This year has been unlike anything we could have imagined.
Exactly one year ago, I was in the final stages of creating this website and its related social media platforms. I was just a few weeks away from the official launch of Beyond the Square and excited for the upcoming year full of travel, writing, documenting, and planning. Eight weeks after my launch and last trip to New York City, a global pandemic swept its way through our lives, taking with it our plans, our adventures, and many of our tightly held hopes and dreams.
I cancelled and postponed a handful of trips to NYC since April of 2020. I’ve watched from a distance, staying as connected as possible through my subscription to the New York Times and following a handful of NYC content creators, as the city has gone dormant in some ways (theaters, tourism, and hospitality) and fought to adjust and reinvent itself in other ways (outdoor dining, cocktails to-go, new sanitization protocols).
By far the most agonizing part of this year has been the loss of life and livelihood. The toll of the pandemic on people, families, and entire cities is incalculable. Human lives, jobs, businesses, and entire industries have suffered greatly.
I’m grieved by the permanent closure of over 500 New York City businesses in this past year. Some iconic, like the nearly 100-year-old Roosevelt Hotel where I attended a conference a few years ago and marveled at the fabulous vintage chandeliers that hung from the ceiling as I listened to the presenter who paled in comparison.
Other closures, like Prune, represent the loss of a dream built from the kindling of childhood and the glowing embers of passion, grit, and hard work. The story of the beloved East Village restaurant and the life of its owner Gabrielle Hamilton was captured so beautifully in her memoir that after having read it I feel like I was part of its birth and now, part of its death.
And another, Bank Street Bookstore, a children’s bookstore that I visited nearly every time I went to the city where I’d buy a book for my son and a souvenir to commemorate the trip. Since 1970 it was a mainstay on the Upper West Side and even offered daily storytime to the neighborhood children. On most days, the entrance to the shop would be so crowded with strollers it would be difficult to get through the front doors. Its loss will be deeply felt by young and old alike.
But even in the face of all the loss, the lights have stayed on. The Christmas Tree was lit in Rockefeller Plaza, the marquees are still illuminated over Broadway, and Times Square continues to so shine so bright that it feels like midday even at midnight. This signals hope. The city is still very much alive. Although it contracted as a result of the pandemic, expansion is coming. Theater stages, city streets, and subway platforms will once again swell with people and the kinetic energy they were created for. New York City is a city that knows how to claw its way out of the rubble. Its very heart beats in the direction of innovation, toward growth. And, it has never stopped. Not even in 2020.
My hope for this resurgence is so real that I’ve already booked a trip for 2021. As I look out my window into the deep of winter, the idea of spending some late spring days in Central Park sounds just right. I hope you’ll join me. Don’t hesitate to reach out if I can help you plan your trip!
Cover Photo: The Vessel at Hudson Yards by: Truth and Love Photography