Michael Barth is a 26-year-old Wall Street associate. Last month he got a call from a four-star Admiral to tell him that his work with the Coast Guard Auxiliary (the uniformed civilian component of the U.S. Coast Guard) had been outstanding — he was given the “Auxiliarist of the Year” award. As Admiral Karl Schultz, the Commandant of the United States Coast Guard said: “As an organization of about 25,000 strong, that is no small feat.” Here’s Michael’s West Side Story.

So, what’s your New York story? Born here, or just arrived?

I’m from South Florida originally. I came to NYC in 2013 to attend Columbia University, and I’ve been here ever since.

How did you end up in Hell’s Kitchen?

I moved in with a friend of mine from school. We found a place, and we’re still here after over four years!

What’s your favorite thing about Hell’s Kitchen?

Hard to pick just one. The wine bars, the restaurants, the energy… and the fact that we can conveniently get to anywhere from here. (Did I mention the wine bars?)

And what’s your Hell’s Kitchen pet peeve?

Quite honestly, haven’t found one yet.

What did you do for work pre-COVID? What are you doing now?

Full time, I’m a Strategy Associate in J.P. Morgan Chase & Co.’s Commercial Bank Strategy Group. I also serve as a U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliarist, and volunteer on the board of a pro-bono consulting group.

What’s the most interesting thing that you’ve learned during the pandemic?

How extroverted many people are. It seems like everyone is trying to connect with others virtually, whether through virtual happy hours, dates, or extended phone calls. I was setting up all of the above myself one week into quarantine!

Tell us one thing that’s given you hope during the pandemic?

The incredible spirit of service and self-sacrifice that my brothers and sisters in uniform possess. As soon as the pandemic hit, the first questions we all asked were, “What can I do? How can I help? How can I get deployed?” The fact that everyone wanted to make a difference and serve others made me realize that we’re going to be okay.

What’s the most serendipitous (random/obscure/ insane) experience that’s happened to you in Hell’s Kitchen?

I ran into a Coast Guard veteran who served in the Second World War. As it turns out, he served on my grandfather’s sister ship—and fought alongside him from D-Day to Okinawa. I told him about my grandfather being wounded in a kamikaze attack towards the end of the war. He solemnly nodded and said, “I saw ‘em get hit.”

What’s your closest brush with world fame and celebrity?

When I received a personal phone call from the Commandant of the United States Coast Guard, which is a pretty direct brush with celebrity from a Coastie’s perspective. I also ran into Jay-Z in the elevator. His record label is in the same building where I used to work.

Michael after completing the Fred Lebow half marathon in Central Park in January 2020.

What’s your superpower?

Fortitude. Regardless of the situation — stress, fatigue, disappointment — I push through to achieve what I’ve set out to do. This applies to all areas of my life.

What song do you sing at the top of your voice in the shower?

“Hear My Train A Comin’” by Jimi Hendrix. Guitar solo and everything.

Which people inspire you the most?

Those who are willing to put aside their own gain and personal safety in the service of others. I think we’ve seen a lot of that over the past year.

What’s your favorite quote or saying?

“We few, we happy few, we band of brothers, For he today who sheds his blood with me shall be my brother, Be he ne’er so vile, this day shall gentle his condition, and gentlemen in England now abed shall think themselves accursed they were not here, and hold their manhoods cheap whilst any speaks, that fought with us upon St. Crispin’s day!” St. Crispin’s Day Speech, William Shakespeare

If you could bring one thing (person/place/event) back to HK that is no longer around, what would it be?

James Braddock. His comeback story to claim the heavyweight championship is something we can all find inspiration from. Also, little known fact — he went on to serve in Saipan in WWII.

Add your shameless plug or personal profile?

My plug is this — go out and make a difference. Everyone has the capability and the capacity to do something. The satisfaction of making a real impact — be it on your community, your country, or just another person— is something that can’t be replaced.

Michael’s West Side Favorites

The Intrepid Museum. I’ve had the pleasure of presenting on a wide variety of topics on the Intrepid — from environmental protection and marine science to Coast Guard history. The ship has a rich heritage. Visiting the Intrepid, even if just to take in the sight and recall the sacrifices of those who served on her, is a worthwhile pilgrimage.

Casellula. One of my favorite local haunts. Great ambiance and servers.

Times Square. The energy and diversity of people —(almost) everyone is excited to be there. Love it. I see people from all around the world — tour groups, students, New Yorkers on their way to work. The energy is infectious. I also appreciate the recruiting station over there — even if there isn’t a Coast Guard desk! And the American flag that glows 24/7. Sort of symbolic for the city that never sleeps.

Ollie’s Sichuan. I always practice my Chinese there. Many of the servers come from different regions of China, so it’s interesting to hear the regional differences of Mandarin.

Bird & Branch. I love coffee, and Bird & Branch does it well.

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