I’m a New Yorker, born & bred. But I’m not who you think I am, nor is the town I call my home. You see we tend to get a bad rap or at best, are seen through distorted lenses. Visitors are whisked into midtown, surrounded by grime and blaring horns. And the lights! Vegas doesn’t hold a candle to Times Square when all the signs are fired up. Some love it. Personally, I don’t. It’s garish and crude and frankly, easy to replicate. Most importantly, it’s not really Manhattan.
The true Manhattan reveals itself in unexpected ways, gradually over time. It’s a kaleidoscope of cultures, each with their own neighborhood and foods and customs. There is truly something – and someplace – for everyone. And perhaps most surprising, it can be a great place to live.
Not that I’ve always lived here. On the brink of parenthood, my husband and I fled the city to a lovely village in the northern suburbs for all the reasons parents do: more space, open land, great schools. We found this and more, though as life goes, many things changed over the next decade. We moved homes three times, not counting a year long stint in London. Our little boy soon grew up and our marriage dissolved, though I stayed on in Irvington, in hopes of providing stability.
My return to New York came about rather suddenly. In 2002, my son moved to Boston for college and I was home alone, launching my communications consultancy, while managing through treatments for breast cancer. While I loved my beautiful home, I was beginning to feel isolated in a world where I no longer fit.
Then a casual conversation at the tail end of a holiday party changed everything. A neighbor was looking for a house just like mine, and made an offer I couldn’t refuse, provided I could vacate in 2 months. I was equal parts exhilarated and terrified. A brand new path had opened wide and I knew it was time to come home.
Moving day was glorious and as I traveled down the highway to my downtown digs, I felt like a kid again. The energy was palpable along the early spring streets and I was smitten by the sounds and sight. “It’s good to live it again- the gleaming rooftops at sundown… It lifts you up when you’re down” cooed Billie Holiday in Autumn in New York, one of my favorite tunes.
I was snap happy that first year back, photographing everything, finding wonder and beauty at every turn. It was a vibrant time downtown with much effort turned on revitalizing the area in the wake of 9/11 and I was a sponge lapping it up.
Why the exuberance?
Because it’s all here – the breath of it and best of it, round the clock and across the calendar. Of course, there is theater and art and music of every measure – enough to make your head spin, much of it for free. But did you know we have parklands galore and greenways being built every day?
New York is an incredibly green city – surprisingly so! I live in America’s first residential green tower, built to LEED Gold specifications, utilizing natural energy sources and materials throughout. We face the Hudson River, where you can picnic in summer on the lawns of Rockefeller Park, take in musical events and watch elegant sailboats and majestic cruise ships waft by.
Certainly, Central Park is our main oasis with 250 acres of lawns, 24,000 trees, 150 acres of lakes and streams and 80 acres of woodlands, but in the last decade, the city has revitalized other grand parks that had fallen into disrepair.
You can run or bike or blade 13 uninterrupted miles along the Hudson River on our Greenways. You can take free ferry rides to Staten Island that pass the Statue of Liberty and provide iconic views of Lower Manhattan – or you can visit the newly opened Governor’s Island, a historic preserve first conquered by the Dutch in 1624.
And if you’d just rather meander, there’s the new High Line, a public park built on an historic freight rail line elevated above Manhattan’s West Side in the Chelsea Art District, where regularly changing exhibits compete for your attention with the local birds and mixed architecture.
New York is meant for walking. I’ve been without a car for 7 years now and rarely miss it. Wherever I can’t get on foot, the subway takes me or if it’s late and I’m tired, there are always plentiful cabs. We’re a city on the go and one that truly never sleeps.
Clearly, I could go on and on – but I won’t and I can’t, since I’d need well more than a blog post to do the topic justice.
Those blind to New York’s charms shake their head when they see the size of my apartment, wondering how I manage – and why. It’s all about access I tell them! You can’t possibly be lonely or bored living here. Life indeed happens beyond your front door.
Next week marks 10 years that I’ll have been back. It’s been the best of times and the worst of times. I’ve lived through major blackouts and monster storms. I’ve tasted fame and fortune. I’ve loved and lost. Yet my life has been all the richer for it and as I stand on the brink of another chapter, a friend’s Facebook post says it all:
“Once you have lived in New York and made it your home, no place else is good enough.” ― John Steinbeck
Sadly, I’ve learned – that’s so.
Diane Cimine fancies herself a renaissance woman whose broad interests defy categorization. With university degrees in philosophy and mathematics, she has held executive positions at major corporations, ad agencies and media associations before launching her own communications consultancy in 2002. She loves to capture life on film or paper and is a certified yoga instructor, teaching a weekly class to cancer survivors.