Summer season of Love, 2021, in New York

Summer of Love, 2021, in New York

For decades, certain corners of the city were so slicked with money that they were off-limits to those just starting out as adults. But for a brief glowing moment, everything belongs to the boys.

June 12, 2021

A middle-aged man, slightly gray, was unsure on a weekday in Lower Manhattan whether he had changed or New York. True, he hadn't been out much lately … but something was different.

He walked down Prince Street from SoHo to NoLIta and then turned into Mulberry. Then it hit him: everyone on the street seemed young, like in a scene from the science fiction film "Logan's Run".

Your rule over the city has only just begun. Sofia Pace, a 21-year-old student at Baruch College who grew up in the East Village, mentioned a meme she recently saw on Instagram in a phone interview. It said, "This summer in New York is going to the Bible."

“This is the best way to describe how people my age see it in the Bible,” said Ms. Pace. "The energy level could not be higher until the summer months."

Ms. Pace usually spends the summers in Southampton, working as a nanny and escaping the stifling heat. She doesn't want to miss out on what's going on in town this summer. She took a retail job with Eric Emanuel, a streetwear brand that opened its first store in SoHo in April. And she's busy making plans with friends, many of whom have pushed rents down since the pandemic, to get cute new homes.

"My friends and I discussed that we were almost a little scared," said Ms. Pace. "As if it got out of hand."

For the 20-year-olds in New York who locked up more than a year of their young adulthood during a pandemic and watched their social lives wither, summer 2021 will be the most anticipated of their lives. And it may turn out to be more than just a three month bacchanal. This season could mark the start of a social, entrepreneurial, and creative rebirth in New York that they are leading. A city that for decades seemed impenetrable and overrun with Bugaboo strollers and Land Rovers is now at their disposal.

More than a year after the first arrival of the coronavirus, the streets of the city are so teeming with fresh-faced pleasure seekers that one could squint and think it was 1967, the summer of love. There is the blatant smoking of marijuana, the skinny fashion of the moment (short shorts, crop tops, French bathing suits), the nocturnal frenzies in Washington Square Park, while with the alcohol rules still relaxed, the outside areas become spontaneous bars and nightlife locations. The walktail may have become the flocktail.

This week Mayor Bill de Blasio, who had proclaimed “New York City Summer”, announced a mega-concert in Central Park in August that would bring memories of Simon & Garfunkel and then a drenched Diana among the city's elderly Ross were awakened in the early 80's. (Riunité, anyone?)

On the eve of summer the city seemed alive. The atmosphere was like a big street festival.

The tourists from Europe and the Midwest had not yet returned. Thousands of couples with children had already moved to the suburbs. The partial emptiness of office buildings gave Midtown a dissolute feeling, everything was going well.

Youth quake moments usually arise from severe and dark periods of history. Think of Paris in the 1920s, when the Lost Generation shed the trauma of World War I, or swinging London in the 60s, an explosion of new music, fashion and art after the second.

There is a pent-up hunger under the bright eyes and newly vaccinated people of today to make up for lost time. As Felicia Mendoza put it, "It felt like our 20s were being robbed of us."

In October 2019, Ms. Mendoza and Laura Burke, both 24 and college friends, rented an apartment in the financial district and expected to live "the young adult lifestyle you see in the movies," Ms. Mendoza said. Instead, they got a Manhattan resembling the Blade Runner dystopia and watched their building go empty as the neighbors moved out.

But in the last few months the apartments around them have been completely filling up again with young adults and young couples. And the women who, in Ms. Burke's words, “developed a common sense of resilience” are “so excited to go out and connect with people,” she said. "I have this image of going into a full bar in New York and looking at everyone and feeling together that we made it, we had a tough time."

Jimmy Pezzino, a 29-year-old full-time model and part-time drag queen who lives in the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn, has pledged to never again be “picky” about socializing. "Now I won't miss an event because I was so denied socializing," said Pezzino.

He spent Sundays at $ 3 Bill, a Bushwick bar. His friend Ty Sunderland, a DJ, recently started hosting a weekly outdoor party, Ty Tea, in a parking lot next to the bar.

"I was there every single Sunday," said Pezzino, who, based on his observations, predicted a renaissance of nightlife. “Everyone is very willing to hug someone and just go wild again. The people are ready to go. "

It all started right last summer. When tens of thousands of older New Yorkers fled, many of the boys and singles rode out the first wave of Covid-19 in the city. There were illegal house parties in Bushwick. In SoHo, artists turned boarded-up shop fronts into canvas prints for graffiti art, part of the protests against Black Lives Matters that took place across the city and sometimes looked like a sea of ​​young people on the streets. "For the first time in decades," wrote the culture website Hyperallergic, "SoHo is bursting with art."

In Brooklyn's McGolrick Park, a group of cool kids hosted a charity bazaar that raised $ 150,000 for social justice and became a summer get-together. The bi-weekly event called the Sidewalk Sale sold haircuts, handcrafted ceramics and clothes from Chloë Sevigny's closet. In "Dimes Square," nicknamed the Canal Street area near the Dimes restaurant, two friends and college graduates started a printed newspaper, the Drunken Canal, to record their downtown lives in the Covid era victims "in one issue included “pretending to be social distancing”).

These efforts are reminiscent of a looser, more grassroots and more creative-oriented city than in recent years. One result of the pandemic was to disrupt the uninterrupted money culture that has been the dominant theme in New York since the Bloomberg administration and marginalize or price young artists and entrepreneurs.

According to StreetEasy, rents in the city in the first quarter of 2021 were the lowest since 2010. In Manhattan, the rent index fell 16.8 percent year-on-year. Brooklyn rents are the lowest in a decade. In Queens, the median monthly rent fell below $ 2,000. Landlords are offering freebies everywhere. Ms. Mendoza and Ms. Burke received three and a half months free of charge when they signed their new lease last fall. The facility manager sent them an email saying, "You absolutely enriched my day."

Such deals, which are likely to be temporary, result in a geographic reorganization as young Brooklyners challenged from Manhattan move back to the downtown neighborhoods while others move into new digs that were previously unaffordable. After searching the property listings, one of Ms. Pace's friends found an apartment in SoHo.

"The older population wants to move to the hinterland or Long Island," said Ms. Pace. “But now that Covid is being controlled more closely, the younger people are looking at the city again and want to be here. There is a rebirth and definitely a wave of younger people taking over the helm in some way. "

Despite rising crime, incredibly empty subways and other quality of life problems that have shaped life in the city since Covid, the city remains a beacon for risk-takers – and who is not a risk taker at 22?

Last summer, Davis Thompson, then 22 years old and from the small town of Indiana, booked a cheap flight to New York and walked spellbound across an empty Times Square at midnight. A month ago, Mr. Thompson moved into an apartment in Hell’s Kitchen, "right in the middle".

The PR agency Mr. Thompson hired also has an office in Los Angeles, which he could have gone to instead, but he came here because "New York feels big and scary, which I thought was a good thing."

He added, “I have nothing against the occasional rat in the distance. I think the city is magical. "

Like many others, New York University has received more than 100,000 applications for first-year admission for the 2021-2022 school year. That was 20 percent more than last year and a record for a private American university. Columbia University saw applications grow 51 percent.

"I never believed what the experts said about the duration of the evacuation," said Jonathan Williams, vice president of student admissions for the N.Y.U. “New York is a cosmopolitan place, an international city. New York is still a place young people want to go. "

Commercial rents have also fallen, in some areas even 30 to 40 percent below the level before the pandemic. Virtually every storefront is empty on Wooster Street between Canal and Prince Street in SoHo. Blocks like this are everywhere in the city and young entrepreneurs are taking advantage of them.

In March, Alexander Shulan, a 33-year-old gallery owner, Lomex, moved his gallery, which promotes emerging artists, from the Bowery to a new space on Walker Street in TriBeCa. Other galleries have sprung up well west in the neighborhood recently, marking a new frontier for the art world.

"My gallery has more foot traffic than prepandemic – which is really shocking to me," said Shulan. "People are longing for this social commitment that they didn't have in the last year."

As someone who grew up in SoHo, where chain stores long ago praised artists and galleries, Mr. Shulan knows that the city's landlords will eventually regain the upper hand. But he said, “I'm very optimistic about the future of the downtown arts scene. There is a lot of reorganization. "

If New York is changing, so is the lives of young New Yorkers. Last March, Emily Iaquinta lost her job as event manager for Dead Rabbit NYC after the Manhattan bar business collapsed. Ms. Iaquinta, 33, who originally came to town as an actress 10 years ago, sat back a month and waited for things to return to normal. When she didn't, she took advantage of the hiatus – and her improved unemployment benefits – to embark on a new creative career.

Her fashion jewelry line Young Diane, which Ms. Iaquinta described as "throwing pearls into a blender with a dash of whiskey and rainbow sprinkles," which she makes herself and sells on Etsy and other social platforms, is "the thing". I've done creative things that I'm most proud of, ”she said.

Phil Rosario, 28, moved to New York six years ago on the day he graduated from college. Prior to the pandemic, Mr Rosario, who lives in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn, had worked in the advertising industry on the production side. But he said, "I always wanted to be on the creative side."

During the pandemic, Mr Rosario, like everyone else, spent a lot of time on TikTok and his creative experiments on the platform turned into an opportunity to become Creative Director for the creative agency Movers + Shakers.

"Everyone has been forced to be creative over the past year to face the challenges," said Mr. Rosario, referring to batik, sewing, sourdough baking, the general reinterpretation of life online and at home in quarantine played. "That experience of being locked in created this safety net so that people can experiment."

When the lockdowns wear off and people return to town, "that energy is really going to explode," Rosario said.

Ms. Iaquinta and her boyfriend recently went on a date in Manhattan, something they hadn't done in ages. She saw the social supernova firsthand in Washington Square Park, where hundreds had gathered on a Saturday night.

“Everyone danced, listened to music, smoked weed,” said Ms. Iaquinta. “Everyone was outside and happy. All looked like a science project, but in a wonderful way. "

She was encouraged by these heirs to post-pandemic New York.

“The people who weren't sure emigrated, and that made room for hungry people,” she said. "It was so reassuring for what's next."


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