Twenty-three years go, when my high school relocated from its landmarked East Village walk-up to a swishy new ten-story building in Battery Park, the city of New York told us we were pioneers.
It felt like it, for sure. Besides Stuyvesant, the neighborhood back then was pretty barren. There was an elementary school, a community college, a McDonald's and a couple of shitty diners. That's it. Even three years later, when we took our senior class photo, 800 kids gathered on the lawn across the street from the front door (an entrance we'd hardly used since some football player got run over sophomore year trying to cross the West Side Highway—instead we all entered and exited via the specially-built footbridge that deposited students directly onto the school's second floor). The point is, there was a lawn there in 1995. Now it's all luxury high-rises.
In 2015, the concept that you can still be a pioneer on the so-overpopulated-there's-nowhere-to-build-but-up island of Manhattan is almost too absurd to contemplate. But two months ago, there I was again. A pioneer, or something, relocating orange crates full of files and desk accessories from the heart of midtown to a shiny new cubicle at One World Trade Center, just a stone's throw from my alma mater.
Whenever I walk to the ladies' room, I can see my high school Spanish classroom out the window of the 30th floor.