16 stories of New York niceness that will change your opinion of NYC

New York, you're all heart—and here are the real-life stories to prove it

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For a city whose tourist trade is defined by its ubiquitous "I  NY" merch, New York has a pretty bad rep when it comes to actually being, you know, nice. Which is where we step in. We think New York  you, too, and we're here to prove it! So, should you be in any doubt, we've rounded up tales of kindness, compassion and general sweetness in the city to remind you that even in the noise and dirt and craziness of Gotham, you do love New York.


1. The thigh-warmer


"I was waiting for a very delayed train on an elevated platform on a subzero Brooklyn day in 1980. Being young and stupid, I was vastly underdressed. By the time the train arrived, I had lost all feeling in my feet, and I began to cry quietly. A very large woman sitting in front of me leaned to one side, lifted one thigh, and said, 'Here, honey, stick your foot under this.' I did as I was told, tucking my foot under her fleshy body, and rode for about 15 minutes standing on one foot, clutching the strap. Afterward, she massaged it, and then did the same thing on the other side."—Alice Mulligan, preschool director; Bay Ridge, Brooklyn

2. The first responder

"One particularly long winter, I was feeling at my wit’s end with NYC. So I did what any normal person feeling desperate would do: I opened the window of my 29th-floor apartment and yelled, 'I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore!' A faint voice from a neighboring building called back, 'Oh, yeah? What are you so mad about?' I was stunned, but touched that someone out there heard me and cared. For the next 15 minutes we had a conversation about my troubles. It was really what I needed from the universe at that moment."—Grace Gotham, burlesque performer, Upper East Side

3. The snack savior

"I was waiting for the bus in the freezing weather a couple months ago, and a girl came up and offered me half her trail mix to fortify me against the cold."—Alison Cherry, YA author; Clinton Hill, Brooklyn

4. The celeb samaritan

"It was the aftermath of a snowy day, and it was impossible to step off a curb without getting ankle-deep in cold, wet slush. In midtown, I saw a man standing on the corner, helping person after person cross, offering his hand to guide them over a rough patch. I availed myself of his services without really looking at the guy. It wasn’t until I’d crossed and said thank you and he said, 'You’re welcome' that I heard that unmistakable voice. The Good Samaritan? Harvey Fierstein."—Alina Adams, writer, Upper West Side

5. The lifesaver

"I was running around on my lunch hour with my head swirling, stressing about work. Suddenly, someone grabbed me from behind and pulled me backward. I hadn’t noticed I was about to walk directly into oncoming traffic. By the time I caught my breath and realized they’d probably just saved my life, they were lost in the crowd."—Kelly Hesburn, photographer relations agent, Harlem

6. The subway de-stressers

"I was riding a crowded C train on a rainy day, sitting far from the door. Wrapped up in the book I was reading, I didn’t realize I’d reached my stop until the very last second. I shoved past my fellow riders just in time to see the F train I had to catch across the platform, and as I started to sprint for it, I heard someone on the C shout, 'You forgot your umbrella!' A hand appeared out of the scrum and tossed it to me. Over by the F train, another kind stranger held the closing doors open just long enough for me to leap inside."—Jenna Scherer, TONY associate editor; Gowanus, Brooklyn

7. The guardian angel

"When my son was five, he hopped on the subway without realizing I wasn’t behind him. As I watched the train pull out of the station, I saw a woman inside the car run to the window and mouth, 'I’ll be at the next station.' Sure enough, she was there with my boy, safe and sound. I burst into tears when I saw her there on the platform, and I hugged her tight. Never knew her name or saw her again."—Eva Schwartz, antiques dealer, Harlem

8. The forget-me-not florist

"Just before I was getting married, I got into a random conversation with a woman in a deli. She asked what kind of flowers I was going to have in the wedding, and I told her none (we were so poor). Turns out she was a floral designer—and she insisted I have flowers. I ended up with the most beautiful bouquet and boutonnieres on my wedding day—all for free. It was amazing."—Ginger Baker, executive assistant and burlesque performer, Staten Island

9. The phone finder

"I don’t use the Find My iPhone app, so when I pulled a Drunken Lohan and dropped my phone in a cab—with the ringer off—I assumed I was sunk. I called my missing phone repeatedly until, finally, a voice answered. She promptly announced that she was 'one of the cool ones' and gave me her home address so I could come pick up my cell. The best part: She’s a co-owner of delicious barbecue mecca Hill Country. I was already a customer!"—Joshua Rothkopf, TONY Film editor, Brooklyn Heights

10. The hand-holder

"I’d just found out my dad had cancer, and as I was riding the subway home, I burst into uncontrollable tears. Over the course of a few stops, the guy sitting opposite me moved a few seats closer, then catty-corner, then slowly, calmly sat next to me and took my hand. It was just human comfort from a stranger. I never even asked his name."—Pamela Karp, actor, Lower East Side

11. The guy who let you couch-surf

"When my friend and I arrived in the city after college, we had no plan. We drove our van to Manhattan Mini Storage, put some stuff in a plastic bag and took a cab to the only place we knew: Yaffa Cafe. We called our pal, Jamie, from a pay phone at 10pm. He invited us over without question and shared his Alphabet City shoebox with us for several days, despite the fact that it was hardly big enough for him. He also gave me a piece of advice I heed to this day. Walking down 6th Street on my first day, he pointed to a band of water streaming from the sidewalk to the curb and said, 'If it looks like urine, it probably is.'"—Matthew Love, TONY Books and Comedy editor; Clinton Hill, Brooklyn

12. The Laundromat love-spreader

"A week after moving to New York, I went to the Laundromat around the corner. All my clothes were spilling out of my basket. The guy who worked there raised his eyebrows and said, 'You’re new here, aren’t you?' He cracked a half smile, handed me one of those slick, enormous laundry bags with a drawstring, and said, 'From me to you. Welcome to Brooklyn.'"—April Ranger, poet and waitress; Prospect Park South, Brooklyn

13. The first-aid fairy

"My friend is hypoglycemic, and she had an episode on the subway last summer during rush hour on her way to work. She started shaking and sweating and began to collapse, but the car was super-crowded, and it took a minute for anyone to notice. When a woman sitting nearby did see what was going on, she got the whole bench to make space, sat my friend down, and offered her a handful of ice straight from her own iced coffee. It was a really touching act of kindness and saved my friend's day."—Kendra Mylnechuk, actor; Williamsburg, Brooklyn

14. The snow diggers

"Many years ago, I was at a bar on Columbus Avenue in the middle of a major snowstorm. Around 1am, a man came out and began to dig out his car. Just as he was about to get in, a snowplow came through and dumped about two feet of snow on top of his newly cleaned-off car. People poured out of the bars on all four corners of the intersection, and we began digging. After the man drove off, we all had a huge snowball fight in the middle of the avenue. It was one of the most fun nights I’ve ever had."—Julie Atwell, copywriter, Harlem

15. The pup patrol

"Last November, my Pomeranian was attacked by a pit bull while walking down the street. The dog lifted my pup from the ground in its jaws and shook her violently. Not one, but several, people on the street jumped in to pry the pit’s mouth open with their bare hands. Once my dog was freed, a random gentleman walked with us to the vet ten blocks away, carrying my bleeding puppy the entire way. (She’s okay now!)"—Nicole Crane, magazine editor, Upper West Side

16. The considerate cabbie

"I was taking a cab from La Guardia Airport to Bushwick, and the driver was very chatty and friendly. I wasn’t having any of it, because I was getting over food poisoning that I had suffered on my flight, which I told him. When we arrived at my apartment, the fare was about $28, and he said not to worry about it because I’d had a rough day. I tried to give him the money, but he wouldn’t take it."—Brea Mosley, student; Bushwick, Brooklyn



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Editor: Marley Lynch (@marleyasinbob)

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