Dear New York City

A native New Yorker rediscovers her love for the city


Brooke Nguyen

(Staff Photo by Brooke Nguyen)

Lorraine Olaya, Copy Chief

New York, this is my love letter to you. It’s been some time since I’ve seen the sparkle in your water and sunset reflecting off your buildings. And it’s been a while since I’ve stared up at the sky between your leaves or listened to the sounds of the city. 

Living in New York for my whole life, the glamour has been lost on me for many years. But once the snow defrosts and the sun peeks into windows again, New York City’s beauty reemerges to me. Everyone always seems happier after months of winter. 

White blossoms sprout from city trees whose roots push up against the concrete. The summer breeze sinks into your skin and rustles through city leaves, light glinting through lush green. And sand, sun and salty sea can be found not far from roaring subway trains. When the sun sets, the clouds are tickled pink, orange and yellow. When autumn returns, the leaves drop one by one with a swish of yellow, red or orange. 

It’s funny how nature is found everywhere within the city. A man-made nature: skyscrapers are my mountains, lights from city windows replace the stars and air conditioners drip water like rain. Street lamps guide light like the moon, and angry cars replace calming crickets. 

Who hasn’t thought of leaving you, New York City? The winters are too cold, and rats scurry across sidewalks. With the rising cost of rent, gentrification and police brutality, who would want to live here anymore? But when I focus on the people and nature of New York City, I get pulled in and convinced to stay again. Las personas trabajadoras: the churro lady at the 74th Street Jackson Heights station, the immigrant parents on the trains making their way home. The characters that are found in Washington Square Park: the pigeon man, the grand pianist. The history seeping out of the bricks of Lower Manhattan buildings, and the water and breeze of the Hudson River always keep me coming back. 

Living in New York my whole life has spoiled me. I’ve gotten used to stores that stay open all day and night, and the variety of food — from Korean barbecue to bandeja paisas. The sound of passing Q65 buses has lulled me to sleep for most of my childhood. I’ve gotten used to Mr. Softee ice cream trucks and their tempting siren song. I’ve found beauty in the routine commute of the 7 train, spotting artist tags on the side of buildings, walls and anything with a surface. I’ve always loved how the orange sunset reflected off the windows of Long Island City buildings. And in the summer, when the doors open on 111th Street, you can sometimes smell sizzling home barbecues. I’ve taken the subway for granted; it’s such an easy way to just get around to almost anywhere you need to go. 

What other city has such a variety of places? Every spot, every borough, every neighborhood is different. Sure, it all blends together when you don’t know where you are, but everywhere you look, there’s something unique. New York City is many cities in one. From the artistry of Greenwich Village to the greenery of Inwood Hill Park; from the history in Harlem to the culture in Jackson Heights; from the community in Sunset Park to the people in Mott Haven. Nothing looks the same. Nothing stays the same.

For the past couple of years, my dream included moving away from the city. But now that the inevitable end of my college years is breathing down my neck, I’ve decided to savor every moment. And so, I sit in the heart of my city, in the middle of the parks, in the middle of chaos, in the middle of my home. Listening to the sounds. Breathing it in. Enjoying the moments before I change, or my city changes, again. 

A version of this story appeared in the Oct. 18, 2021, e-print edition. Contact Lorraine Olaya at [email protected].