Time Alone Doesn’t Make You A Real New Yorker

Charlotte Bismuth
4 min readDec 14, 2021

“I walk around in love,” says my best friend, about living in New York City. ‘I’m a city bird,” another dear friend wrote to me recently, “I feel whole there.”

I’ve been here for 25 years. As a NYC college student in the early 1990s, I used to wander around Chinatown with a camera or climb up on rooftops to read the zig-zaggy lines of water towers across the horizon. I rented a room in a co-ed, ‘artsy’ frat house where the refrigerator was covered in fur. As an employee of the Parks Department, I visited the secret book-lined turret office on the roof of the Arsenal and drafted historical signs that remain up today. As a Civilian Complaint Review Board investigator, I criss-crossed the city with a partner in a rickety Lincoln, visiting homes and jails to interview complainants. I remember every part of my journey, on September 11, from Columbia Law School to Park Slope, Brooklyn and sometimes get thrown back to that day by the smell of ashes. I’ve looked out at the night sky from fancy law firm conference rooms, visited the busy, chatty offices of court stenographers, argued cases before panels of cantankerous judges, walked four little babies for miles along city streets and cheered friends along the marathon route. I can’t say I was ever in love with living here, and certainly never felt whole, but the city always spoke to me and I was never tired of listening…

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Charlotte Bismuth

Author of “Bad Medicine: Catching New York’s Deadliest Pill Pusher,” former Manhattan ADA , Columbia Law School grad, occasional legal cartoonist.