfortunately we witnessed, including the coroner’s office coming and examining the dead body etc.
But before all these horrible times happened. I loved New York. Deeply and passionately, as New Yorkers do.
I hope you enjoyed my little trip down memory lane, and think of your own NYC memories fondly. The first time you saw the Brooklyn Bridge, or shopped in Soho. Maybe that meal at the little Italian place on the corner, or the corner of 34th and 11th where you had your first kiss with the love of your life.
It’s not goodbye NYC, it’s see ya soon! (AKA I drive in once or twice a week at this point for appointments etc).