Just three weeks ago, our taxi-riding, NoLiTa-shopping, cocktail-consuming ways were seen -- even sometimes by ourselves -- as a sign of decadence, if not a Sex and the City script. Now we realize how innocent we were. Now, we learn, eating and drinking and theatergoing and spending (not to mention giving and volunteering) are the patriotic duty of all who consider themselves New Yorkers. The city still needs heroes. And on the following pages you'll find innumerable ways to help save your city -- whether or not you're a credit-card-carrying American.
UNFURL YOUR DOLLAR BILLS
If red, white, and blue are your new favorite colors, let your dollars do double duty: At Bendel's, proceeds from all things flag-hued go to charities, including the September 11th Fund. Ditto the profits from Old Navy's flag tees ($5) and Saks' Trade Center commemorative tops ($20). And if you're not keen on parading around in your purchases, the dog will be happy to oblige: At The 4 Paws Club, 65 percent of proceeds from Ella Dish's dog leash ($42) and collar ($40) go to the FDNY. After your patriotic shopping spree, kick back at Bliss, where $10 from every massage or facial through 2001 goes to the Twin Towers Fund.
Get out of the kitchen: Armies march on their stomachs. And the army of rescue workers at ground zero has eaten well indeed -- catered to by some of the best chefs in the country. Now, however, downtown restaurateurs say they need their own Marshall Plan to bring back paying customers.
"The restaurant business can't sustain weeks of this," says Drew Nieporent, who owns Nobu, Montrachet, Tribeca Grill, and Layla, all below Canal. A shuttle bus should begin operating within the next few days, says Jacques Capsouto, of Capsouto Frères, who will also cut prices by 25 percent. Local businesses, including restaurants such as Chanterelle, Bouley Bakery, and Bubby's, have formed the TriBeCa Organization in the hopes of luring visitors with neighborhood-wide discounts the weekend of October 12.
Of course, midtown has also been thinly populated. "We are depending almost exclusively on our regular customers right now," says Le Cirque's Sirio Maccioni. Lutèce is introducing an à la carte menu, and Medi, the costly new Rockefeller Center restaurant from French chef Roger Vergé, has a special $29.95 prix fixe "I Love New York" menu.
As on Broadway, restaurant workers are making sacrifices for the greater good. "The staff is being wonderful," says Maguy Le Coze, owner of Le Bernardin, which closed for a week because she couldn't get fish that met her standards. "They have agreed to take a cut in salary for as long as it is needed.'' Customers are beginning to return the favor. "Some people I haven't seen in a while are coming," says Le Coze. "There has been a definite increase since last week." Don't forget to tip.
BETH LANDMAN KEIL
NEW YORK NEEDS FARE PLAY
If no one's going out, it's only logical that they don't need cabs to take them home. "Look at this," sighs a taxi driver named Prince as he passes typically chaotic Herald Square without a single tap on his horn. "It should be much, much busier at this hour."
Prince has been struggling to make $300 after eighteen hours behind the wheel, $100 less than normal. George Marquaye says he can drive around for two hours these days without a single pickup, pulling in half as much as he used to. "Tourists are our main customers," he says, "and there aren't any in New York right now."
Many cabbies are also worried about discrimination. Like a lot of drivers from the Middle East and South Asia, Ashok Kumar, an Indian, displays an American flag prominently on his antenna. Still, he says, riders are suspicious. "A lot of people are asking me many questions about myself. Like where am I from, and how long have I been in this country? They're nervous, I understand. I just try to be very nice." It's up to us to be nice back.
TAKE A STAND AGAINST HIGH-RISE ANXIETY
With workers looking to leave their jobs in conspicuously tall buildings -- and a new Gallup poll finding that 35 percent of Americans are now less willing to walk into a skyscraper -- it's time to get right back onto that elevator and hit ph. One great spot to amplify your vertigo is the View, the rotating bar and restaurant on the forty-seventh and forty-eighth floors of the Marriott Marquis (212-704-8900). For more stationary -- but equally breathtaking -- vistas, try Above, on the twenty-first floor of the Times Square Hilton (212-642-2626), or Top of the Tower, on the twenty-sixth-floor penthouse of the Beekman Tower Hotel (212-980-4796). Or head to the Rainbow Room on the sixty-fifth floor of Rockefeller Center (212-632-5100). Consider it practice: a way to work up your nerve to take the elevators up to the Empire State Building Observatory.