A Love Letter to New York City – Kendra Van Horn – Medium

As the Supremes say: you can’t hurry love, no you just have to wait. When we moved to New York City from Washington, DC (almost) a decade ago, I did not love it here. To me, all of the negative things that come with living in a big, crowded, dirty city outweighed the benefits. I thought we would move back after two years of graduate school. The turning point toward more of a love-hate relationship was in 2009 when Empire State of Mind came out. As silly and ridiculous as that sounds, the more I listened to that song, the more I started to love New York. These streets did start to make me feel brand new! When I started to work for the City in 2010, I learned SO much about every aspect of City life, and have since taken great pride in helping to make this place a better place to live, while slowly but surely, falling in love with it. When flying back from (fill in the blank), I choose my seat based on where I think I’ll get the best view of Manhattan.

Summer, 2008.

That being said, when I look back on the years I’ve lived here, the standout memories or “New York moments” are usually the most shocking: the full frontal nudity (male and female), the variety of bodily fluids seen on the streets of New York, the catcalling from construction workers (once a guy yelled “purple windbreakah!” at me over and over while I passed the site on a rainy day), heated arguments on the subway, etc. But for now, this love letter to NYC is about the days that make it so easy to love New York.

NYU Graduation. Spring, 2010.

Marathon Sunday

Marathon Sunday is my all time favorite day of the year in New York City! While I have no desire to run the race, I love being there to support the runners, and soak up some of that good spectator energy. We have watched the race from the finish line and other parts of Central Park, but we’ve found that the best spectator experience is in Queens. The crowds are smaller and barricades are much more manageable. That being said, after the 2017 marathon, I read about spectators going to Central Park late in the day to watch the final runners finish. These are not the elite runners we usually try to see, these are the real people who are determined to finish, despite the fact that they’ve been out on the course for 8+ hours. That’s where I’ll be next year. Save the date and join me.

NYC Marathon, 2017.


I think about food more than anyone I know, so living in New York City means having access to more than 20,000 restaurants, 25 year-round farmers markets, and some of the best specialty markets in the world (see here for my favorite specialty food stores). I cook almost all of our meals at home during the week, but the highlight of most weekends is getting out to try a new restaurant, or of course visiting one of our old standbys (more on those in the next newsletter!). We frequently use a meal out as an excuse to visit a different neighborhood or borough, or a reason to take a really, really long walk home through the City. And I love a themed food tour — like the Brooklyn pizza tour we’ve done a few times, hitting up some of the City’s pizza institutions (here and here) and doing as much walking as eating. I’m looking forward to organizing some good food tours this spring and summer. There are so many cuisines to explore, and it’s my goal to find the places that are most off the beaten path and authentic. Who’s coming with me? I would love to plan something together.

Hopping in a cab after our City Hall wedding. February, 2016.

Park Magic

It’s no secret that I’m very into NYC Parks. I’m proud to be part of the work that is happening to improve and sustain green space across the City. As much as I like parks professionally, they are even more important to me as a private citizen. In New York City most people don’t have a private green space, so parks become a communal backyard of sorts. Parks make living in a congested, concrete-heavy environment manageable, and they are an essential part of my regular routine. I walk through Central Park every morning on my way to work, I go for walks, ride my bike, and watch dogs play in Hudson River Park, I go to the farmers market in Union Square Park, and I visit my favorite park in the City, The Highline, as much as possible. And there are so many parks left to explore!

I get very excited when the schedule of outdoor movies in the parks is released for the season. One of my favorite nights in the City was this past summer, watching Dirty Dancing on the lawn in Bryant Park. Joel brought his laptop and set up his office on a blanket to get the perfect spot when the lawn opened at 5pm. We packed a picnic and enjoyed hours of people watching before the sun went down and the movie started. I’ve never felt like I had found my TRIBE as much as I did during that movie. They cheered for Baby and Johnny, they booed at Robbie, and during the final scene, the entire park (thousands of people) was on their feet, singing and dancing. Of course there were lifts. Magical.

From top left: New Year’s Eve in Times Square, 2013, visiting Governor’s Island for the first time, 2017, free New York Philharmonic concert in Central Park, 2010, with my fam outside of Cafe Lalo, 2010, and visiting New York to find an apartment, 2008.

Sticking Together After Sandy

After Hurricane Sandy, when Lower Manhattan didn’t have power (or gas or water), we invited our friends from downtown to stay with us, or atleast come over for a hot shower and some dinner (read: a bottle of whiskey). It was a really strange time to be in the City — you could feel that people were looking out for each other. People were noticeably nicer and more chatty with strangers. Maybe that’s what it always feels like when you live somewhere else (looking at you, Midwest), but it was really special.

One night, when the lights were still out downtown, Joel walked down to Alphabet City with friends. The street lights were off and most businesses were closed, but eventualy they came across a street party — with people dancing, musicians playing, makeshift grills on the street, and scantilly-clad fire dancers. While they were there, the power came back on after being out for five days. There were cheers, and the party continued.


There is a lot of, shall we say, raw human emotion on the streets of New York. If nothing else, it makes you feel alive. I’ve witnessed several engagements, more makeout sessions that I can count, and millions of eccentric people just living their best lives. I firmly believe there is a place for everyone here, and sometimes people just need to find their tribe. People watching is really enjoyable here. We make a point to make an annual pilgrimage to Coney Island, usually in July — during the thick of the summer season. During one visit (when we had friends visiting from Ohio with us), we witnessed the most epic, never ending dance-off on the boardwalk. Our friends are still talking about it, and it happened in 2011.

Seeing celebrities out and about is another fun part of living in New York that will never get old. Once upon a time, before I knew how to play it cool like other New Yorkers, I passed Kristen Wiig and Seth Myers riding bikes on the Hudson River bike path. After I passed them I sped up like a lunatic so I could get far enough away that they wouldn’t notice that I pulled over to watch them ride by. And then a few minutes later they leisurely rode by and they were just as adorable and charming as you’d imagine. I don’t regret my actions whatsoever. Two more quick charming celebs on bikes anecdotes: Frances McDormand almost ran me over on her bike, and separately Naomi Watts did an awkward, Austin Powers-style three-point turn on her bike on the sidewalk, completely blocking Joel from passing.

From left: The Coney Island Dance Off, 2011 and engagement photos on “our” street in Queens, 2016.

Everyday Life

Some of my favorite New York moments are the predictable, everyday interactions that have become part of my routine. After living in the same apartment for nine years, I’ve come to know and love an entire cast of neighborhood characters. And I say that knowing full well that I am probably a character in someone else’s New York story. (“Oh there goes the girl with all of the bags….”). I may not know all of their names, but seeing them usually gives me a smile. These are my humans of New York. Every week I see the guys that work at the bus garage on our block, the same group of women I’ve ridden the bus with for the last seven years, the guys at the bodega and coffeeshop who know my order by heart (I think that means I’ve arrived?), the ladies at our laundromat, the seniors from the assisted living facility on our corner (who sit outside smoking pot most days), and the folks from the residential facility down the street who we see around most days. Once, after coming back from a two week vacation, the homeless man I see every day said he didn’t see me and was worried that I had moved away. I felt so loved.

Engagement pictures at one of our favorite places, Lincoln Center, 2016.

New York City can eat you alive, but in the last ten years I’ve learned how and where to find my place here. The City has given me purpose, grit, joy, family, and what I believe is just the right level of aggressiveness. There is no place like New York.

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