Nine years ago, I walked up Madison Avenue with a pregnant co-worker back to the Upper East Side, after just having witnessed the falling of the first tower during the 9/11 Attacks. I was working at the General Motors pension fund, and we were all huddled together in the trading room, which was the one place we had a television. I had just graduated college that year. Despite being a New York native, the city seemed huge to me, compared to the active life of being a student leader on Fordham’s Rose Hill Campus. I never felt so small—so powerless to push back against the forces that had impacted my city. I went back to my apartment and sat alone in front of the television, having the state of the world told to me by others.
Today, I took off in a kayak from the Brooklyn Bridge Park Boathouse—a free public kayaking program that I’m helping to build and run. We run out of two shipping containers in a park that, up until a year ago, was the site of a bunch of abandoned industrial piers.
I went with some volunteers from our boathouse and a friend that I made from volunteering at the Downtown Boathouse over the last seven years. We trekked across the Harbor, around Battery Park, past the Winter Garden and World Trade Center site, and up to Pier 40. Given the great time we made, we pressed on to Pier 66 to the Frying Pan—it, too, a former abandoned relic that has reemerged to become a waterfront attraction.
There are a ton of individual stories behind these kinds of activities that are rebuilding the landscape of our city. Helping to create the world around me—to live the life in New York City I want to live and do what it takes to make that possible—is empowering and rewarding beyond words.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the last few years—it’s that even a place as big as New York City can be affected by a small group of dedicated individuals—and that it doesn’t have to stay stuck in anyone else’s definition of it.
Last night, Startup Weekend launched, and New York City has never been a better place to build a technology business. We used to be a “sad assed backwater”, characterized by “neanderthals in suits”. Now, some of those same people call us a city of “energetic ass-kickers”.
I’ve lived here my whole life. I’ve seen so many people escape—leaving New York City because they didn’t find what they were looking for or felt like it didn’t fit them.
The people that stayed? They’re the people that have bent steel to shape it into a place they wanted to live in—through sheer force of will. These are the kinds of people that I want to spend time with, to befriend, to learn from, and to invest in. Everyday, I fall in love with this city—and it makes me happy that, more and more, others are not just discovering this place, but building it.