By S. J. Rozan
The Mayors of New York – Writing Down the Boroughs
I love New York. This won’t come as a surprise to anyone who knows me, or reads me. It’s not that I think it’s the best place in the world. I’ve seen a lot, though not nearly as much as I want, of the world, and my lord, it’s full of best places. But New York is my hometown, and because it’s New York, familiarity only breeds astonishment.
My birthplace in my hometown is the Bronx. 80% of New Yorkers live in the four boroughs that aren’t Manhattan, but it’s Manhattan that gets the press. Manhattan’s wonderful. It has most of the museums, the concert halls, it has Broadway, it has that huge honking park right in the middle. (The other four boroughs all have huge honking parks, too.) What it doesn’t have is neighborhoods. Chinatown, yes, Chinatown’s held on, though six other Chinatowns of different flavors have formed in Queens and Brooklyn. Black Harlem, also, though gentrification is eroding the shores. Inwood and Washington Heights are still stubbornly Latinx, but again, gentrification is coming for those big bright apartments. I live in Greenwich Village, once a bastion of artistic weirdos, now a comfy brunchistan of Google hires. If I hadn’t bought that apartment forty years ago I’d never be able to afford to live there now.
Which wouldn’t be so bad. I’m much too fond of my apartment, and considerably too lazy, to move, but I do every now and then scope out places in the other boroughs. (This is a NY pastime, enjoying real estate porn.) What I wanted to showcase in The Mayors of New York was that beyond the Manhattan of power and money lies the real wonder of the city.
Wonders, actually. The food of every culture on earth, and places to buy the ingredients for it. Two hundred languages to intoxicate your ear. Music, dance, and theater of cultures not your own in tiny basement halls and converted warehouses. Or, your own. In a few weeks there’s going to be a program called Yiddish New York. Three of the events will have accordions. I’m a fan of the accordion. In New York, besides the klezmer accordion of my cultural heritage, I can go to the Mexican neighborhood in Queens and hear the Norteño accordion, or the Irish area of the Bronx for the concertina. While I’m up there in the Bronx, I can tool on over to Van Cortland Park and watch a team of Jamaicans play cricket against a team of Pakistanis. And then head to Randall’s Island for some Indigenous Peoples’ Day drumming. After which I can take a (free) ferry ride to Staten Island for some African food.
This is the New York I wanted people to see. Beyond Tiffany’s, beyond the Mets (Museum, Opera, and Baseball Team). Those places are wonders, too; but the New York where people live, some native-born, some immigrants both internal and foreign, that’s the New York where endlessly fascinating things happen. The New York where cultures occasionally clash, but more often flow into each other, creating new tones, tastes, new ideas, an endlessly churning sea of wonders. I love New York.
Readers, have you been to the Big Apple? What was your experience?
In January, New York City inaugurates its first female mayor. In April, her son disappears.
Called in by the mayor’s chief aide—a former girlfriend of private investigator Bill Smith’s—to find the missing fifteen-year-old, Bill and his partner, Lydia Chin, are told the boy has run away. Neither the press nor the NYPD know that he’s missing, and the mayor wants him back before a headstrong child turns into a political catastrophe. But as Bill and Lydia investigate, they turn up more questions than answers. Why did the boy leave? Who else is searching for him, and why? What is his twin sister hiding?
Then a teen is found dead and another is hit by gunfire. Are these tragedies related to each other, and to the mayor’s missing son?
In a desperate attempt to find the answer to the boy’s disappearance before it’s too late, Bill and Lydia turn to the only contacts they think will be able to help: the neighborhood leaders who are the real ‘mayors’ of New York.