September 1, 2020

Dear New York…

Dear New Yorkimage source

My parents immigrated to NYC in the early 80’s. They landed in Queens, Far Rockaway to be exact, where I spent the first 18 years of my life.

We lived in a tall, 20 story building, with an identical one, right across the street. Right outside of our window was the A train and I’d hear the train come and go, multiple times an hour. Growing up, I’d always have people ask me “how the hell do you sleep with all of that noise?!” But on the contrary, it’s a sound that would lull me to sleep.

It was that train that took me to my first ballet at Lincoln Center, a tradition that would continue into adulthood. It was that train that took me to my first mega-club in NYC as I’d sneak out of my apartment late at night. I’d take that same train home at 3AM, because as a young girl, a yellow taxi was never something I’d be able to afford. A $1.75 train ride was way more my speed. It was that train that took my father and I to my first US Open, another tradition that would continue up until last year.

It was also that train that took me to my first city job.

I was 16 years old and working as a receptionist in the Empire State Building.  On Friday’s, I’d get my $250 paycheck and head across the street to Wet Seal and Steve Madden where I’d spend half of that on “going out clothes.” Black shiny pants, sequin halter tops and 5″ inch platforms. After my mini shopping spree, I’d walk around the city, looking up at the tall skyscrapers and knowing that I lived in the greatest city in the world. A city where if you work hard enough, your dreams turn into reality.

After I graduated college, I got my first job  in the fashion/garment industry making $32,000 a year. The building was right off 37th street and 5th avenue and I worked as the assistant to the VP of Sales. It was an hour and a half train ride from my apartment in Far Rockaway (I was still living with my mother at the time), but one I was ecstatic to make. A real job! a real salary! Over the course of the next few years, I learned a lot about the business, but I was ready for a new job. After several interviews, I landed at a large handbag company where I had the opportunity to take on more responsibility.

For the next seven years, I’d learn a ton about the business side of the industry. I really loved it, but as the time went on, I was ready for something else. I’d find myself sitting at my desk, dreaming about New York Fashion Week. I wondered what it was like to sit at a show and watch everything come to life. I remember saying to one of my close friends “my dream is to sit front row at a fashion show.”

Around that time, I started Brooklyn Blonde.

Blogs were a new thing, but I needed a hobby. I poured all of my creative energy into awkwardly posed outfit photos that Keith would snap on his new Canon T3.  This was something I was doing for myself, never thinking anyone else would see or that anything would come of it.

A few years later, I got invited to my first fashion week at Lincoln Center.

A year after that, I was invited to sit front row at Hervé Léger.

I think about that moment often. Whether you call it manifestation, luck, hard work, having the opportunity or all of the above, I know that New York City and the people I was surrounded by, had a lot to do with it.

As I started getting a little older, I started to travel a lot.  I went to Italy, France, Australia, Spain, England, Russia, Korea and many states in our country. I loved every single minute of it. The people I met,  the cultures, the different foods, the art, the people watching, the fashion, the bars and clubs. All of it! But you know what part I loved most? I loved coming home. Every single time.  As soon as I’d get off the plane, this feeling would come over me and I’d be reminded at just how special New York was.

And the thing is, New York is not perfect.

Who is?! It’s a city I get defensive over.  You know how they say, “I can talk shit about a family member, but don’t you dare do the same.” That’s how I feel when others, especially those who aren’t from here, bash New York.

Right now, the city is hurting. Watching businesses close and people move out is like watching a best friend or family member go through this painful time. They say it’s a form of grief and I have to agree with that. It’s hard to watch. Hasn’t this city been through enough?

I’d be lying if I said that Keith and I didn’t having hypothetical “but where else?!”  conversations as we talk about our future. Deep in our souls, we know that for us, there will never be a place like New York.

After all, it’s the greatest city in the world and it will bounce back. I have zero doubt. Until then, I plan to stand by its side, as I would for any good friend in need.

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38 comments

  • Heather Stanford

    A beautiful love letter to your city Helena. Thanks for sharing and for giving us more insight into what makes you YOU!

    • Alexandra zenner

      This article is genuinely authentic, shouting out the charm of the city.

      Just beautiful, Helena!

    • Yuliya

      Thank you for writing this. What a beautiful love letter to NYC. Growing up reading novels and watching movies about this magical city – I have always wondered what it would be like to live there. When I came to visit it for the 1st time the energy was like no other. It was if time slowed down and was speed up by 10x all at the same time. I can’t wait to visit it once again.

  • Diana

    I was literally screaming YES to every single word you said. I also grew up in Queens (still live here, first in Flushing, now in Bayside) in a big building, it was magic. The first time I got to the more suburban area, I couldn’t sleep because it was so quiet!! 7 train was my home, hour and a half to get to the city for college and now work, I love the commute, it gives me time to myself without any distraction. I honestly miss the commute now. Also, totally agree – Don’t talk about my New York. That feeling you described about traveling but being happy to go home. This is me every.single.time. I love my city.
    My bf and I just had the same talk, except ours went like “I can never imagine not living in New York, there is nowhere I would rather be”.

    • Diana

      Also, I’m first generation from a Colombian family… I find myself so similar to you. I re-read your letter to New York and am now going to write my own letter to New York tonight. This was great. Also, being so close to 9/11, I just feel even more attached to my City.

  • Stephanie

    This post made me tear up! I’m not from NY (fully) but my entire family grew up in Brooklyn and now I’m living in the same neighborhood that my parents grew up in. I’ve always had a soft spot for New York, it always felt like home to me and now that I’m able to actually call it home, that feeling of love grows stronger. I can’t imagine why people would be willing to just up and move and give up on this city. It’s hurting and as you said, we need to support it, now more than ever!

  • Leslie

    Thank you thank you for this. I couldn’t have said it as eloquently as you have. The only people saying NYC is dead are those who left. It’s going to be hard, but NYC is worth it.

  • Ella

    This was such a beautiful letter to what is also my absolute favorite city in the world. Writing to you from Norway, I too know that city will bounce back. Of course it will , it’s New York!!!

  • Roxanne Disla

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!!! I was born and raised in Corona, Queens, NY in the eighties- yup the epicenter of the pandemic- and moved to Long Island a couple of years ago. Been here through it all- blackout of 2003, 9/11 and Covid. All I can say is despite New Yorkers having a bad rap I can genuinely say we have a huge heart. We come together during the craziest of times and thrive. We are resilient and strong. God willing we will pull through like we did in the past and get stronger. Also, my deepest condolences to you Helena as I too lost my father in April of this year. Oh and btw, NY loves you back and appreciates you!

  • Delia

    So beautifully written! I’ve never been to New York, but it’s on top of my bucket list! Stay safe🤗

  • Nicole Leonard

    Thank you Helena! This was exactly what I needed today. NY has my heart.

  • Cat Lee

    Amen to this Helena! As a lifetime NY‘er I cannot echo this enough : ) This city has gone through a lot of sh-t in the last few years, decades, centuries and has always bounced back and always will!

  • Jen Moss

    Love this so much and I can only partly relate. As someone who lived in NYC for only a few years in my twenties, I get defensive when anyone says, “I could never live in New York.” It’s the best city in the world, and I’ve lived in/visited many cities. Thank you for standing by it! Xo

  • V.C.M.

    LOVE THIS> DITTO

  • Veronika

    Ah yes! My story is very similar to yours. Reading this, made me slightly emotional. My family also landed in Far Rock and we went to the same high school. This city is what dreams are made of. I love NYC with all my heart. I firmly believe that if you work hard and remain clear about your dreams, we manifest our deepest wishes. We definitely have come a long way. I cannot wait to tell my daughter about where I began and how hard it was. My family didn’t have much at all. I used to dream about owning a pair of Nike air sneakers. And clearly remember my dad telling me – he just couldn’t get them for me. I cry thinking about. Anyway- Came from nothing- now we here. 😊😊😊🙏

  • Leslie

    Beautifully written! I unfortunately do not live in New York. However it is my favorite city to visit and I visit frequently. Thank you for sharing this love letter to New York! Also your blog was one of the first blogs I ever read and I started reading it because you live in New York!!!

  • ChrIstine

    This says it all! The thing is, New York is not an “easy” place to live or work- but just like all the best parts of life, it’s worth it- the chats it builds from living here makes you a person who understands what it is to be in the world and of the world❤️ … we’ll never leave!

    • Christine

      Ugh not “chats” – I meant “character” !!

  • trang

    What a lovely and ever more beautiful post about New York City! Still one of my favorite cities! So much love. So much life and so giving!

  • Jenn

    This was sooo good! It made me SUPER homesick. I was born & raised in Queens, Jamaica to be exact & there is literally NO other place like NYC. It is where I made my life long best friends at the tender age of 11. It is where I too had many “firsts” & the one place that will FOREVER be etched in my heart. I no longer live there, but every time I go visit I just feel… finally home ❤️

  • AdriannA

    Feeling the same. Well written ❤️ NYON

  • Tracy

    If you didn’t sneak out your parents home and then take the train home early in the morning, did you even grow up in NYC? I loved the way reading this made me feel.

  • Tracey

    What a beautiful letter to your beloved city. I loved reading your history with the city. It is one of mine and my husbands favorite places to visit and now our kids love it as much as we do! We will be back hopefully sooner than later .

  • Sel

    I live on the other side of the world and I have never travelled to the US. However, I can relate to the feelings and memories you have shared. My home city is exactly that, my home and the home of my family, uncles, aunts and cousins. And, it will always occupy a special place in my heart above all other places. New York City it is not, but I love my home city and, like New York, she is suffering.

  • Diana

    This was beautiful! My husband and I are Brooklyn natives raising our toddlers here and I feel the same way. We are so lucky to have been brought up in this city.

  • Jessica

    Absolutely loved reading this. I wish it was longer! I have only lived in NYC three years, but this really hit home. You inspired me to write my own love letter to NY. Thank you for letting us into your upbringing and what makes NY so special to you

  • Michelle hill

    I love NYC and devoured every word of your post. I had been planning to return for a holiday later this year but unfortunately COVID has put those plans on hold. But I will be back – again and again. I also love my home city of Melbourne, Australia and it is also hurting at the moment. I feel like it’s soul has been ripped out and fear that it will never be the same again. Your post gave me hope that it will also bounce back – just like NYC. Thank you!

  • lidia

    Thank you for writing this letter in these difficult times, although living far away I identify with this city, which I have visited several times… NY, the city that never sleeps!

  • Aspasia

    Beloved Helena
    As far as I can remember me, my dream city is New York…through films and books….growing up in Greece this has become my no 1 goal journey… Being a follower of you Helena I’ve come to adore your city… Your letter made me cry… Your city is the city that dreams are made of and I’m sure at the end everything will be OK… As simple as it sounds.. with great effort!!! And as long there are New Yorkers like you you have nothing to be afraid of!!!! Sending you all my love from Greece!!!! 💋 💋 💋 💋

  • Faith

    As a person born and raised in the city I also get defensive when others talk shit about it. But that’s how you know who the true New Yorkers are! Not only in it when times are good, but also when times are bad! Loved, love this letter to NYC!!

  • Jo-Lynne Shane

    I live a stone’s throw from NYC, over in the suburbs of Philly. This post is so beautiful and heartfelt. NYC will bounce back. It always does. xo

  • Lauren

    I have only ever visited New York once and I when I did I turned to my brother and told him I felt at home. It was the strangest thing ever as soon as I saw the Brooklyn sign my mind and heart said welcome home. I am from Delaware born and raised but there is something about New York that will always leave a hole in my heart.

  • Nancy

    What a beautiful post! I love NYC! I visited for the first time in the early 90’s and fell in love. Each subsequent visit I have met the nicest, most helpful people! Looking forward to my next visit, whenever that may be!

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  • Olga

    Dear Helena,

    Thank you so much for these letter.
    I send love from Poland.

  • Linda

    …just stay north of the mason Dixon line.

  • Sandy

    So beautifully written! Having lived in NYC myself, I can relate to this so much!
    I moved from from the other side of the world as a young 20 year old and made Queens my second home. People keep saying all kinds of things about New York – rude people, dirty, cramped, etc – but no other place warms my heart as much as it.

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