New York is not dead: In a year of isolation, the collective emerges

This past year has been crazy. Yet amid the despair and isolation there have also been signs of hope and even joy. In late August, as we lived through months of pandemic lockdown, headlines declared New York “dead.” 

Dead we are not. 

And sometimes you need a battle cry. 

Determined to push back against this false narrative about our city, we turned to action. First we started an online group called ILoveNYMoreThanEver that celebrated the city. Then we asked our network of friends, “Who is interested and game in joining us to begin a conversation to see how we can help?” 

New York City is far from dead

NYCNext was born. Our mission: to support our artistic community, to help NYC recover, rebuild and become a more equitable place for all and to energize others by creating spontaneous moments of joy in all five boroughs. 14 pop up events in 3 boroughs and 7 neighborhoods has only been feasible because of the 600+ volunteers who all give of themselves for the collective “we.” 

Stepping in to offer help has turned our despair into purpose. It has given us positivity, joy and, most importantly, an incredible sense of community.  

We’ve found a tie that binds — our love of NYC. 

New York City on Feb. 17, 2021. (Photo: Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images)

New Yorkers are resilient, creative doers. We put our passion to work as evidenced by the many who have galvanized. From Jerry Seinfeld who penned a New York Times Op-Ed piece, to initiatives like The Locker Room,Art in the Avenues, ShopInNYC, Summer Long Supper Club, and Back the Neighborhood. All this to say, New York is alive and kicking.

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Dream big dreams

After we’re all vaccinated, we’ll still have struggles: unemployment, recovering businesses, racial injustice, climate change. But in the last year our ability to rally and fight together has strengthened. The power of “we” far exceeds the power of “me.” And my hope is that we take this lesson from the past year into the next, and keep fighting, extending our hands and creating inspiring moments.

To quote filmmaker Ava DuVernay, “If your dream is only about you, it’s too small.” 

Maryam Banikarim is the co-founder of NYCNext and Head of Marketing, Global and Community at Nextdoor.

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