NO - NYC isn't DYING but CHANGE is definitely coming
Let's stop confusing Change with Death
Hey beautiful people. This morning, I read the New York Times article "Remote Work Is Here to Stay. Manhattan May Never Be the Same." by Jonah Markowitz. First of all, this is not a critic nor a reply to said article which incidentally I found quite informative. It's more a take on how we as READERS, and really people in general, tend to respond and react to certain assertions.
A phrase I read in the article stuck with me "I've read so many [New York City] obituaries lately [...]" Yes, it seems like the theme for the 2020 Essay was "Write an Obituary to New York City" and the prompt read "Please make sure to list all the known cliches and remember to sprinkle on top some loathing words for good measure."
First Reality Check: Haters Gonna Hate
The reality is, when you are a city like New York City, having to deal with the haters is par for the course. Like those teams that always win [hum .. sorry I went to Alabama so Yay Crimson Tide! please don't hate me now ;-) .] Their fan base loves them, everyone else hates them and gloats when they lose. So, I guess many of these "obituaries" stems from the sheer hate people have, that I-have-loathed-you-my-whole-life-and-finally-you-are-down sentiment that unfortunately has been around for centuries. The sentiment that still proves very prolific today -- that it is easier to hate-on rather than appreciate the talent, the success, or simply the differences we see in others. And New York City is the epitome of success and difference. How many times do we hear how successful New York City is? Or how much money you can make here? How this is the city where dreams come true? How you can be anybody you like? How if you make it here you can make it anywhere? How everyone is welcome here? I assure you for each time we say or hear these phrases, you will find somebody that is hating on NYC. Some of it is politics, the rest is just life.
I'm sure thousands of people read the same NYT article. As I'm sure the usual cliches have been thrown out in the comments section (which is a world in and of itself) and in the living rooms across the city and the country. However, putting the haters and the trolls aside, I want to focus on the actual difference between CHANGE and DEATH.
It is reasonable for people to have fears and questions. "So, what's gonna happen NEXT?" should be something we all ask ourselves. I believe there is an implicit and justifiable fear of change (in all of us) because after all, change brings about the unknown.
So after reading different articles and talking with people for the past ten months, I've concluded that people (some, not all) see the word Change and they equate it to Death. I'm sure it's easy for people to read the article I mentioned, maybe just the title, and say "You see? I was right! New York is dead." I'm sorry, but no, you are actually wrong. Granted, change can be extremely painful and quite traumatic, and in a way, it is the end, the "death" of what it was before that will never be again. But change is also synonym of new possibilities.
Second Reality Check: Changes can be good
I mean, I'm far from the first one to say this. Just let's look at some of the most quoted phrases in regards to changes and adaptability. I mean these are people from all walks of life that have very little in common except they asserted this about change -
It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change. - Charles Darwin
A wise man adapts himself to circumstances, as water shapes itself to the vessel that contains it. - Chinese Proverb
The art of life is a constant readjustment to our surroundings. - Kakuzo Okakaura
Action and adaptability create opportunity. – Garrison Wynn
When we allow ourselves to adapt to different situations, life is easier. – Catherine Pulsifer
Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change. – Stephen Hawking
We cannot direct the wind, but we can adjust the sails. – Dolly Parton
New York City had a tough 2020. And 2021 didn't start much better. We lost people, we lost businesses, we simply lost, a lot. And it's OKAY to ache for what we lost. But when the time comes to analyze the current "State of the City" we don't need to be overly melodramatic, we don't need to retort to the cliches, and for Pete's Sake, we don't need to always be the hater in the room.
The reality is that 2020-2021 was for the entire world a zero-sum game. And now, all of us will have to find a way forward. What will come next will be different, it will be unpleasant at times, there will be people left suffering but what has made New York City great for the past two centuries is her adaptability.
Third Reality Check: New York City Has Never Been Perfect & Changes Could Make Her Better
The New York City of two years ago wasn't a perfect NYC. Huge income disparities, no reasonable housing for the majority of her workers, a failing public school system. New York City has never been perfect. But what makes New York City great is that constant flow, constant aspiration towards something new, something better ... towards CHANGE.
Ask me what the New York City of next year or five years from now will look like, and I would honestly say I Do Not Know. I know that it will take a lot of work to lift ourselves back up again. Some will probably end up sacrificing way more than others because, well, it's always been the case, hasn't it? It will require shrewd and balanced leadership, innovative minds, and maybe just a sprinkle of good karma!
Do I have doubts? Honestly, no. The idea itself of NYC is ever-evolving, and although we lost, we never lost hope that new beginnings can arise from the shambles of the past.