In the time of COVID-19 and the resulting quarantine in New York City, restaurants closed, small businesses shuttered, and thousands moved to the suburbs. Many in the media began to debate the city’s fate. But longtime New Yorkers know that it’s not the first time people turned their backs on the Big Apple. In the 1970s, when President Gerald Ford blocked federal aid amidst the city’s financial crisis, a New York Daily News headline blared: “Ford to City: Drop Dead!” Then, as now, many a New Yorker offered a characteristically unprintable two-word response. And now, as then, many New Yorkers say trying times reaffirm why they love the city. What follows are a couple of responses from Fordham New Yorkers to naysayers, as well as advice on safely exploring the city that never sleeps.
Laura Auricchio, Ph.D.
Dean, Fordham College at Lincoln Center
On a warm August night as the sun drooped down toward the New Jersey skyline, Auricchio walked her dog, Charley, in Riverside Park. Nearby, a jazz trio of drums, guitar, and flute was playing outside Grant’s Tomb. She snapped a shot and posted on her Instagram (@lauraauricchio), “I ❤️ NY – impromptu concert at Grant’s tomb. #nyc #jazz #grantstomb #nytough.” The last hashtag encapsulated the born-and-bred New Yorker’s sentiment toward her hometown.
“I’ve lived through the Summer of Sam, the public-school strike, the transit strike, and the sanitation strike,” said Auricchio, who frequently posts photos of unique New York scenes to her account. “I sincerely believe that New York is at its finest when we are facing a challenge together.”
She said Riverside Park is a favorite spot to enjoy the outdoors while keeping social distance.
“If you’re a New Yorker you’re simply used to the fact that you have to be mindful of people’s needs—we’re never really in isolation, so that awareness makes respecting others’ space second nature to us,” she said.
Justin Rivers, FCRH ’01
Chief Experience Officer, Untapped New York
Shortly after Rivers graduated from Fordham in 2001, he started teaching social studies at a middle school on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. On his fourth day of work, the World Trade Center was attacked. He said that he recalls hearing the same fatalist rhetoric about the city back then.
“When I read that now, I’ll throw the paper across the room. I’m so sick of reading ‘New York is never gonna recover,’ or ‘Crime is through the roof,’ or ‘New York is toast,’” said Rivers. “We may have a tough time, but we’re New York and we’ve been through a lot of tough times. We always bounce back. I’m not going anywhere.”
When Rivers taught middle school, he took students on neighborhood tours. Alongside his teaching duties he wrote a play about the infamous destruction of the New York’s Penn Station, which led to a gig with Untapped New York, a website celebrating unsung New York treasures. Today, he manages tours for the site, which offers virtual and socially distanced tours. He shared a few of his favorite spots:
- Prospect Park: Rivers suggests that friends meet at the less crowded Nethermead meadow in the park that that Central Park designer Fredrick Law Olmsted preferred over its more famous sibling.
- Green-Wood Cemetery: Take a stroll through one of the city’s most pastoral and architecturally significant landscapes. Rivers advises grabbing a bite to go at the Israeli eatery Batata
- Domino Park: The popular East River park made national press with its “ingenious circles” that define contained areas for small groups to gather while remaining socially distant.
- The Elevated Acre: Nestled between two towers in Manhattan’s Financial District, this one-acre park is a quiet respite from the action that’s bubbling up again downtown, he said. “It’s lower Manhattan’s High Line, but it’s hidden and with only one entrance on South Street.”
Interim Director of Athletics
Born in Brooklyn, raised in Queens, and now living in Long Island, Kull likes to take his 8- and 9-year-old boys cycling in Flushing Meadows Corona Park. With its mostly level surface, this Queens park, designed for the 1939 World’s Fair, is perfect for an easy weekend ride. Kull said he likes to show his boys memorable places from his childhood, particularly Citi Field (“Go Mets!). They also bike past the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, site of the U.S. Open, which is happening now, though only on TV. On the way out of the park be sure to drop by the Queens Museum, Kull said, which is set to reopen on Sept. 16, and make the Lemon Ice King of Corona the last stop. Flavors range from the tropical (piña colada, coconut, mango) to the creative (spumoni) and the classic (lemon).
Assistant Director of Diversity and Inclusion
An indefatigable champion of the Bronx, Aponte said she’s thrilled to hear that the Bronx Museum reopens this week and also suggests a walk through the New York Botanical Gardens. So far, she said she and her husband Bobby Gonzalez, a Bronx-based community organizer, have limited their ventures out to South of France, the South Bronx Puerto Rican restaurant and community hub. Owner Mirabel Gonzales spent the last six months delivering food to Bronx residents affected by the COVID-19 virus.
“Maribel has outdoor dining, very nice, with the bright red umbrellas and of course the food is excellent,” said Aponte. “We know the restaurant industry is really hurting now, and South of France is iconic for Orchard Beach groups, salsa and freestyle lovers, comedy lovers, and people who love fresh Latin food.”
Professor of Law
Kent grew up in Marblehead, a small town on the northern coast of Massachusetts, and started visiting New York City in the 1980s as a teenager. Back then he explored record stores and hung out at the infamous punk club CBGBs. While he still loves the noise, he also loves the serenity of Central Park.
“One of my favorite places is the Ramble in Central Park, a hilly wooded area in which you can forget for a moment that you are in the middle of 8.5 million people,” he said. “People say it’s a great spot for bird watching, but I go for the shady calm that the lovely trees there give us.”
Associate Dean of Strategic Marketing and Enrollment
School of Professional and Continuing Studies
Born in Poughkeepsie and raised in Stamford, Connecticut, Marais moved to New York “immediately” after college. She’s lived on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, Brooklyn’s Carroll Gardens, and Brooklyn Heights before moving to Bronxville in Westchester County, just north of Fordham’s Rose Hill campus. Though she misses the bustle of Brooklyn’s Montague Street and the view from the Promenade, she said she’s loved visiting Arthur Avenue since the street was closed to traffic on weekend nights as part of the Phase 2 reopening of the city.
“It’s lovely because they’ve opened the street and it has a very Old World feel to it,” Marais said of the new Piazza di Belmont. “Just about every single restaurant is open and it’s the most beautiful time of year. It’s like Paris meets the Bronx.”
Kirsten Swinth, Ph.D.
Professor of History
Swinth grew up in Montana and came to the city in the 1990s. She lives on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. To escape the constant din of traffic, she said she walks a few blocks east and enters what feels like a world away on Randall’s Island, one of the city’s main recreation hubs, with 60 athletic fields for baseball, softball, and soccer; courts for tennis; greens for golf; an urban farm; event spaces; a salt marsh, and other city facilities.
“It’s fantastic, it’s everything there is in New York City, including a mental health facility and a jail,” said Swinth. “There are so many flowers and fields. Walking by the water, that’s my favorite thing to do.”
Swinth suggests crossing by way of the 103rd Street “flyover” and packing a lunch, as there are few venues for food on the island.
Director of Public Safety
Dineen lived in the Bronx until high school, when his family moved upstate to Orange County, where he still lives. He said he loves his daily commute to and from the city.
“I have been working in New York City since 1984. So that means I have been driving back and forth from Orange County to New York City for the last 36 years,” he said. “What I truly enjoy and what is very therapeutic for me is driving north on the Westside Highway after work and taking in the magnificent Hudson River, particularly as the sun sets at the end of the day.”
Dineen noted that Hudson River Park, a short walk from Lincoln Center, is at its peak during sunset.
“In the end, I love everything about New York City—the greatest city in the world—and don’t let me forget, the New York Yankees!”