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A Thank You Note to New York City

By Sophie VershbowNov 23 2021

Having lived nearly all of my life on the island of Manhattan, there’s no place I’d rather call home. Despite minor woes, like subway delays and crowded streets, I’m acutely aware of how fortunate I am to be a small part of the living organism that is New York City.

Over the years I’ve watched as we become unified by our identity as New Yorkers in times of tragedy rather than letting hardship split us apart. I was 12 on September 11, 2001, and still remember how close that collective grief brought us. Everyone wanted to help; hospitals had to turn away blood donors because so many showed up in the days that followed. When Hurricane Sandy hit in 2012, we rode it out together, checking on elderly neighbors to make sure we all made it through.

In a place like New York City, it’s never just about you. There’s a collective us that exists here.

At a time when I’m more grateful for New York City and its residents than ever before, here are a few things I’m especially thankful for.

Photo by Jean Carlo Emer

Public parks

There are 1,700 public parks and playgrounds across the city’s 320 square miles. My dog and I would be lost without Riverside Park and the many wonders of its seasonal changes.

The expansion of outdoor dining

COVID-19 forced restaurants to get creative, and as a result, there are now hundreds of decorated wooden structures dotting the city with al fresco dining options. I hope they’re allowed to stay in place forever.

Photo by Robinson Greig

Bodegas

I’m only half kidding that I once turned down a job offer in Washington, DC because I couldn’t find a bodega on my way to the interview. These bacon egg and cheese-making, key-holding, seltzer-stocked oases are an essential part of the New York experience.

The dogs of New York

New York City has more dogs than Cleveland has people, and that fact is from a documentary that was filmed before the pandemic pet boom. These fluffy-tailed, floppy-eared muppets have taken over Manhattan, and we’re a better town for it.

Photo by Sudan Ouyang

Broadway, Broadway, Broadway!

At long last, Broadway’s stages are finally back in action. I cried at my first post-vaccine show because I was so happy to feel the energy of a live performance thrumming through my veins. Plus, we can all celebrate Broadway’s cast and crew going back to work.

Independent bookstores

When it became clear that we were going to be in a pandemic for the long haul, I had a paralyzing fear that our independent bookstores wouldn’t survive. Thankfully they did, and The Strand, Shakespeare & Co., Cafe Con Libros, The Lit Bar, and several others continue to enrich our boroughs.

Photo by Wynand van Poortvliet

Delivery people

Home deliveries rose to record highs over the past 18 months, made possible by thousands of couriers, USPS workers, and food delivery people who made that possible. We should be clapping for them as much as any other essential worker.

Subway art

The MTA can drive me nuts, but I’m a sucker for the mosaics that pop up in subway stations across the five boroughs. Among my favorites are the William Wegman dogs in the F/M station at 23rd Street and the animal mosaics at the B/C Natural History Museum station.

Bagels

I accept that good pizza exists outside of the five boroughs, but I can’t say the same thing about bagels. Absolute, Russ & Daughters, Zabar’s, Brooklyn Bagel–– there’s no better place on earth for these doughy delights.

Food enclaves

New York’s cultural enclaves carry some of the most authentic food in this city or any other. One bite of a soup dumpling from Flushing, Queens, and you’ll know what I’m talking about.

Farmer’s markets

I love to stroll through a farmer’s market on a sunny fall afternoon and pretend I’m in a Nancy Meyers movie. From freshly grown produce to freshly baked bread, farmer’s markets make this urban metropolis a whole lot tastier.

Being able to walk everywhere

We are so fortunate to be able to traverse this city by foot, freeing us from spending half of our day in a car (take that, LA!). I’ll take schlepping my groceries home over sitting in traffic any time.

Photo by Yoav Aziz

Untraditional green spaces

Forget Central Park, we have a floating park (Little Island) and a park in the sky (The High Line). I can’t wait to see what green spaces they think up next.

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