I have always had a love/hate relationship with New York City. It is magical and mean. Exhilarating and exhausting. Gorgeous and gritty.
Right now, however, after four days here, I have a love/love relationship with New York City. I expected a ghost town. I imagined a city as it would be after a hard-fought yet lost battle. I envisioned New York City as a shadow of its former self. I was wrong.
What I have discovered is “New York 2.0.” It feels somewhat like the city in August, when many are taking refuge in fancy Hamptons houses. Yes there are fewer people, but the people who have remained seem softer, kinder. Restaurants and retailers are open, although in a limited fashion.
The waterfront sidewalks are filled with runners enjoying the fall temperatures, all fully masked. The city takes COVID precautions more seriously than even D.C.
All of the outdoor dining and sidewalk patios in Tribeca and SoHo give this concrete jungle an incredibly European feel. People are beautiful, dressed in fancy clothes and stilettos, wearing makeup despite their masks. They are eating, drinking, laughing, even more on display than during “normal” times as this is all happening outdoors.
Midtown feels different. The office buildings are closed, and the streets are empty of the harried, hurried, high-powered executives always rushing. The tourists have also mostly stayed away. What is left are the essential workers, the street cleaners, the delivery men and women, the construction workers, and the marginalized. It certainly feels different, but it does not feel dead.
Uptown… well, I am just heading to the Upper East side for meetings… I imagine I will discover yet another version of New York City in that neighborhood. Indeed, the feelings seem different from one neighborhood to another.
New York City today is not like it was on March 2nd, when I was last here. Because the world is not like it was on March 2nd. But New York is not dead. Maybe it felt like the Apocalypse two months ago, but New York today feels alive. As Mark Twain would say, “the reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.” New York may never be the same as “before,” but New York will always be New York.