NYC, ahead of the apex

Lina Srivastava
8 min readApr 9, 2020
View, Manhattan, looking uptown. Image my own, July 2019.

The thing about NYC is the density. It’s the physical proximity we have to each other, and the teeming thrum of the streets. It’s the tightness of the buildings, the closeness of cars and bicycles, and the throngs of other people. It’s our bodies navigating around each other, and sometimes into each other, in restaurants, bodegas, clubs (the private, public, underground, or temporary kind), outdoor concerts, parks, galleries, stores, the subway — and sometimes just waiting at the corner. It’s the visible output of the productivity and the innovation of the city’s remaining artists and newly arrived tech folk. It’s the sheer number of languages and dress styles and cultures in neighborhoods that change character every few blocks from Inwood to Crown Heights, Hunts Point to Huguenot, Astoria to Nolita.

The city sends out a constant buzz no matter where you are, provoking and inspiring us to its particular hustle, its “steely resolve.” It’s the thing so many tourists and visitors say exhausts them — and the thing that people who live here, who drink the city’s air, crave, even as we complain about it. (And we like to complain. It’s a common pastime. It’s a form of love.)

The city has lost its hum and succumbed to increasing silence — broken only by sirens cutting through the air in short, frequent spurts over the past few weeks — as the coronavirus pandemic sweeps through it and flays it raw.

Millions of people — committed New Yorkers, or those who have nowhere else to go — are heeding the call to stay at home. We are locked down in small apartments for over three weeks and counting. Some of us are alone (never before has remaining in place and keeping still been at the core of community care and civic responsibility), while some of us continue taking care of our children, our elders, and the newly sick under increasingly stressful circumstances.

Most of us who choose to live in this city are designed to be out in the world, bumping up against each other and indulging in the “you never know” of it all — you never who you might meet, you never know what you might see — that this city offers up. But now, you never really know who might catch or transmit the virus. (And we don’t quite know why we are so much worse off here. We are the epicenter of the epicenter. It’s the density that allowed for such wide and…

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Lina Srivastava

Founder of Center for Transformational Change https://transformationalchange.co. Using narrative to cultivate community power towards just futures.