Known as 'The Big Apple,' New York City is the financial and cultural capital of the United States. Manhattan is home to 8.008.278 individuals. 36% of the population is foreign born. 47.6% of the population does not speak english at home. The New York metropolitan area includes all five burroughs, New Jersey, and Long Island, and West Chester County. The population of metro New York is 21.200.000.
Some people think of New York City as the epitome of America. I believe that it reflects the American Experience. However, I do not think of New York City as an American City. Rather, New York City belongs to the world.
Throughout history, immigrants arrived by boat to Ellis Island and spilled into New York's harbour. Languages, dress, and people would change on a block-by-block basis. Despite rent control, progress has pushed new and old first generation immigrants out of Manhattan. Lofts, cooperatives, and new high rises house the new urban chic. The old character of Manhattan is limited to Chinatown, a few blocks in Little Italy and the Diamond District.
The surrounding burroughs still offer affordable housing to the new immigrants. Queens is home to Astoria, Flushing, Jackson Heights, Sunnyside, and Woodside, where you find Greeks, Chinese/Koreans, Indians/Peruvians, Romanians, and Thai. Brooklyn is still home to Russians on Brighton Beach/Little Odessa, Hasidic Jews on Crown Heights, and a variety of older ethnic communities in Borough Park, Flatbush, and historic Williamsburg. Large Italian communities continue to inhabit the Bronx and Staten Island.
My favorite parts of the city are where I spent every weekend and summer. My grandmother lived in Manhattan's Chinatown and my mom's side of the family lived near McKinley Park in Dyker Heights, Flushing, and Jamaica Plains. If I was in the city, I could wander Greenwich Village, Soho, and Tribeca. If we were in the Brooklyn or Jamaica, I usually stayed indoors; although I think that these neighborhoods are now vastly different than twenty years ago. In Flushing, one could walk around, pick up some groceries, and find some good Chinese food.
I have been in New York City for a number of meetings and sales pursuit teams. I have never had to work one day at a New York client site. Since our offices were in Midtown, there are many photos of Times Square. If I can go on vacation, then I will take some pictures of Coney Island, the Verrazano Narrows and Brooklyn Bridges, the Guggenheim, and the NY Public Library.
Two of my cousins work for the City of New York, and they were blocks away from the World Trade Center on September 11th. In my cousin Grace's case, she explained that her and her co-workers watched the first tower begin to burn. Everyone crowded the back hall to see the twin towers. An intercom voice told employees to return to work. After the second plane hit, an evacuation order was given.
My cousin Nelson had a similar experience. After the first plane hit, he said that people were milling in the hallways and watching the whole affair. He said that once the second plane hit, they didn't wait for anyone to tell them what to do. They simply left.
Both my cousins were taking the Metro from Lower Manhattan back to Flushing. Nelson was able to cross into Queens, before police stopped the train and brought everyone to the surface. By the time Grace got out, she had to walk up to midtown, across the Queensboro bridge, and the width of Queens to Flushing.
I attended a meeting in Manhattan two weeks after September 11th. I arrived at LaGuardia Airport exactly at 5:00 pm rush hour, and I cursed American Airlines for running so late. In my head was debating on whether to take a bus to catch the Metro or whether I should take a cab to my relatives in nearby Flushing, when a limo driver walked up to me and asked where I was going. I told him 'midtown' and asked him how much. He said $35. I told him that he was insane, that there was no way that he would make any money on this ride in the middle of rush hour. He repeated the offer, and I took it.
After passing the checkpoint on the Triborough Bridge, we were there in less than ten minutes. There was not a soul on Broadway in Times Square. For a Thursday at 5:30pm, it was eeriely quiet. The hotel bellhop happened to be the shift manager at the Renaissance. I asked him why he was getting bags and where everyone else was. He said that the hotel had already laid off workers and that he was lucky to still have a job.
Normally, I do not feel very at home in New York City. People are generally rude and rushing about, a moment's hesitation on the street or at a store counter is another precious second out of someone elese's life. However, I have seen for myself that after September 11th, New York City was different. I think that New Yorkers no longer took for granted the city and started to take some time to appreciate life and their moment in time.