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As much as we New Yorkers like to complain about the subway, the high cost of living, the traffic, crowds and general chaos, we also know we live in one of the greatest cities on Earth. From its buzzing energy and seemingly endless parade of unique experiences to the diverse people who have flocked here, New York City truly is the capital of the world.
And it’s getting even better, with a flurry of exciting new openings across all five boroughs. In Brooklyn, Domino Park and the hotly anticipated Hoxton Hotel have both debuted. In Manhattan, Hudson Yards — an entire new neighborhood — continues to take shape on the westernmost edge of the city. Even our notoriously shopworn airports are getting exciting refreshes and updates.
If you’re not a New Yorker, now is the time to come and visit. The city’s arguably at its loveliest in autumn, and even busy New Yorkers take time in September to pause and pay tribute to the City That Never Sleeps.
To help put into words the special something New York City possesses, we asked prominent New Yorkers from various walks of life to wax poetic about what they love most about calling the Big Apple home.
1. The sense of opportunity
Alicia Keys famously crooned about New York City as the “concrete jungle where dreams are made of,” joining a long line of artists and entrepreneurs who see the city as a place where ordinary people can turn their fantasies into reality.
“New York City is a place where anything is possible — and that’s because of the people here,” said Michelle Young Pasquet, founder of Untapped Cities, an online magazine and tour company dedicated to helping New Yorkers rediscover their city. “It is still a place where the American dream is alive. With hard work, honesty and ingenuity, you can make it.”
Peter Lawrence, co-owner of Williamsburg’s Wythe Hotel, said that New York received him warmly when he moved here from Australia in 1994, helping him become a success. And it’s that New York attitude that keeps him hopeful about America’s future.
“I will always love New York for welcoming me with open arms and for being the only place in the world with as much opportunity available, especially for new arrivals,” he said. “Every day, New York offers proof of the power and value in wide-open doors. It keeps me optimistic that we can survive this current turn toward isolationism.”
2. The incredible diversity
Speaking of which, ever since Ellis Island served as the gateway to America, this city has welcomed immigrants from around the world.
“New York is a city that plays hard to get. You want me, you better work for it,” said Rony Vardi, founder and co-creative director of Catbird jewelry shop in Williamsburg, who grew up in New Jersey and now lives in Carroll Gardens. “I love the dirt combined with the adventure, the endless exploring (look up! go down that weird block!), the surprising specificity that you can find (button stores! Filipino barbecue!) and, of course, the mind-boggling stream of humans.”
Flannery Foster grew up in a military family and moved around a lot growing up before coming to New York City and founding Goodyoga, a yoga studio with locations in Greenpoint and Bushwick.
“I love New York City’s diversity!” she said. “I’ve traveled to 96 countries so far, and every one of them, plus 100 more, are represented in my adopted home of 20 years. When I’ve left for long sojourns abroad, the pride I feel when locals express awe when I tell them where I’m from — you don’t get the same reaction when you’re from Los Angeles.”
Ari Heckman, founding partner and CEO of ASH NYC, raved about another, albeit unexpected, perk of the city’s swarming crowds and spectacular diversity.
“[My] favorite aspect of New York is the ability to disappear into a crowd,” said Heckman. “In a time when social media is ubiquitous and promotion of our identity and accomplishment are often the priority, there is something extremely freeing about not being recognized, not having expectations put upon you and to feel like you are just one of many. New York is large and diverse enough to give you that opportunity whenever you might need it.”
3. The unrivaled restaurants and bars
New Yorkers recognize that when it comes to great places to eat and drink, we’re spoiled for choice.
“I love living in New York City because there is no excuse to be bored,” Meaghan Dorman, bartender and partner at the Raines Law Room and Dear Irving, told TPG. “There is always something to see, eat, a new neighborhood to explore.”
Mike Kurtz, founder of Mike’s Hot Honey, has favorite spots in every imaginable corner of New York City: “Chao Thai in Elmhurst, New Asha in Staten Island for Sri Lankan, Tacos Matamoros in Sunset Park for Mexican, Malecon in Washington Heights for Dominican, Birds of a Feather in Williamsburg for Szechuan and Beco in Williamsburg for Brazilian.”
“What I love most about New York City is that it’s the only city on the planet where you can find great food from virtually any corner of the globe, all within [reach of] the city’s public transit system,” he said.
4. The appreciation for arts and culture
There are hundreds of museums, theaters, music halls and other cultural institutions in New York City, from giants like the Metropolitan Museum of Art to indie black-box theaters and performance venues.
“On any given day, I can go into the Chinese painting galleries at the Met and encounter scholars, artists and fans who have traveled across the world to see great works of Chinese art,” Joseph Scheier-Dolberg, associate curator of Chinese paintings at the Met, said. “It is a joy and a privilege for those of us who call New York home to be part of the conversations that ensue when the world comes together in this way.”
Another thing he loves about New York City?
Architect David Rockwell, founder and president of the Rockwell Group, has designed sets for Broadway plays and finds inspiration for his design work in the Theater District.
“It’s one of my favorite neighborhoods,” he said. “I saw my first Broadway production, ‘Fiddler on the Roof,’ when I was 12. Those three hours were life-changing. The Theater District still mesmerizes me. Broadway constantly reinvents itself and always finds a way to be relevant, and it’s been a joy to see its evolution.”
5. The transportation (really!)
As much as we like to complain about it, even the subway can be a source of inspiration.
“I’ve been enamored with many romantic elements of New York in the 16 years I’ve lived here, but what I love the most after all that time is largely more elemental than romantic: the subways and trains,” said Oliver Haslegrave, founder of Home Studios.
“As an interior designer, there is much to admire and learn from the subway stations built in the early half of the last century, especially the diversity of materials and architecture from station to station. And part is pragmatic: I rely on the subway nearly every day. But really, I most love New York when I’m navigating the well-worn warren of tunnels and crowds that connect and create the forces that, for me, define the city: architecture, people, motion, possibility.”
Julie Ryan, an artist who maintains a studio in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, described the strange but often endearing occurrences that happen on New York’s highways and in its subway stations.
“Is ‘love‘ what one calls the balmy microclimate that settles into the already mingling subway smells of August in the Big Apple? Probably not,” she said. “But last week, I had to laugh while driving on the Major Deegan Expressway: A dodgy-looking yellow Datsun car stopped in the middle of moving traffic, and a guy jumped out, popped open the trunk, pulled out two tallboys (iced teas), offered one to a pal, then took off driving again. Just like that! In the subway, a barbershop quartet serenaded me, just me, with a round of ‘My Girl’ while looking directly in my eyes.”
The Points Guy, Brian Kelly, said that he prefers the view from above rather than on the ground. “One of my favorite things about New York City is the amazing view you get when you take off in a seaplane from the East River. I love seeing the city in so many different lights, especially at sunset. Every takeoff and landing gives you a different perspective of the City That Never Sleeps,” he said.
“Another awe-inspiring view is from 23rd Street, flying over the East River, heading north over the 59th Street Bridge and cruising directly over LaGuardia (LGA). I also enjoy taking off south over the East River, flying over the Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges and the Statue of Liberty. Using BLADE [helicopters] and seaplanes isn’t cheap, but it really allows you to respect New York for the beautiful city that she is from up above.”
6. The city’s indescribable energy
Intangible though it is, the energy that courses through New York is like the city’s lifeblood, constantly flowing through the streets. Though there are plenty of other cool places in the world, locals argue no other city has the same magnetic vibe. Restaurateur Will Guidara and chef Daniel Humm, partners at Make It Nice (Eleven Madison Park, the NoMad, Made Nice, EMP Summer House) enthused about this intangible aspect of the city.
“There is an energy that exists in New York that I find infectious and truly unique to this city. I’ve noticed it from the first day I visited over 10 years ago, and it’s one of the things that enticed me to move here,” Humm said.
“There is something magical about this city that doesn’t exist anywhere else,” Guidara agreed. “There is nowhere I feel more at home — my local pub, the restaurants I go to over and over again, my community of friends. But as comforting as it is, it never ceases to surprise me. Looking for an adventure? There is always one to be found. New York City has that rare ability to simultaneously make you feel embraced and challenged, all at once, every single day. As long as I live here, I will never be bored.”
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