New York Voice
Published in

New York Voice

New York City Feels Like Hope

“This is where you plant your flag. This is where you stay. You don’t give up on New York.”

Photo by Jan Gottweiss on Unsplash

Recently I wrote about how dark life in NYC was about a month ago. New York City was hit harder by Covid-19 than anywhere else on the planet. We NYers watched the numbers of hospitalizations rise and soon after the number of deaths. We watched the city struggle to quickly equip the Javitz Center as a field hospital and set up a tent hospital in Central Park, our former refuge from the busy city streets. We watched the USNS Comfort hospital sail into our harbor to be on standby if needed.

New Yorkers have been tested with crises before, but Covid-19 took things to a new level. 9–11 happened in a day. The next day we had to begin burying our dead, rebuilding our downtown, and learning how to live life with new restrictions. The blackout of 2003 created chaos for a few days but then it was over and life went back to normal. A pandemic is something completely different. It was coming toward us slowly and was going to hit us hard. And we were not prepared for the enormity of it all.

In those first bleak weeks, we learned a lot about how strong we all are. When the call came to reach deep and do what we could to save our fellow New Yorkers, we turned the “City that Never Sleeps” into a ghost town. We stayed home and found ways to pass the time, including possibly creating an economic boom for the puzzle industry. We weren’t alone though. Video chats and texting kept us connected. If we had not heard from a friend or loved one we checked in on them, making sure we were all safe. Some with cars and access to more supplies in the outer boroughs and suburbs offered to drive in anything those of us in the most densely populated areas of the city needed.

We always had each other’s backs. When I was at my lowest and no one outside of the city could really understand what I was going through, my NYC friends supported me. In the very beginning of it all, I became very sick but was certain my symptoms did not match Covid-19. A friend who works with the public hospital system assured me there was still room for me if I needed to go to a hospital. I felt so alone and terrified but she was there for me if I needed her, a phone call or facetime away. Days later I was able to return the favor when she had a serious health scare of her own and needed to go to a hospital. Sadly, her doctor had to talk her through it on the phone with meds she had at home as the hospitals and doctor’s offices were full and only taking Covid patients.

As we continue to watch our “must-see” daily briefings from Governor Cuomo, we are encouraged by the “progress report” we are getting. As we watch the numbers on new hospitalizations, new intubations, and the saddest of all, new deaths, fall, we feel like kids getting a report card with all A’s. We are proud of the sacrifices we have made and will continue to make to keep our city and all of its residents safe.

As time has passed, things are changing, at least on the Upper East Side where I live. We don’t go outside of what is walkable so any reports from other neighborhoods come from second-hand information. A few weeks ago bars and restaurants were permitted to sell drinks only to customers. Before they could only sell them with a food order. That turned those routine afternoon and evening walks into a new type of happy hour. More people came out to walk in the late afternoon and evenings. We started seeing people we knew in person again, but keeping our distance and wearing our masks. We started taking time to chat on the corners or sit on benches with empty seats between us.

The New Local Pub (photo by author)

We see each other more now, at least in my neighborhood. The locals from my regular pub have established a new “bar” at some benches outside a few stores. There are plenty of seats available, allowing us to keep a safe distance apart but still be together. In the beginning, a few of us would text and pick a time to meet there. Slowly others would pass by and join us. Now, most of the regulars stop by at some point, especially on the weekends. There is no set meeting time. Things work as they used to and you just show up when you need someone to shoot the breeze with. You can bring a drink, buy one at the corner bodega or a local bar or just hang out. It provides that little dose of sanity and feeling of community we all need.

It’s absolute perfection in these trying times.

The city is finding ways to adjust and come back to life. While takeout is still all that is allowed, restaurants that had given up in the beginning, are opening up but with caution. They are trying new things like promoting fancy happy hour drinks in little takeaway plastic bags with straws. Street vendors have shifted from selling backpacks and cell phone accessories to offering deals on gloves and masks. It did not take long for NYers to up their mask game. We started out with anything we could find, from bandanas to scarfs to the disposable masks being sold in bodegas and on the corner. Now people have had time to get fancy and we see all kinds of masks. There are some supporting sports teams, comical ones turning your face into your favorite animal, and some mimicking screams which should be popular if this is still going on around Halloween.

While we all know there are rough times still ahead, there definitely feels like there is a reason to hope. In all honesty, true New Yorkers never give up. Being in such a densely packed city, our hardships always pack more of a punch than they seem to in other places. On 9–11 it was easy to kill a whole bunch of us at one time by flying a plane into a skyscraper. In the blackout with people commuting such long distances, many were stranded. Then a pandemic hits and we fall in greater numbers than anywhere else and lose many more souls than even on 9–11 (currently 21,845 compared to 2,753 on 9–11).

New Yorkers Living the New Normal (photo by author’s friend)

As we talked on Sunday at the “new pub”, many spoke of how their friends and family elsewhere had encouraged them to leave the city and take refuge elsewhere. Everyone responded the same. “No way.” New Yorkers won’t leave. Whether you were born here or you adopted this great city, it is home. It’s a very vulnerable city when a crisis happens and we all go into survival mode. We feel we must defend our city and our fellow New Yorkers. New York will always pull through as it always has in the past. It’s like CNN anchor Anderson Cooper, a proud New Yorker said recently when he was interviewing another proud New Yorker, Spike Lee:

“This is where you plant your flag. This is where you stay. You don’t give up on New York.”

It’s true. This city gets in your blood in a good way. That only strengthens when you have to face a crisis with your fellow NYers. I get teary-eyed every time I watch Spike Lee’s video love letter to NYC. It starts with haunting images of a once vibrant city sheltering in place. Next you see NYers standing in line at tape marks indicating six feet of distance, patiently waiting to get into a drugstore. Finally, you see front line workers still managing a smile while standing outside of some of the hardest-hit hospitals.

While I am a wanderer and dream of living in other places for part of my years, I’ll never completely leave NYC. This is the first place I ever lived that I truly feel is where I belong. New York City is where everyone can feel welcome. We always have each either other’s back, whether that back is black or white or gay or straight or rich or poor. I will stay here during the good times and I will dig deep and tough it out with my fellow NYers when things get hard. Because in all of my travels far and wide, I have found the very best of humanity here in this wonderful city I choose to call home.

Photo by Jalen Hueser on Unsplash



Enjoy reading NY breaking news, culture, food, humor, business, stories, literature, sports, opinion and entertainment.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Lisa Tisdale

I just moved to Lisbon from NYC to wipe the slate clean and try life in a new city! Travel Consultant,