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Mixing Pot

Commuters packed in a New York City subway car (1980)

Year after year, new generations of New Yorkers plunge into the streets of the City, ready to get a taste of life. Often high school students, we have a false security that we are invincible. Although we know that people must’ve come before us, that we aren’t the originals, it’s easy to get caught up in the idea that we will be the cohort to change things. We will make a difference. Born and raised all over New York City– from Astoria, Queens to Washington Heights, Manhattan to Belmont, Bronx– nothing can stop us. But we’re wrong. We aren’t invincible. We aren’t the firsts. We aren’t going to change everything. But maybe we can help. Maybe we can reflect on where we started and figure out where to go. This is a piece that highlights the actual originals. The born and raised who stayed here, who remain here. This is for the ones who thought they were going to make and change and then watched it happen. The elderly who never lost their youth. This piece is for Patricia, the lively lady who lives in the Carter Burden Network  Leonard Covello Older Adult Center.

I navigated through the streets of East Harlem from the 6-Train to the Senior Center on East 109th Street. Upon immediate arrival, I was greeted by smiling faces and warm welcomes. I made my way to the second floor where the activities were taking place. Setting foot into a well-lit room, I was met by four women who were making quilts. One of whom was standing at the ironing boards, pressing little sewn squares. I approached her with a friendly smile and introduced myself as Julia. She told me she was Patricia. 

Patricia was born in Harlem Hospital. She was brought up in Harlem and has lived there all her life. She attended Junior Richmond High School on 135th Street. Unprompted, she began unraveling all the changes that NYC has faced throughout her time here. Tall buildings blocking air and light, people, and the homeless crisis were only three of the many things she reflected on. 

“The tall buildings that they have now, that a lot of people can’t get into, that’s what I get upset about.” 

Who in their right mind wouldn’t agree with her? An average rental price fifty years ago was $108 per month. Now it’s $4,400. All the immigrants who came and diversified our City by bringing new cultures and traditions can’t even afford to live here anymore. This isn’t just hurting our citizens, this is hurting our City. Who are we, if not a combination of our people? We are a community. Rather, we were

Through our talk about City expenses, I brought up the situation that I was starting college soon. Patricia reacted knowingly, with a sigh that expressed Oh yes, I know. She spent little time pondering the topic before giving a full and considered opinion.  

“I can remember growing up when colleges was free. It was a big thing to change…”

I can only imagine. 

“…I wish I woulda went on to college earlier… for people today it’s hard because you gotta pay all those student loan debts back.”

Patricia worked in the health field for most of her life, aiding war veterans and doctors in hospitals. The surgical floor was her favorite part. She had dreams of being a practical nurse, but unfortunately, it didn’t work out for her in the way she wanted. So instead, Patricia took classes in coding. She experienced the changing City first hand, and how technology revolutionized the world. She looks back in regret that she didn’t learn to type earlier on. But when she eventually got to her coding class, it wasn’t what she imagined. She had an ill fit professor which impeded her academic aspiration. Nevertheless, her continuation of working in the healthcare field for so long made me recognize how much she cares for others. Throughout the whole interview, she seldom expressed concerns about her own wellbeing, but rather the wellbeing of humans in general. When discussing rent, she stressed how people weren’t able to afford to live in all the massive buildings that continued to be built. College prompted her to display her disgust for the cost, no matter your background. It is unrealistic for anyone. 

This is what we need to focus on. This is what we need to realize. New Yorkers look out for each other. We care. It doesn’t matter where you’re from or who your parents are; you belong just as much as the next. New York City is just a mixing pot. Without its people, it’d be nothing. We are the ingredients. We cannot just enter the social world of New York City without first appreciating the generations that put it there. We have to continue to care and provide for each other. It doesn’t matter your race, your ethnicity, or your religion. We are all New Yorkers. We are each other’s people. We are our own people. You are not invincible. You are not immortal. You are simply carrying out a legacy that needs to be carried out. We are adding to it, though. We should be. Our diverse makeup is what keeps us alive. 

“I really do like helping people.”

If you’re quiet enough– tuning out all the sirens and shouting– you can hear the subtle sounds of music. Jazz, rock, soul, it’s all there. Those are the sounds of us. Don’t let the growing anti-altruism within our society drown out the City’s pedigree. 

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About the Contributor
Julia Godwin
Julia Godwin, Opinion Writer
Hey! I’m Julia. Outside of school, I enjoy reading, watching New Girl (ask me anything about the show, it's such a fun conversation topic), hanging out with friends, and doing the NYT Mini Crossword everyday. I am a cat person, and I’m so excited to be part of the 2022-23 newspaper staff!
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