As much as New York likes to tout itself as the greatest city in the world, it’s one of the toughest places to craft a life. Between rent prices as high as the city’s skyscrapers, soul-crushing day jobs with brutal hours, and competition for everything from school spots to subway seats, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed just by daily life here. And now that we’re facing this crisis, it’s easy to spiral into despair. But as tough as things are here, New Yorkers (and any frustrated out-of-towners) shouldn’t forget that we’re surrounded by symbols of hope. Here are a few of the inspiring spots in NYC that are symbols of hope we can all look upon.
The Statue of Liberty
Technically, the people of France sent the Statue of Liberty to the U.S. as a congratulations gift for lasting so long as a democratic nation (and also to throw a bit of shade at the French government, which at the time was a constitutional monarchy); but the statue took on a new meaning as more and more immigrants arrived on the shores of New York harbor. For them, the Statue of Liberty symbolized a new life with new opportunities. Lady Liberty, standing tall and stoic on her pedestal embodied the strength they would need to face the challenges that would come their way.
Rockefeller Center conjures thoughts of the iconic skating rink below the annual massive Christmas tree, of the breathtaking view at the Top of the Rock, and the hit TV show 30 Rock. More often than not, the story behind the creation of this commercial complex isn’t given as much thought. Today, Rockefeller Center is an entertainment paradise but in the 1930s it was a bold beacon of optimism in America’s ability to recover from an economic crisis.
When construction of the complex started in 1930, a third of the manufacturing firms in New York were out of business and 64% of the construction workers were out of work, according to Daniel Okrent’s book, “Great Fortune: The Epic of Rockefeller Center”. It would have made sense to halt the Rockefeller project or abandon it altogether, but instead John D. Rockefeller, Jr. poured even more money into the project. Sure, that was quite a gamble to make during the Great Depression, but Rockefeller had faith in the future of the city and the country, and he wanted to show others that it was okay to have faith too.
The Freedom Tower and the Oculus
It’s indescribable the amount of pain the 9/11 terrorist attacks caused New York, but we have channeled that pain into two beautiful symbols of strength and resilience: the Freedom Tower and the Oculus. Rising higher than the Twin Towers did, the Freedom Tower is not only a 1,776-foot middle finger to threats; it also proves how we can rise from the ashes and stand taller than before. As for the Oculus, this unusual structure has been described as everything from a dove taking flight to a whale’s ribcage. However you view it, its designer Santiago Calatrava envisions his creation as representing how “light continues to shine through after the darkness of the tragedy”.
The three ton menacing bull at the tip of Bowling Green isn’t a threat; it’s something to aspire. When artist Arturo Di Modica stealthily installed the Charging Bull in the area in 1989, his goal was to give New Yorkers a pick-me-up. A couple of years earlier, Wall Street had a major crash, which Di Modica believed was caused by greed, privilege, and excess. He created the Charging Bull not only to show his belief that Wall Street could weather any financial difficulty, but also to represent “the courage and can-do spirit of Americans and New Yorkers in particular,” as the bull’s website states. Today, people rub the bull’s balls for good luck, but instead they should rub it to renew their courage.
These places we’ve talked about are not merely tourist destinations or structures put in places to make New York City prettier. These places are testaments to the many challenges this city has weathered. They are the embodiment of the resilience of New Yorkers. Life is tough, but New Yorkers are tougher, and I hope that you’ll look to these inspiring spots in NYC if you ever need a reminder.
If any other inspiring spots or symbols of hope come to mind, share it with us in the comment section.