50th anniversary

My New York

A 50th Anniversary Issue

Alex Katz’s revisiting of his 1940s “Subway Drawings” for New YorkRead more here. Photo: Alex Katz for New York Magazine
Alex Katz’s revisiting of his 1940s “Subway Drawings” for New YorkRead more here. Photo: Alex Katz for New York Magazine
Alex Katz’s revisiting of his 1940s “Subway Drawings” for New YorkRead more here. Photo: Alex Katz for New York Magazine

The city is many cities, that’s the beautiful thing. Everyone builds their own New York, mostly out of the people who surround them. But everyone shares the sidewalks, too. And we trade apartments, sometimes finding someone else’s peroxided hair between the floorboards. We fight over cabs (and Citi Bikes) and close elevator doors on one another. Every busy intersection is a kind of rat-king tangle: chance encounters, drag-out fights, families making their way, transactions and missed connections and hustlers of one kind or another pulling scams of one kind or another on rubes of one kind or another. Which means — look around — that we are always, constantly, starring in one another’s city. Guest-starring, at least. The woman behind the deli counter; the man who bumped into you outside, somehow ruining your day. The person from the subway you’ve been madly fantasizing about since. The one who passed the news to the friend of a friend who later got pinched for insider trading. The encounter in the bathroom of the bar, or the two college kids you watched kiss good-bye at Penn Station who came to mind again years later in the middle of the night. The woman at the dog walk you envy for her beauty; the neighbor you hate for having the apartment with the better view. The intimacies overheard on the street, the bodega-line pickup watched over by the manager. Six degrees of separation can feel like a joke. What connection requires more than three? We live on top of one another.

This anniversary issue is devoted to what might make other people in other places go crazy but here we call connection. Not just the connections we choose, like our poker groups or going-out friends, but those that could happen only in a city as clotted and manic as ours. Fifty years ago, New York’s founding editor Clay Felker wrote a mission statement for his new magazine. “We want to attack what is bad in this city and preserve and encourage what is new and good,” he wrote. “We want to be its voice, to capture what this city is about better than anyone else has.” Here, we return to this mission, attempting to capture the city’s voice through stories that are spoken as much as written, almost entirely in the first person, and always about how our disparate lives intertwine. We realize there are still barriers, of course — moats that divide New York into little islands. The city’s schools are the most segregated in the country, and there are those who rarely leave East New York or the Upper East Side. Nor do we live in a paradise of small talk and getting-to-know-you: Sometimes proximity is dreadful. But New Yorkers who spend their lives here, shoulder to shoulder with one another, cultivate an exquisite talent for close-quarters projection — every stuffed subway car a choose-your-own-adventure of imagined new friends and futures, every commute an excuse to daydream alternate lives.

And eavesdrop. In “The Enormous Radio,” John Cheever imagined a New Yorker tuning in to the sounds of those living stacked around her on all sides — above and below, just to the right and just to the left, a cramped apartment-house honeycomb of urban anomie and gossipy self-consciousness. As everyone who lives here knows, the device isn’t necessary: In most buildings, you don’t need a radio to listen in on the neighbors. And even those blessed with especially strong insulation are assaulted with new voices each time out the door. Inscribed by them, really, as you walk these streets; just open your ears and listen.

Chapter 1: Loose Connections

My Strangers: Who’s sitting next to you on the subway? On an R train in September, we asked.

My Colleague: Toni Morrison on the solution to her problem.

My Cellmate: When the elevator stalled, it was just me and him.

My Three Dealers: Cocaine texts in Hebrew.

My Crowd: On Sunday nights, the regulars order veal Milanese at Sette Mezzo.

My Competition: Six actors auditioning for the same House of Cards role (“Father”).

My Teacher: Sarah Paulson and the woman who got her through high school.

My Drivers: Stargazing from the Holland Tunnel.

My Fan Club: Instagram famous on the F train.

My Characters: Playwright Mfoniso Udofia on five strangers she saw on the street whom she wants to see onstage.

My Oklahomans: Every New Yorker wants to be haunted by her childhood.

My Confidants: The confessions that stuck with a bartender and priest.

My Chorizo Buddy: Can a guy who tells you when certain burritos are in season also kinda break your heart?

My Customers: The view from behind the deli counter.

My Missing Person: A cop and the case he never solved.

My Cub: The current Young Simba meets the original.

My Motivator: Lessons over sit-ups.

Chapter 2: Roommates and Neighbors

My Housemate: Whoopi Goldberg lived in the Chelsea-Elliot Houses, where Maria Cortes now lives. Plus, Martha Stewart, Matthew Broderick, and Lauren Hutton.

My One-Handed Neighbor: Mary told her to get out of the city.

My Blind Neighbor: Abandoned in the Bronx.

My Loud Neighbor: Listening to Airbnb.

My Dead: A midtown hotel, through the head security officer’s eyes.

My Mirror: Dressing for the boss when the boss is the editor of Vogue.

My Voyeurs: Looking out on people looking in.

Chapter 3: Modern Families

My Dad: Eliot Spitzer on the father who wouldn’t let him quit.

My Kid: Children described their city. Their parents made a picture based on those words.

My Family: Waiting at JFK for the flight from San Juan.

My Ride: Katie Couric and Amro Maamoun on their five-year relationship.

My Son: The couple and their boy.

My Americans: An Afghan family comes to New York.

My Angel: Oskar Eustis was fired by his best friend, Tony Kushner.

Chapter 4: Long Agos

My Gang: David Dinkins remembers all his opponents.

My Sammy: Visiting an old friend has its upsides.

My Team: Eventually, Keith Hernandez went to a shrink.

My Fellow Drunks: How I became good at literary parties.

My Tormentor: The issues that surfaced while belly dancing.

My Rich Clients: A. Laurance Kaiser IV, a real-estate broker, coined the term “triple-mint.”

My Audience: Desus and the Kid Mero on figuring out how to be funny.

My Real Friends: Sabu learned to hack on the Lower East Side.

My Boss: Taking dictation from Diana Trilling.

My Other Mother: Donna Karan’s fateful year.

My Mishpocheh: Cindy Adams on just about everybody.

My “It”: Damon Dash answers four questions.

My Artists: Agnes Gund hates it when things are askew.

My Snobs: Learning how power works.

My Marden: Larry Gagosian on the painting that got him a loft that got him a gallery.

My Salesman: If only she hadn’t declined the Fuller Brush man.

My Demo Team: Harry Macklowe on his education.

My Curator: Thelma Golden saw her future.

My Wife: Barry Diller on moving to the West Side with Diane von Furstenberg.

My Benefactor: Mikhail Baryshnikov on his safe landing.

My Moses: Robert Caro on the grandiosity of his subject.

My Critic: Walk away from Pauline Kael, they warned. Whatever.

Chapter 5: Circles

My Fellow Cadets: After school, the Upper East Side Knickerbocker Greys practice drills and drink Shirley Temples.

My Salon: The Yemeni-American friends who get their brows bleached monthly at Le’Jemalik Salon in Bay Ridge.

My Board: Three times a year, the members of the Central Park Conservancy Women’s Committee meet at Doubles.

My Game: Once a month, some Broadway producers and their friends play poker in a midtown office building.

My Orgy: Once a month, on a Clinton Hill roof or sometimes a boat, the sex party known as Chemistry draws its regulars.

My Sharks: One very ordinary, very small insider-trading network.

My Going-Out Friends: On Friday nights, these DJs and artists get ready at Giovanna’s Harlem apartment.

My Sewing Circle: Once a month, Maira Kalman, Rosanne Cash, and friends meet for a stitch ’n’ bitch.

My Grade: The St. Ann’s juniors who spend their nights listening to disco and eating lumberjack breakfasts.

My Tables: An Odeon class reunion.

Chapter 6: Lovers

My Lovers: A brief list.

My Assignation: 482 stories from New Yorkers on the bars, street corners, and stoops where they kissed, got naked, and did things they would someday regret.

My Missed Connection: The aftershocks of a nonevent.

My Andy: Exposed by Warhol’s diary.

My One Good Roommate: Imagining the Paris Review of Budapest.

Chapter 7: Taxi Fares

My Fares: The people Joseph Rodriguez saw through the windshield.

Chapter 8: Flocks

My Flock: Fifty faces of New York’s religious plurality.

Chapter 9: A Daisy Chain of Connections

My New Friend (And Theirs, And Theirs … ): How Pat Kiernan connects to Jeremy Lin connects to Robin Byrd. A 50-person chain of quintessentially New York relationships.

My New York