By Paul J. Massey, Jr.
As I sat collecting my thoughts on the eve of the 19th anniversary of the Sept.11, 2001 attacks on our nation, I could not help but recognize how New York City (NYC) has changed since 2001: mostly for the better, rarely for the worse. What struck me most is how, on that fateful day, 19 years ago, New Yorkers came together in ways I did not, at that time, expect was likely. During the days and months which followed, we New Yorkers cried together, mourned together, but most importantly, we rebuilt NYC together.
I cannot help but draw parallels from that time to today: particularly reflecting on how, during the past six months, we New Yorkers have come together in many ways similar to the ways in which we came together then. Specifically, I’ll always remember how New Yorkers came together every night at 7 p.m. to revere the essential workers who, without thinking of themselves, went to work every day to care for the tens of thousands of men and women dying from a virus, the pervasiveness of which we have never known. And how New Yorkers have come together in peace to protest the inequity experienced by our Black neighbors, friends and family members.
The New York I know is one of generosity, one of compassion, one of kindness. Sure, we are thick-skinned and tough, but when we New Yorkers are in need, we pick each other up, raise each other’s’ spirits and promote the rebuilding of the greatest city in the world into something even greater than it once was. That’s what we did nearly two decades ago and that’s what we need to do today – rebuild.
The New York that I know is chock full of bustling street vendors with lines halfway around the block, serving coffee to millions of sleepy-eyed professionals just arriving to their respective offices early in the morning. The New York that I know has the omnipresent, controlled chaos of its auto traffic venturing through each street and each avenue from dusk to dawn. The New York that I know has every watering hole bursting at the seams on a random weekday night with people of all types seeking to relish in the vibrance of the “City that Never Sleeps.”
The New York that I know, however, is not the New York that I am currently experiencing. Many of NYC’s offices are still closed, and, as a result, our street carts are not being regularly frequented. Our neighbors have chosen to retreat to the beaches and mountains, so our roads are empty and quiet. Our friends are working from home, so our favorite weekday watering holes either stay open with few patrons or are forced to close forever.
In this regard, I call on all New Yorkers to rally and assist in re-igniting the machine that is indelibly NYC. I call upon our politicians to reach across the aisle to establish a plan to swiftly – but in the safest way – re-open our roads, our restaurants and our bars. I call upon our business leaders to safely (respecting protocols), re-open their offices to allow their workforce to breathe new life into our city and get back to what we once were, even if it’s in little strides. And, I call upon our neighbors to come back to NYC from wherever they were temporarily located, to safely, reintegrate into our society. I fully recognize that returning to the city or to the work environment, at the moment, may not be practical or possible for every single one of us.
If Sept.11 taught me one thing it is that individually, we New Yorkers are strong, but together are invincible. It’s time to return to the NYC that we all know – and let’s do it with New York-style unity.
Paul J. Massey, Jr. is a Founding Partner and Chief Executive Officer of B6 Real Estate Advisors.