Why I Love New York City

People doing tai chi in Madison Square Park…only in New York!

Some people have the mistaken perception that I don’t like New York City. Nothing could be further from the truth. I love it! Allow me to explain…

First of all, I feel like a New Yorker and New York feels like “my city.” My grandfather was born and raised on the Lower East Side in the Jewish Tenements. My grandmother moved to New York from Pennsylvania at age 14 after she had been orphaned; she worked at Schrafts as a waitress and met my grandfather in a dime-a-dance hall. After they “made it,” they bought a farm in Pennsylvania, which is where I was raised. But they always kept an apartment in the city, and it is still in the family today. (In fact, the same doorman has been working in the building for at least 50 years. The other day I saw him out of uniform in Chelsea and at first I thought it was a celebrity sighting!)

Some of my earliest memories are coming to New York with my grandparents and staying in that apartment. It’s half a block from FAO Schwartz, Bergdorf Goodman, and the Plaza Hotel and one block from Central Park. What’s not to love about that? I simply adore the Paris Theatre and have seen many movies there over the years. And my children were raised reading Eloise. In fact one of my children, whom I will not name here, actually thought she WAS Eloise. She now lives in New York City, but definitely not at the Plaza.

I’ve been coming into the city for work for the past 25 years—20 of them on the bus, the Bieber Bus, to be exact. Lately, I’ve been driving my Prius because I prefer the freedom of it. I have my own apartment now, in Chelsea, by the High Line and near Chelsea Piers, where I sometimes go to hit golf balls. There’s even an organic soft ice cream truck a block from my apartment! Our offices are still in the same location and I love nothing more than to walk the two miles (yes, WALK) to and from the office (usually listening to music on my headphones). I can’t do that in Pennsylvania!

Yes, there is culture, art, and all sorts of diversity in the city. And I love the creative energy and sense of freedom. I love walking by the Chelsea Hotel and remembering what Patti Smith wrote about it in her book, Just Kids. But most of all, I love the food options. I get lots of ideas and inspiration from dining in New York, and love to try to replicate some of the tastes when I get home to my kitchen in Pennsylvania. I do not cook in my New York kitchen. Why would I when there is so much interesting food right outside my door?

I also think New York offers unprecedented opportunities for craziness. When I was a kid, my gay brother, who died of AIDS in 1985, absolutely adored Bette Midler (no surprise there). I also fell in love with her singing and crazy personality. So imagine how weird and wonderful it is that for the past 10-plus years I’ve been on the board of Bette’s New York Restoration Project and have helped to plant trees all over the city and have gotten to know Bette a little bit!  Crazy, right? Only in New York! I admire her and the kind of fame she has, but I don’t crave it for myself…and I think that’s where New York has a hard time with me sometimes—New York is a city of craving for fame and recognition and financial one-upmanship. And I don’t have that hunger. I don’t mind people who do at all. I just don’t have it myself.

Speaking of people, New York City is a great place to meet with people for business. Whether it’s the book business, the magazine business, or the digital business, if people aren’t already there, they are usually willing to come to New York. It’s easy to meet for lunch or dinner or have a meeting. There is an energy and intensity around the gathering of people in Manhattan that is probably unprecedented in the world.

To me, every place has a dark side, and New York’s dark side is the thinking that it’s the only best city in the world and more important than any other place. As a person who runs a business, a GLOBAL business, and as a woman who has traveled around the world, I just don’t buy it. Yes, I love New York. But I love a lot of other cities, too. I love Philadelphia for its passion for music (and I prefer to go there for concerts). I love Hamburg, Germany, for the fact that people will sit out in outdoor cafés even in freezing weather…wrapped in blankets! I love Tokyo for the bright and colorful modernity and sense of fun. I love San Francisco for its determination to be different, even though it’s not that different. I love Seattle for the crazy wonderful food that is underappreciated. I love Sydney for its sunshine and relaxed happiness. I love Melbourne for the smell of coffee and brilliant tension between business and art. Paris is amazing for the scent of art everywhere, and London for its history everywhere. I will go back to Ryjkevic just for that amazing brown sugar that tastes just like molasses! Dallas for its chicken fried steak. Knoxville for its fried chicken. Nashville for its music, of course. Miami for…the color of the water at the beach. Los Angeles for KROQ! The world is a wonderful place. And New York City is my second home.

But Pennsylvania is home. I’m the kind of person who needs nature to survive. That’s my hunger. And I love that Pennsylvania just knows that it’s not the center of the universe. It’s just a place where people live normal lives, with plenty of parking for everyone. And the truth is that’s what Rodale Inc. is built on, trying to help people live healthier happier lives, no matter where they live. For me, living out in Pennsylvania keeps me more connected to our customers and how they live. Our magazines and books are in more than 40 countries. And I have a long list of cities I have yet to visit.

So New York, I love you, but you are not the only one. You are an important one, but not the only important one. I know that can be hard to hear, but I’m one of those people who speak the truth, even when it’s not popular. I know you don’t like that about me either. But that’s OK. I love you anyway.

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6 Responses to Why I Love New York City

  1. Cindy Ratzlaff August 5, 2013 at 7:37 am #

    I lived in New York City for 21 years and know exactly how you feel. I need my city fix but what NYC taught me is that I love travel, different cultures, new places and I could never settle down with just one “best city.”

  2. robin heydenberk August 5, 2013 at 7:56 am #

    Great essay. We are so lucky to have the best of both worlds in PA.

  3. Beth Adair August 5, 2013 at 8:17 am #

    You’re a riot Maria! Loved the sentence, “It’s just a place where people live normal lives, with plenty of parking for everyone.”, I laughed outloud. I also cracked up at the part about your finding an organic ice cream truck. A CEO revved to demand organic, I am SO not surprised:)

    I found the snowstorms of 1993 and 1994 in NYC to be a tad challenging when I lived in Queens, but no doubt, you said it when it comes to energy. NYC has the energy of no other city I’ve seen, abroad or in the US. Running the NYC marathon in ’03, with my best friend was a ball. I so appreciated P. Diddy taking an interest, and seeing how revved Harlem after he was through there (I was a mile behind P. Diddy in the race). I am glad that was my retirement marathon (I decided to “hang it up” that year with the longer distances).

    Thanks for your article, the laugh and your views:) . I hope you make the RW festival this year for a book signing of Organic Manifesto, or run take a run with your kids. I showed up last year, it was a blast, and know you gave PA a little energy yourself by it’s creation.

  4. Helen Nelson August 5, 2013 at 11:46 am #

    I do understand why you like New york and I loved your stories about it and your family!!!

  5. Alice Green August 5, 2013 at 6:21 pm #

    The Truth is always music to my ears. Thanks for telling it, over and over, we can never get enough of the Truth!

  6. Mullein August 14, 2013 at 2:19 pm #

    My sis lived near the WTC Memorial site for the last few years, and I visited her in NYC three times! Unfortunately, she moved away from NYC a few months ago, so I probably won’t be visiting the Big Apple any time soon. 🙁 While there the first time, sister took me to visit the HighLine – what an awesome park! I had read about it – and I loved walking it and seeing all the herbs and wild flowers!! From off in the distance, I’ve also noted the driving range on the Chelsea Piers, and I’ve enjoyed parts of the Chelsea Market, too, with its small grocery store. Oh Maria, you are so blessed to be in “in the country” while in NYC! 🙂

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