Life

Reflections on New York in Turmoil: Navigating Terrorism, Protests, Immigration Crises and Rising Tensions as a Long-Time Resident

  According to U.S. time, October 13th was the seventh day after Hamas attacked Israel. The aftermath of the attack that broke out in the Middle East finally reached New York, the capital of the world.
  On Friday, employee Kenji told me that he could not go to Manhattan to deliver goods. Then I remembered a notice I saw the day before, which advised not to enter Manhattan the next day because of possible terrorist attacks and riots. Kenji’s wife works in a hospital in Manhattan, and the hospital has booked a hotel for the employees on duty to stay overnight in advance to reduce the worry of traveling. Kenji drove his wife into Manhattan at 5 a.m. on October 13. On weekdays, his wife took the subway to work.
  Later I learned that there was a big protest in Times Square on Friday – former Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal called on social media for people to gather in public on Friday to express their anger. .
It’s no longer the New York I know

  In my memory, there has been only one such announcement on the prevention of terrorist attacks.
  After the “9·11” incident, the US military began to attack Afghanistan. One day, the general manager of the company called us to the conference room and said very seriously that according to reliable information from relevant departments, we should not go to crowded places in the past few days, and unnecessary trips should be cancelled, but the company’s operations will be normal. Uneasy, we walked out of the meeting room, left the company, and called family and friends to tell them. Unexpectedly, most of them got the same announcement from their bosses or managers.
  After a few days of panic for some New Yorkers, nothing happened, as if everything was business as usual.
  What changes is actually a state of mind. On September 11, 2001, I was in Shanghai. I had just returned to Shanghai from New York to visit my parents. I saw on TV that the Twin Towers were hit, burned and collapsed, and they suddenly disappeared into nothing. On that day, if I were in New York, according to my work schedule, I would visit clients near the Twin Towers. I was not lucky that I was not in New York at the time, because the time when the plane hit the building was not the time for me to visit clients.
  Only later did I learn that a business boss and his son who had just graduated from college went to a company in the Twin Towers for an interview that day and never came back; the lobby manager of a Cantonese restaurant was from the “Window of the World” restaurant on the top floor of the Twin Towers. The only survivor, he had a fever and did not go to work that day. All his colleagues were killed.
  I still remember that when I saw the Twin Towers suddenly disappearing from the horizon, I felt a little sad. I felt that something was missing, but I didn’t feel too sad. I just felt that it was a pity that I didn’t go to the top of the Twin Towers earlier. What I am worried about are the customers. They will definitely be affected. Whether the business can continue is a real problem.
  I returned to New York two weeks later and it was no longer the New York I knew. Places with slightly more people, whether in subway stations, tunnels, bridges, or at the entrances of buildings, are guarded by armed National Defense Forces soldiers, and the air in the entire city is tense.
  The exhaust gas produced by the burning of the Twin Towers has lingered over Manhattan for a long time, reminding people of the unjust ghosts who lost their lives in the terrorist attacks. The smell of these exhaust gases spreads very far, even to homes in Brooklyn. You can still smell it even if the doors and windows are closed. In the years after the “9/11” incident, lower Manhattan, including Chinatown, experienced a surge in respiratory diseases and lung cancer. The New York City government provides free medical care to these people, and even installs air conditioners for free in areas affected by exhaust gas as long as the parties apply.
  It has been 22 years since this incident happened. Although time can heal everything, for New Yorkers, the pain in their hearts will never be erased. For both New Yorkers and other Americans, the “9/11” incident was a dividing line. Society, public sentiment, and interactions between people were no longer the same as before. Americans who trust people easily and are relatively naive have changed overnight, and the mentality of Americans has changed.
Events that affected the lives of New Yorkers

  I have lived in New York for 26 years, and I feel like I am in the most prosperous city in the world. Although noisy and busy things are standard, most days are still peaceful. There are three events that have affected the lives of New Yorkers after the “9/11” incident in my memory: one was the blackout, one was Hurricane Sandy, and the other was the epidemic that just passed.
The exhaust gas produced by the burning of the Twin Towers has lingered over Manhattan for a long time, reminding people of the unjust ghosts who lost their lives in the terrorist attacks. The smell of these exhaust gases spreads very far, even to homes in Brooklyn. You can still smell it even if the doors and windows are closed.

  During the blackout, the subway and traffic lights were shut down, not to mention that there was no power at home. Every time I drove through an intersection that day, I would see someone volunteering to direct traffic there. The sudden large-scale power outage brought a lot of inconvenience to life. Well-informed New Yorkers did not hesitate to do what they should do. Some restaurants lit candles and continued to operate. There was a Hispanic employee who walked three hours to come to work, and then walked another three hours home after finding out the power was out and the company was closed.
  Hurricane Sandy is another shared memory among New Yorkers. Almost everything near the Atlantic Ocean in lower Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens was flooded. After the hurricane, I passed through Sheepshead Bay (a severely flooded area) and saw cars lined up on the road, which had been washed away by sea water, and there were also tree branches and garbage on the ground. A friend who lives in that area luckily moved his car elsewhere and escaped the disaster.
  There was also a late-night snowstorm one year, and the city government was not prepared to plow the snow. Many motorists had to abandon their cars on the rapidly snowy road and step on the snow to get home.
  Over the years, New Yorkers have experienced various natural and man-made disasters. Some have become accustomed to them, or they have become numb. When the COVID-19 epidemic hit, everyone did not take it seriously. It wasn’t until the mayor announced a city-wide shutdown of work and school, and people stayed at home, that they realized the seriousness of the problem.
  Now that the coronavirus pandemic is over, life seems to be back to normal, but is it really so? On the surface, things are back to the previous pace, and all the closed Michelin restaurants have reopened, including Eleven Madison Park. This Michelin three-star store, after selling high-end bento boxes for a while during the epidemic, announced its closure because it couldn’t hold on any longer. Now it’s open for business again. Companies in Manhattan, which asked employees to work from home during the epidemic, are now asking employees to return to the company. Times Square was once again filled with tourists from all over the world, and it became even more crowded after midnight.
The problem of stowaways

  New York has returned to overcrowding and prosperity, but this time the overcrowding has a bit more of an unspeakable flavor than before. Since last year, more than 100,000 illegal immigrants have entered New York.
  According to a major newspaper report on October 19, the number of stowaways in New York has reached 130,600. New York City estimates that it will spend US$5 billion in this fiscal year to house and provide food for these stowaways. The influx of stowaways has overwhelmed 213 shelters and 17 human rights rescue centers in New York. New York City has also commandeered hotels in Manhattan to accommodate these stowaways. Even so, this summer, dozens of stowaways were arranged to sleep on nearby Manhattan streets because shelters were full.
  Eric Adams, the current mayor of New York City, originally vowed to provide protection for all illegal immigrants coming to New York. However, he has recently changed his attitude and has even become more and more anxious.
  While he asked the state and federal governments to give New York more support, he flew to Mexico, Ecuador, and Colombia to tell potential stowaways not to stowaway to New York anymore. New York was already overcrowded and could not accept more stowaways. Under pressure, New York City also began to shift the blame: As long as the stowaways are willing to leave New York and go to other states, New York City will provide help. New York has also issued new regulations: single stowaways must leave after staying in a shelter for 30 days.
  It is worth mentioning that the New York Seven Hall space where I work is located on East Broadway in Manhattan, where there is a shelter. Next door to the shelter is a Buddhist temple, and the other store next door is the famous Chinese restaurant Huayuan, which is only 30 meters away from the building where Qitang is located. This shelter occasionally has homeless people lining up outside the door waiting to check in. Most of the time there is no one at the door. It is no different from an ordinary apartment building. I don’t know if there are any stowaways inside, at least I haven’t seen them. Maybe this shelter is the same as the shelter in Will Smith’s 2006 movie “The Pursuit of Happiness”, which is open for check-in in the evening and must leave in the morning, so it does not take in stowaways.
It was New York Marathon Day a while ago. After the police blocked the intersection, they did not take further strict prevention and control measures, and the National Defense Forces with live ammunition would not be seen. For a moment, I really thought that the shadow of the “9.11 incident” had disappeared over New York.

  For the people of New York City, these stowaways are not seen on a daily basis; the only thing the people are concerned about is the impact that the huge expenditures on the stowaways will have on themselves. Sure enough, in addition to imposing vehicle tolls into Manhattan starting next year, the authorities recently announced that all public libraries will be closed on Sundays. It can be expected that more fees will be imposed and other public services will be cut in the future.
  The problem of stowaway immigrants may be temporary for New York City, but it is more of a headache for the mayor and the city government who are struggling to cope with it. The marijuana problem will become a long-term problem in New York and affect the daily lives of ordinary people. Since New York State legislated in 2021 that adults over the age of 21 can possess and consume up to 3 ounces of marijuana or 24 grams of marijuana extract, marijuana shops in New York have sprung up on the streets. Data from the New York City Council, which did not release the source, said there were more than 8,000 marijuana shops in New York, and Mayor Adams claimed there were 1,500. Nowadays, walking on the streets of New York, you will smell the pungent smell of marijuana from time to time, which is stronger than the smell of cigarette smoke. The faint smell of marijuana is becoming a new addition to the existing New York flavor.
Asian hate crimes

  If stowaways and marijuana are new problems that New Yorkers will face after the epidemic, then Asians living in New York City will have to face another sequelae of the epidemic, that is, crimes against Asians are increasing rapidly. increase.
  According to the official website of USAFacts, from an article published on June 5 this year, crimes against Asians increased from 330 in 2020 to 820 in 2021. The latest data was mentioned by CNN on October 31 this year: FBI data shows that the number of hate crimes against Asians dropped by 33% in 2022, from 746 in 2021 to 499 in 2022. According to the tolerant character of Asians, what actually happened must be far more than that.

  Among the anti-Asian crimes that have occurred, the victims are mostly female. People generally bully the weak and fear the strong, and criminals are no exception. I remember that for a while, there were incidents of Asians being pushed off the tracks at subway stations. During that time, everyone around me was in danger, and I especially advised my family not to take the subway. I myself couldn’t take the subway twice a year. In a relatively closed and crowded space like the subway, the probability of being maliciously violated is too high.
  In August this year, Sue Young, a 51-year-old Chinese woman, was attacked on the F line of the subway. At that time, the Asian family from Nevada was vacationing in New York. Bystander Joanna Lin was also assaulted while filming a black girl harassing the family.
  The next day after the incident, the 16-year-old black girl who beat someone was arrested by New York police. But what is surprising and reasonable is that this Chinese woman let the black girl go, claiming that the black girl did not attack her because of hatred of Asians, and she would not sue the girl. Being forgiving is a good side of our culture, but in a complex society like the United States, I really don’t know what the outcome will be.
  Sue Young represents some Chinese people living in the United States, but there are also Chinese people who no longer tolerate it. After the Spring Festival last year, I received a call from Chen Xi, director of the Immigration Services Department of the Queens Library. The other party wanted to hold a concert in Qitang. A Chinese voluntary organization called “Stop Asian Hate” donated a sum to the library. With the money, let them organize an online concert to let more New Yorkers understand the music culture of different regions in China. So I found my teacher, the famous flute player Chen Tao, and planned this online concert together. The concert played a variety of repertoire from Jiangnan to Saibei, from national style to ethnic minority style, which can be regarded as a contribution to ending hatred of Asians.
Data from the New York City Council, which did not release the source, said there were more than 8,000 marijuana shops in New York, and Mayor Adams claimed there were 1,500. Nowadays, walking on the streets of New York, you will smell the pungent smell of marijuana from time to time, which is stronger than the smell of cigarette smoke.
became an arab community

  After the “9·11” incident, probably due to the high level of prevention and control of terrorist attacks by relevant departments, similar incidents no longer occurred, and it is expected that there will no longer occur in the future. It was New York Marathon day a while ago. I went to Central Park before the marathon ended. I saw that both sides of the road were crowded with spectators and groups of relatives and friends cheering for the runners. After the police blocked the intersection, they did not take further strict prevention and control measures, and the National Defense Forces with live ammunition would not be seen. For a moment, I really thought that the shadow of the “9.11 incident” had disappeared over New York.
  The biggest change in my community, Bay Ridge (located on the southwest side of Brooklyn) after the “9/11” incident, was the large number of Arab immigrants who moved in. Fifth Avenue, two streets away from my home, was originally a neighborhood for Nordic and Italian immigrants, but now it has become an Arab neighborhood. The entire Fifth Avenue is almost full of various shops opened by Arabs, including coffee shops, Middle Eastern restaurants, bakeries, furniture stores, carpet shops, etc.
  Two days ago, I ordered a blind box of bread online. The store where I picked up the box was on Fifth Avenue, and its name was Yemen Coffee Shop. It reminded me of the missiles launched from Yemen to Israel mentioned in the news—Yemen may now be The place where terrorists are most concentrated.

  I found the shop with “Yemen Coffee” on the door and opened the door. The roof is covered with vines, and several spaces in the store are separated by green plants. There are tables and chairs in these relatively independent spaces. A white woman is typing something on an Apple computer, and two young Arab men are drinking coffee and chatting. I found the counter, where a not-too-young, somewhat stocky white man was doing something in front of the cash register. I showed him the pickup code on my phone and he looked confused. At this time, a young man dressed in casual clothes, with dark skin, curly hair hanging on his forehead, shining eyes, and thin body came over kindly with a smile on his face. After looking at my pickup code, he ordered the white man to The man filled the box with croissants, garlic buns, and spinach buns. He filled the box full and handed it to me kindly, saying thank you.
Two days ago, I ordered a blind box of bread online. The store where I picked up the box was on Fifth Avenue, and its name was Yemen Coffee Shop. It reminded me of the missiles launched from Yemen to Israel mentioned in the news.

  I walked out of the door with the blind box and stood on the Fifth Avenue. The streets were full of lights, passers-by were leisurely, and it was quiet and peaceful. But just a few weeks ago, on this very street, the NYPD dispersed Arabs demonstrating in support of Palestinians suffering in Gaza. That day was October 23, 17 days had passed since the day Hamas attacked Israel, and 10 days had passed since the day Kenji sent his wife to work in Manhattan.

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