The New York City magic versus the Berkeley bubble

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Leonie Leonida/Staff

As a transfer student from New York University, my first year at Berkeley proved it was difficult to ignore how much I missed New York City.

Yes, New York City is absolutely romanticized — this is becoming more common knowledge. It’s filthy, with roughly 2 million rats and an endless tide of cockroaches. It’s crowded to the point that crammed subway cars are the norm and people no longer question when strangers squash into them on their daily commutes. It’s so expensive that more and more New Yorkers have settled with living in a closet of an apartment at nearly the price of a vacation home in Italy.

Yet, what is also true about New York City is this rare quality of wonder it brings into your life regardless of who you are or where you come from, which is the main reason why New Yorkers tolerate these inconveniences and stubbornly stay put in the city. Where else could you casually bump into Alec Baldwin walking his dogs? Or crave a cronut at 2 a.m. and be able to get it delivered to you? Or walk home at night and see the Statue of Liberty in the distance while the Freedom Tower looms over you?

Even when I first arrived in New York City as a broke, naive 18-year-old, I immediately experienced that clichéd New York magic. I’m still in awe of the days when I would accidentally walk through a film set on my way to class and the night my roommate and I decided on a drunken whim to go to the top of the Empire State Building at 1 a.m. I could never forget the Saturdays when I would pass a struggling artist just playing on a grand piano in the middle of Washington Square Park.

This is not to brag about how I got to live in this extraordinary city, but to say that, regardless of the exhilaration of New York City, the place has made me appreciate and admire the Berkeley bubble more.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say New York City is immoral, but perhaps apathetic. After returning to the city this summer, I was reminded of how generally preoccupied New Yorkers are with their own aspirations, driven to make something of ourselves and achieve grand successes to the point where it becomes easy to ignore the widespread issues others may endure.

Though I admire this common hustle of New Yorkers, what made me fall in love with the town of Berkeley is its collective passion to fight the greatest problems we face today — whether it’s bigotry, climate change or wealth inequality. It is this shared dedication to stand up for others despite the inconveniences and annoyingly loud judgment from the outside world.

Throughout my first days of living in Berkeley, I remember being surprised as I watched young professionals and students casually socializing with the Hell Yeah guy or the man who dresses in aluminum foil. I remember being in awe as I ran through different neighborhoods and saw nearly every home I passed displaying signs reading “Berkeley Stands United Against Hate” or “This House Welcomes Refugees.” I remember seeing the immediate, impassioned protests after the announcement of the repeal of the DACA program. It is not that these actions tend to imply leftist views but rather the fact that Berkeley remains unified in caring and fighting for all types of people that has ultimately pushed me to love the town.

And in spite of how incredible New York City is and how much I enjoy being in this city right now, I miss the typical practice of properly composting and recycling. I miss roaming through Berkeley Bowl and never having to struggle to find locally and sustainably produced items. I miss being able to run outside among unpolluted trees and lush hills and feeling like Maria in “The Sound of Music.” I miss walking at the average human pace and simply enjoying the Californian weather.

This is not to say Berkeley is better than New York, nor is it to say that Berkeley is some type of socialist, eco-friendly utopia. Berkeley definitely still has countless issues to address, such as the housing crisis, worsening traffic and ruthless parking police. Yet if anything, being away from Berkeley has made me realize what an exceptionally decent and beautiful town it is.

So even as I leave my old home of New York City, a place that is often deemed as the greatest city in the world, I only do so eagerly as I get to return to my current home of Berkeley.

Contact Katrina Fadrilan at [email protected] .