I studied abroad in Florence, Italy, in 2015. I attended the Lorenzo de’ Medici Institute, whose namesake was one of the most powerful patrons of the arts in 15th-century Italy. My favorite class focused on the period we dub the Renaissance (or rebirth). This period of time wasn’t commonly referred to as the Renaissance until the 19th century, so I always wondered if the people who lived through it knew they were witnessing an era that would later be recognized as the catalyst of all creative change in the modern world. Crazy, right?

To the people living in this monumental era centuries ago, it was simply a cultural movement breathing air into the lungs of a people who only knew war, famine, and plague. It all feels eerily familiar – the light after the darkness, the sun after a long night, the smell of dollar pizza after months of home-cooked “meals” in quarantine, etc.

COVID-19 is not the only plague we are familiar with, but its short-term and long-term effects have been embedded into our communities. From the news headlines, New York City may as well have a “VACANCY” sign painted over the skyline for all visitors to see while flying into JFK. Broadway is silent, Times Square is dim, and I don’t hear “New York, New York” echoing the streets of Manhattan as I once did. It’s a whisper at best. But a whisper I’ll take. We’re still here.

To my fellow New Yorkers who have stayed put since the infamous March 14, our city will come back stronger than ever. While there are still many unknowns, the unwavering resilience of this city is a force I will always bet on. Similar to the Crisis of the Late Middle Ages which preceded the Renaissance in Europe, we as a city have stood together in crisis. We’ve protested systemic racism. We’ve been hit with a pandemic that stole the lives of thousands of our own and counting. An insatiable hunger for justice, peace, and equality has rooted itself so deep inside each of us that a change has been sparked.

This change, this metamorphosis, is our catalyst. Centuries from now, our descendants will wonder if we knew we were living in such an extraordinary era. They will wonder if we anticipated all of the change that is soon to come. While our Dark Ages are not too far behind us, we can still look forward in the hopes of a future where we not only recover from our recent losses, but come back even stronger than before – all the creativity, all the arts, all the tourists (please walk faster), all the dives, all the small businesses and local bars we’ve called home.

We’ve become stronger, more understanding, more compassionate, and we are standing in solidarity. Although New York is struggling, New York is not lost. Our Renaissance is coming, and it is up to us to know we are living through it and to embody this change. It is up to you, New York.


Christy Santoro has proudly lived in Hell’s Kitchen since 2018. An enthusiastic wellness junkie, she’s a big fan of spending evenings on her rooftop with her friends. You can follow her adventures on IG @runchristy.