When I first moved here, I rented movies from the Blockbuster on 34th, hailed cabs to get a car ride, and bought loosies at my corner bodega. I used laminated foldable maps to navigate the city and subways. I got lost, a lot.
I moved to the city with no job, no real friends, and a place to stay for a few months. I searched for work on Craigslist and landed my first job with a production company working on fashion week, starting as an intern. But I didn’t care. I just needed a foot in the door. I worked 10–15 hour days and after a few weeks they started paying me — at a rate of $150 — a day.
In those first couple years, I met some of my closest friends that I still have to this day. Our dinners consisted of free food at the events I could snag free invites to through my job. I lived in a 375 sq ft studio where the windows faced a brick building and the refrigerator only opened halfway. And I loved it. My friends and I would often meet at my apt before going out, mainly to save money because who could afford to spend $10 on a sh*tty drink? Not us.
In 2010, I moved to Williamsburg. I never intended to move here. But, like many New Yorkers, the move was fueled by the ending of a relationship. I rented a place with a good friend, we got a 2 bedroom, 2 bath (with a washer/dryer!) on the corner of Roebling and North 8th. I think we paid $3000 total. There were no stop lights on our street and most of the buildings around us were empty warehouses. I fell in love with the neighborhood pretty quickly. It still had some grit, there were still a few artists there, and the food was incredible. There was Diner, Rye, Dumont, and Roebling Tea Room. The Bedford Cheese Shop and The Brooklyn Kitchen were both still here. This neighborhood just fit. And it lasted a good 5 years. Which for New York standards, is a good run.
Having lived here for as long as I have, I know this city is transient and never stays the same for long. I know I was one of those gentrifiers that went on to be irritated at other gentrifiers, as my neighborhood morphed into an instagrammable tourist spot. I’ve watched places I love close down and learn to accept that I have to make new friends every 3–4 years. These days, I think about this often as the last 5 months has fast forwarded life 10x. Within months the life I know has disappeared. Work has evaporated. All but a couple of my friends have left. The restaurants, bars, and coffee shops I frequented are closing at a frightening pace.
My decision to leave may be sparked by the current climate, but it has been coming for a while. Over the past couple years, I have been grappling with rekindling the love I felt for this city. To fall into the imperfect circumstances that feel right. This city has started feeling unfamiliar and too shiny for me to keep up while still being me. I knew I wanted to slow down a bit and live a more creatively focused life without the constant hustle. I knew it was time to get off the hamster wheel. I just didn’t want to. Well, now it’s time.
Many people have asked me if I am worried about the city. I’m not. My version of New York City may be gone, but the city will reinvent itself. Truthfully speaking, the city needs a reboot. It has become too bloated with banks, drugstores, and empty high rise apartments owned by people who do not live in them. My hope is the city emerges as a place that’s a little less shiny but with more soul. One that I can return to and feel like I am back home.