In the new anthology Goodbye to All That: Writers on Loving and Leaving New York, contributors share the experience of moving to New York in pursuit of the writing life. In essay after essay, writers describe their experiences moving to New York from Long Island, New Jersey, California, and overseas. Anyone from anywhere can come to New York City in pursuit of fame, riches, and romance, and as a result, Goodbye to All That captures New York’s uniquely nuanced, overlapping landscape of cultures and geographies that for millions feels at once deeply personal and communal.
But while something deeper also reveals itself in the pages: Some thread of pure accident runs through the story of each writer’s dream of making it in the big city.
Goodbye to All That features several familiar names from the Manhattan and (mostly) Brooklyn literary community, including editor Sari Botton and several other 20- and 30-something women writers. Through a series of emails, I asked Sari and contributors Cheryl Strayed, Melissa Febos, and Mira Ptacin about the differences and similarities between their experiences in the city of so many of our dreams.
A really important thing happened last month to New York City and the rest of the mid-Atlantic. This event will change the daily lives of millions of people, especially during the coldest months of winter. And, despite some protesters, it all went down with less fanfare than Jay Z and Beyonce going vegan for a month.
An $856-million pipeline expansion began ramping up service, allowing more natural gas to get to New York City consumers. The New York-New Jersey expansion project moves more gas the last few miles from Jersey, which is the terminus for much of the Marcellus Shale gas flowing out of Pennsylvania, into Manhattan. The Energy Information Administration called it “one of the biggest… expansions in the Northeast during the past two decades.” It will bring an additional 800 billion British thermal units (BTU) of gas to the area per day.
Of the many unspoken codes of public transportation, perhaps the most crucial is this: Keep, as much as possible, to yourself. The ride—on the train, on the subway, on the bus—may be full of familiar strangers; politeness and pragmatism, however, tend to emphasize the “stranger” over the familiar. Why interact with other people when you can, for the good of all aboard, ignore them?
But what happens when those mandates gets reversed—when the stranger on the subway becomes, actually, a little too familiar? Since early 2012, the artist and sculptor George Ferrandi has been exploring that idea through her project “it felt like i knew you…,” a series of time-lapse images that capture what happens when the anonymity of the city commute gets replaced, determinedly, with intimacy.
It goes like this: Ferrandi rides the New York City subway—and “falls asleep” on fellow passengers. Her collaborator Angela Gilland, strategically situated across the aisle, shoots video of the scene that ensues.
“I’m Bill de Blasio, and I’m not a boring white guy.”
How’s that for a political opener? This is how the New York mayor-elect describes himself. At an August fundraiser for the Young Progressives for de Blasio, his daughter Chiara introduced him to the crowd, making an appeal for a new kind of inclusive city politics. Flanked by her entire family, she remarked, “If we’re gonna bring new ideas to the table and create a world, a society … where everyone has a chance, we need to start listening to everybody’s ideas.”
What are these bold and inventive ideas of the new mayor? Some of them follow a traditional Democratic nesting doll scheme: good government followed by more jobs succeeded by affordable housing topped off by better schools. Add in reason, compassion, equality, and whoomp! There it is—a consummate progressive platform. But the de Blasio campaign offered another idea that most campaigns can’t: the racially integrated family.
Read more. [Image: Kathy Willens/Associated Press]
"It highlights one aspect of the bifurcation that de Blasio is talking about. While people are always buzzing about ‘soaring’ New York real estate prices, those prices are only on the rise in certain parts of town. With a few exceptions, it’s Manhattan and adjacent sections of Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx that have seen assessments go up in the data from the New York Department of Finance that Walker mapped, which encompasses 958,000 properties. In many of the working-class neighborhoods of the outer boroughs, the value of real estate has actually fallen."
On my 30th birthday I decided to run the New York marathon because I was leaving a decade in which I planned to accomplish more than I had.
The unwritten novel and exes I didn’t marry felt cliché but still like failures. The big 3-0 sounded like the microphone dying mid-note: a thud, followed by a disappointingly human sound that can’t fill the space. Here I was, still in the middle, somewhere between the person I knew I didn’t want to be and the person I did want to be but was still defining, and all I saw ahead was more middle. There was one item on my 23-year-old self’s whimsical list of “Goals By 30” that I could still squeeze in, though. Never mind that my runs had only ever exceeded two miles a handful of times, and that I’d had knee problems on occasion over the years.
I was going to run the damn thing.
Brooklyn’s Prospect Park was my training ground. As the miles added up to hours, I abandoned music for podcasts, and my running days began to take shape around the stories of others’ lives. When David Rakoff read, weeks before his death at 43, an excerpt from his final, unpublished manuscript, I retreated under the shade of an elm to cry quietly. When a black home health aide described noticing a white hooded gown hanging on the door of her dying client, I realized I’ve slowed down to gasp. (She stayed by his side until the end.) When a reporter, interviewing an evangelist politician, asked the state legislator if Jesus would have voted for the bill the legislator had introduced and he answered, after a long pause, “Probably not,” I yelled “Holy shit!” at a kid on a bike.
I logged nearly 600 miles running through the park’s many trees and teenagers skipping school, sullen nannies and summer camps full of kids, the lanky, grey-haired man with thick bottlecap glasses who floated around the perimeter of the park every day in a trance. At 14 miles, my old sports bra rubbed blisters in a semicircle around my neck. I dotted it with Neosporin and felt proud. At 16 miles my knees buckled. I hobbled home, learned about ice baths from Google, and took my first one. After my 21-miler, the longest run I tackled before the race, I took another. Ice baths are boring. Once the sharp chill and shivers pass, the bulk is just a numb quietness. I sat in the silence, studied my pink, goose-pimpled thighs beneath the water, and thought about the things we’re capable of.
Then Hurricane Sandy hit the East Coast and the marathon was canceled.
Read more. [Image: Julio Cortez/AP]
With countless walls to choose from, it’s little surprise that artists like Diego Rivera, Jose Clemente Orozco, Thomas Hart Benton, Maxfield Parish, Keith Haring, and Sol LeWitt—and now, working on a different scale, Banksy—have made New York City their canvas. But many of the massive artworks that adorn office buildings, schools, hospitals, bars, and restaurants often go unseen to the many eyes that pass by them every day. Unless shown exactly where to look, a New Yorker can miss the masterworks in front of him or her.
I, for example, never realized that Orozco painted a suite of politically sensitive historical tableau on labor, science, politics and culture at The New School on 12th Street, so close to where I live. But then I saw the paintings in the new book Murals of New York City: The Best of New York’s Public Paintings From Bemelmans to Parrish by Glenn Palmer-Smith with photographs by Joshua McHugh. The tome offers a collection of fascinating, striking images—and should make city-dwellers look on their surroundings anew .
Tomorrow will mark the first anniversary of Superstorm Sandy’s landfall in New Jersey. Sandy was the largest Atlantic hurricane on record (by diameter), the second-costliest storm in U.S. history, affecting 24 states, and was responsible for more than $65 billion in damage and hundreds of deaths from Jamaica to New England. Photographers have been returning to the damaged areas on this anniversary, capturing images of the rebuilding, where it has taken place, and the ruins, where no progress has been made, including some neighborhoods that may be allowed to return to nature. Starting with photo #12, the last 13 images are interactive, click on them to see a transition from “before” to “after”. (See also: Part I, from last week)
Rachel Haot reflects on her experiences founding a startup and building a digital roadmap for the city.
In one month, New York City voters will pick a new mayor. On the left, Bill de Blasio has campaigned as the anti-Bloomberg, promising to change current policies on schools and policing. On the right, Joe Lhota has alternately praised and criticized the current mayor, expressing support of certain policies while at the same time trying to distance himself from the current administration’s middling approval rates. No matter who gets elected, New York’s next mayor will run a city that has changed a lot in the last 12 years. While Michael Bloomberg’s successor might be able to rewrite certain policies, many of the mayor’s efforts will have a lasting effect on the city.
But there are higher stakes for Bloomberg’s legacy beyond the five boroughs. Looking ahead to CityLab, The Atlantic’s summit on local-level innovation to be held in New York City from October 6-8, it seems important to ask whether this is even possible: Can one city’s experiments affect the way cities are run across the world?* A growing number of scholars and theorists seem to think so.
In fact, Bloomberg’s effort to expand the power of cities may be his most lasting legacy.
Read more. [Image: Reuters]
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