Sunday, September 12, 2010

Dear Mr. Bloomberg

Today I ran seventeen miles, my longest run ever. While I am very proud of myself for achieving this milestone, I’m more focused on my anger towards Mr. Bloomberg at the moment. You see, running seventeen miles through the city – or over 3 hours of running – gives me the time to really scrutinize the city. I really love New York, but as anyone who lives here will tell you: it is far from perfection. And like any true New Yorker, though I love this place, I’d rather not waste precious breath on praising her.

Now onto the complaining part. As a resident of this city who moved from a state several hundred miles away, I must file New York City taxes. I don’t have the luxury of pretending that I still live in my parent’s home in New Jersey, Connecticut or Long Island, and so every year, I “generously” give between 2.9-3.5% of my paycheck to the city. This is in addition to state and federal taxes. I am happy to pay this tax because I take full advantage of the city’s many resources: Central Park, free concerts and movies, museums, public transportation, Greenways, Riverside Park, Hudson River Park, and just last week, the Highline, to name a few.

But Mr. Bloomberg, though I know the economy is still trying to recover, there are a few things that I think you could work on.

1. There are no drinking fountains on the Hudson River Park Greenway from 57th to 14th street. What gives? Last time I checked, human beings not camels are using the Greenways. Are drinking fountains too much to ask for?
2. The drinking fountains from 72nd to 57th don’t work. Why did you build them if you don’t supply them with water? Is this modern art that I just don't understand?
3. Please plant some bushes between the highway and the Greenway. I love the scent of exhaust fumes, but I can't stand the sound of squealing breaks and horns honking.
4. What’s up with all the rusty scraps of piers littering the coasts? I know NY isn't quite the shipping hub it used to be, but can't this metal be recycled into new subway cars. (The 6 could use an extra train, if you are looking for suggestions.)
5. I know that there is a path that runs on the west side of the city from the George Washington Bridge to Battery Park, but can you please add signs on how to access it from 110th Street and above? Hiding the running paths counter the anti-smoking, trans-fat and potential-salt bans.
6. Sometimes Central Park smells like fake Christmas air-freshener. I know this city smells, but do you honestly believe that you are fooling us?
7. At certain times, I have to share the Central Park Drives with tourists, other runners, cyclists, cars, and horse-drawn carriages. Maybe it’s time that tourist lanes were introduced to the park.
8. Smoking has been banned from all public places, except the parks. If the bars can go without their cigarettes, so can the picnics and softball games.

Yes, I know these are minor complaints and I might be whining just a little bit. I don’t often think of the city, outside of my life and how I need to survive here. But yesterday was not an ordinary Saturday. I decided to go get a few groceries and instead found myself reflecting on the vast history of this city and what I put myself at risk everyday living here.

There is a fire station one block from my apartment and every morning when I walk to work those guys roll up the door and watch all the morning commuters walk by. At least once a month, I have to stop and wait for a fire truck to leave to attend to an emergency or back-up that huge engine into the garage after...something. On one little brick wall, there is a small memorial of nine faces, commemorating the men of that station who died on September 11th. On my way to the grocery store, I came upon a woman and two small boys crying at that memorial which was now flooded with flowers.

Witnessing that private moment saddened me deeply, but it also reminded me that I’m living in this city that is so much bigger and powerful than I can fathom. Sometimes, I think it’s all about me. (See above complaints.) But of course, it’s never about me and or anyone. I live in a community, albeit a very large one, but I am one of many and as part of this “family” it’s my job to look out for everyone else and help them out when they need it.

So complaining about the running trails in the city or helping a little old lady use the credit card machine at the grocery story are just one of the few ways that I can contribute to the growth of this city. It’s the big efforts, certainly, but sometimes, it’s the small inconsequential contributions that make New York go round. It’s the reason that people still keep on moving here despite that fact that bad things happens here.

Because sometimes you can count on that stranger next to you.

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