After one week back, I can’t really say where this city is at. More uncertainty, but a guarded optimism as well. You can feel the optimism in the streets, despite the (for New York) brutally cold weather. People smile at each other, seem more gentle with each other. Black people say hello more often, like they used to do when you went to black neighborhoods when I first started coming to NYC in the 80’s. Walking into Bed-Stuy a young black girl hanging out with her friends said hello. A few years ago, there would have been malice, distrust, her friends glaring back or sniggering if you looked at them, but when I met her eyes the girl was just being open, friendly.
I talked to a friend today who was in Park Slope the night of the election. Down on the lower Slope, where the Puerto Ricans and the Dominicans cling on in the not yet gentrified areas near the warehouses, the projects, huge block parties took over the streets. “You could see it in black people here – usually they’re so hard, they protect themselves so much, but after Obama won, they wore their warmth, their hope on the surface . . . ”
Walking out of the subway into Prospect Heights I noted how relaxed the crowds seemed, streaming down Washington Ave into the cold, cold night. In London a dozen people would be barking into their cell phones, stress and frustration in their voices, written all over their faces – and totally closed off from everyone around them. Here it was just people going home after work. You felt you could sink into the crowd, become a part of it, that people would respond to you – you felt a togetherness that has been absent from New York for some time.