If You Could Make One Change in NYC in 2014, What Would You Do?

New York resolutions

If You Could Make One Change in NYC in 2014, What Would You Do?
Photographed by Jesse Dittmar in The Back Room, NYC

Picture this: You're walking down the street, en route to your landlord's office to demand he extract the dead whatever-it-is from your A/C. You're minding your own business, putting one foot in front of the other, but slowly you start to let your surroundings in: an old man asking a teenager why aliens shot off his hands, a black rat building a grotto out of Coke cans, the twentysomething women in dresses the '70s want back doing their best Hannah Horvath, grown men in painted-on jeans with enough product in their hair to anchor an aircraft carrier, crust punks wrestling Egg McMuffins from their dogs, kids practicing cuss words on each other. Above it all, the wind carries the sweet tones of Wayne Wonder's reggae cover of "Fast Car."

OK, not the likeliest scenario. But the thing about New York is, this particular setup doesn't strain the imagination. That's what's so amazing about this city. We have a year like 2013, with Anthony Weiner focusing our attention yet again on his wiener, a sitting mayor who said black and Latino men aren't harassed by police enough, and Miley Cyrus twerking the Barclays Center — and life just keeps on moving, maybe with a bit more pep.

Which got us to thinking: What will 2014 bring? How will New York City change in 2014? For the better? The worse? Then we said to ourselves: Why wait for the change to come about on its own? What if we could instigate it ourselves? What would we do?

While pondering the question, we put it to a handful of our fellow New Yorkers. Here's what we asked them:

If you could make one change in New York City to make it a better place in 2014, what would you do, and how would you accomplish it?

Money, we said, is no object. Bureaucratic hurdles are set aside. Think as big as you want or as small — there's no such thing as too local or too narrow here. But be specific: "Peace on earth and goodwill toward men" is a lovely sentiment, but it's too vague. A ban on talking loudly on one's phone in public is better — and a concrete step toward world peace.

Edited a bit for space and clarity, here's what your fellow citizens came up with . . .

Bridget Everett


Cabaret singer, Bridget Everett and the Tender Moments

The obvious answer, for me, is to stop allowing teens to ride the train in groups of two or more. But if I really think about what would make New York a better place, it's this: Take care of your shit before you go to the seventh-floor ladies' room at Macy's (big ladies and kids floor/McDonald's adjacent).

You have never seen the kinds of crimes against humanity that people commit in a place that's supposed to bring joy to so many. It's unfathomable. It's horrific. It's cruel and unkind. It's like people wake up in their hotel rooms or their shares or on their friend's couch and then someone makes them coffee and a nice breakfast. They feel that coffee move through their tummies and into their bowels and they think, "Hey, I could take care of this now in the comfort of this wonderful pink bathroom with a sweet little toilet shrug." But then they think, "No. Save it for Macy's."

They grab their coat and their keys, pick out a playlist, and lock the front door. Say hello to Jimmy at the pizza shop, dig in their purses for their MetroCards, hop on the train, take the local 'cause they're in no rush, get off on 34th Street, then say to themselves, "All right, we're here. Let's get to work." Then they walk into Macy's, hop on the elevator, go up to seven, and unleash the fury.

Katie Roiphe


Author (In Praise of Messy Lives)

I think the city would be a better place if it instituted a dauntingly large tax on anyone making over $200,000 a year, which would pay for the following in public schools: orchids and other plants, lavish salad bars, state-of-the-art coffee machines and excellent strong coffee for teachers, bright new rugs, gleaming new science labs, pretty libraries with window seats and pillows, art from great artists for the hallways, stipends for writers and poets to come and give workshops, assistant teachers, costumes, computers, magic markers, glitter.

Brian Lehrer

Radio host, The Brian Lehrer Show, WNYC (93.9 FM)

My 2014 New York New Year's resolution is a Tax Break Truce. New York should propose to New Jersey and Connecticut that all three states resolve not to be played by companies seeking to evade their civic duty to pay taxes on their profits by threatening to move from one state or locality in our region to another.

All area governors, mayors, and other local officials should resolve not to offer tax breaks for the purpose of luring a company into moving within the region or preventing a company from doing so. If this Tax Break Truce is successful locally, the governors of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut can propose it as a nationwide ethic: no competing for jobs by letting profitable employers evade their tax obligations.

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