I’ve been back in New York City for a few days now.

I had prepared to see the worst: boarded up blocks, homeless riots, and deserted streets.

But it is not nearly as bad as I thought it would be.

NYC feels alive and exciting after six months away.

It definitely isn’t the city that it was. But it’s also not dead (yet).

Expectations: cartoon of State of Liberty, fires in the background, skyscrapers

Reality: State of Liberty wearing a mask, skyscrapers in background

What I’ve Seen and Heard

Here’s what I’ve seen and heard around my neighborhood:

Several moped-looking scooters, illegal and unregistered, zipping down bike lanes.

Scooter with yellow headlight

I want one immediately.

Catching a glimpse of the Empire State Building for the first time in six months.

I smiled wide.

Same for 1 World Trade.

Cartoon of skyline featuring 1 World Trade Center

Hello, old skyline friend.

More shops are still open than not. My favorite massage center is still open, as are many others.

I’ll go soon. My shoulders are tight.

Closures

Yes, there are closures.

Two of my favorite restaurants closed forever: Hu Kitchen on 5th Ave, and The Meatball Shop location on Greenwich Ave.

sign says: Sorry we're closed forever

More Quiet

Mornings and afternoons feel quiet. There’s less traffic and less people out.

But then I walked home through the Village on Friday night, down Greenwich Avenue and left on West 10th Street…

Outdoor dining rooms spilled into the sidewalks and road.

Nearly every table was full.

People were smiling and laughing. I couldn’t believe it. It was a foreign experience in the best way.

Masks

Almost everyone wears a mask on the street.

animated GIF of a woman wearing different pattern masks

And if they aren’t wearing it, they’ve got it in their hand or pulled down on their neck.

I thought that having to wear a mask all the time outside would be annoying. But seeing others wear them makes me feel safe.

I got used to wearing mine after the second day.

Parks are full of people. Sitting, talking, busking, laughing. As busy as they ever were.

It’s not all great news, though.

Restaurant Prices

Restaurant prices have increased. That surprised me.

My favorite salad in the neighborhood, formerly $15, is now $19.

Friends tell me that $28 is a very normal price for a pizza delivery these days.

Pizza box that says GOURMET on it

“Things seem to have gone up by 20% or more at most places.”

Homelessness

There are more homeless people in certain areas.

The northeast corner of Washington Square Park, known to locals as the most sketchy area, has doubled or tripled in regular occupants and size.

SCENE: A guy carrying a cooler walks by me in Washington Square Park and calls out loudly, to nobody in particular: “$2 shots? $2 shots here! And I got White Claws for $5!”

cartoon says SHOTS and two dollars

Other Things

Everyone dislikes our mayor, Bill de Blasio.

“Before, there was a willful indifference. Now even the liberal left hates him.”

It feels like some teenagers are a little more wild than usual.

Riding skateboards down 6th Avenue against traffic, being loud, and acting out in high-traffic park areas.

But I can’t blame them. I’d probably do the same.

(Actually, I rode my scooter a block against traffic today, so, whoops.)

Same-day car rental is nearly impossible on weekends. You have to reserve at least a week in advance if you want to drive out of the city.

Meeting People

Someone told me that it is a lot harder to be social now.

“I’ve found it difficult to find access points for hanging out.”

The activities, meetups, bar gatherings, shows, and events that make NYC amazing are still gone or hard to find.

And yet…

Friends and Food

Last night I hung out with friends and we talked about business and investing.

They shared with me one of the most ambitious creative and economic projects I’ve heard in months.

Two people sitting in a park, having a picnic

I saw my friend Charles and we laughed like old times. We all had a big picnic in the park.

Then I had a spontaneous lamb burger at Mamoun’s with a friend-of-a-friend who told me about machine learning and innovations in customer service software.

Conclusion

It feels great to be back.

I’m writing notes in my notebook again, like these.

New York City is not as dead as I expected.

I missed this city living.

 

My Favorite Things in NYC

Custom illustrations for Nick Gray (that’s me!) by Fru Pinter.

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