My Hometown Perspective Top Travel

Feeling loved, lucky and ignored, but at home in NYC

Mahmoud's Corner Egyptian food truck, selling a classic New York dish, chicken over rice. Located at 32-90 34th Ave. in Queens this is a long-time neighborhood family favorite. (Malak Kassem/YJI)

NEW YORK CITY – I consider being born and raised in New York City a privilege. I grew up surrounded by iconic places like the Empire State Building, Central Park, Rockefeller Center, and Times Square.

These places are very tourist-orientated. Native New Yorkers aren’t there every day and even try to avoid them on a regular basis.

But while I do avoid them on my busy days, my free time is full of local exploits.  During summer breaks, when my parents are at work, my brother and I pack a bag filled with food and drinks, pick a destination, and make an adventure of it.

A view of the New York subway from the Queensboro Bridge approaching the Queensboro station, which is the last stop before entering Manhattan from Long Island City. (Malak Kassem/YJI)

Everything about New York City is an adventure. From public transportation to the attraction itself, there is always something new to talk about. Whether it’s a new exhibit coming to Chelsea Piers by the Hudson River, a celebrity coming to Lincoln Center or free class taught at NYU or Cooper Union, you will be productive.

The naked man statue located in The Shops at Columbus Circle mall in Manhattan. (Malak Kassem/YJI)

Another spectacular aspect of New York City life is independence. Unlike the rest of the United States, cars are not necessary for transportation. Children do not need to rely on their parents to get where they need to go, whether it’s school, a grocery store or soccer practice.

It has truly made me an independent young adult.

As a Manhattan girl, I can confirm that Manhattan is the most walkable of the five boroughs, which is part of its charm. You can go 15,000 steps a day out of necessity or simply to entertain yourself. There are countless activities and stores. The architectural diversity ranges from modern glass skyscrapers in Midtown to historical family homes in the West Village.

My favorite thing about New York City is the food. There are so many options within close proximity of your home, regardless of your borough. Since I did live in Queens for part of my childhood, I grew up connected to the restaurants and food trucks there.

A corner street in Astoria, Queens, near the Mahmoud’s Corner food truck. (Malak Kassem/YJI)

There are so many different places to try, and the best thing about Queens is that almost all of the owners are representing their own culture and backgrounds. While you get lunch or a snack, you’re helping out small businesses, which always feels great. 

Pop’s Pizza, recently opened briefly prior to the pandemic, located on W 57th St near Columbus Circle. (Malak Kassem/YJI)

While New York City is truly an amazing bubble of diversity, entertainment, and life, it has its drawbacks, too. With rent in New York being among the most expensive in the United States, it can be enormously stressful for middle class families to sustain a good quality life.

It can often feel that city officials aren’t putting in enough effort to help middle class families and to make them feel like they have their place in the city they love so much. With low-cost apartments located in dangerous neighborhoods, many families often have to choose between safety and convenience.

The city also implements traffic laws that make life harder for drivers. The constant addition of bike and bus lanes that are barely used, closed off streets, and an unrealistically low number of parking spaces make life for the natives harder while favoring tourists and newcomers.

A view of high rise right outside Central Park. (Malak Kassem/YJI)

Small business owners and drivers – often immigrant family households – shoulder hefty fines and other costs. I have definitely felt the negative impact of decisions city leaders make.

Their goal shouldn’t be to impress but to preserve the places of the people who make New York the great city that it is. 

Malak Kassem is a Junior Reporter with Youth Journalism International.

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