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25 quotes about New York that fill us with immeasurable pride

These luminaries capture the magic spark at the heart of the greatest city in the world

Written by
Time Out New York editors

New York isn’t going anywhere.

While others may be predicting the city’s demise, we know the five boroughs are here to stay. (And we would know! We’re constantly writing about it every single day!) However, it’s hard to capture in a few short words just what makes this metropolis so special. Luckily, plenty of famous luminaries have given it a go—from famous writers to politicians, activists and many, many fictional characters.

Like these quotes about the city? You can also find them at Time Out Market New York, currently open on the DUMBO waterfront. They’re emblazoned on plexiglass partitions attached to tables throughout the spaces as an extra little show of our hometown pride.

1. “London is satisfied, Paris is resigned, but New York is always hopeful. Always it believes that something good is about to come off, and it must hurry to meet it. —Dorothy Parker, writer and founding member of the Algonquin Round Table (1893-1967)

2. “When you leave New York, you are astonished at how clean the rest of the world is. Clean is not enough.”—Fran Lebowitz, author, thinker and actor (from a 1978 People magazine interview)

3. “If Louis was right, and you only get one great love, New York may just be mine. And I can’t have nobody talking shit about my boyfriend.”—Carrie Bradshaw on Sex and the City (1998)

4. “I don't like cities. But I like New York. Other places make me feel like a dork.—Madonna “I Love New York” Confessions on a Dance Floor (2005)

5. “Even if it ain't all it seems, I got a pocketful of dreams. Baby I'm from New York, concrete jungle where dreams are made of. There's nothing you can't do. Now you're in New York. These streets will make you feel brand new. Big lights will inspire you. Hear it for New York, New York, New York.—Alicia Keys “Empire State of Mind (Part II) Broken Down” The Element of Freedom (2010)

6. “Some of us claim that New York City is the capital of the country, indeed the capital of the world. Now that may be a bit much for those who don’t come from New York, but clearly we are an important city for reasons of our cultural advances.”—David Dinkins, mayor of NYC 1990-1993

7. “There is something in the New York air that makes sleep useless.”—Simone de Beauvoir, French intellectual who greatly influenced feminist existentialism (1908-86)

8. “Whoever is born in New York is ill-equipped to deal with any other city: all other cities seem, at best, a mistake, and, at worst, a fraud. No other city is so spitefully incoherent.”—James Baldwin, Harlem-born writer and activist (1924-87)

9. “New York is a sucked orange”—Ralph Waldo Emerson, Massachusetts-based leader of the transcendentalist movement (1803-82) 

10. “My favorite thing about New York is the people, because I think they’re misunderstood. I don’t think people realize how kind New York people are.”—Bill Murray, actor and Brooklyn bartender

11. “Curtains forcing their will against the wind, children sleep, exchanging dreams with seraphim. The city drags itself awake on subway straps; and I, an alarm, awake as a rumor of war, lie stretching into dawn, unasked and unheeded.” —Maya Angelou, “Awaking in New York” Shaker, Why Don’t You Sing? (1983)

12. “Being a New Yorker grounds you in every way. Before you walk out of the house, you can dress in the nicest clothes and be whoever you think you are, but when you’re on those streets, you’re just in the school of fish.”—Awkafina, actress. The Queens native said this to Time Out New York in 2019

13. “I look out the window and I see the lights and the skyline and the people on the street rushing around looking for action, love, and the world's greatest chocolate chip cookie, and my heart does a little dance.”—Nora Ephron, author and filmmaker this is from her autobiographical novel Heartburn (1983)

14.“New York is a city that plays hard to get. You want me? You better work for it. I love the dirt combined with the adventure, the endless exploring (look up! go down that weird block!), the surprising specificity that you can find (button stores! Filipino barbecue!) and, of course, the mind-boggling stream of humans.”—Rony Vardi, founder of Catbird jewelry shop in Williamsburg quoted by The Points Guy (2018)

15. “You don’t come to live here unless the delusion of a reality shaped around your own desires isn’t a strong aspect of your personality. ‘A reality shaped around your own desires’ —there is something sociopathic in that ambition.”—Zadie Smith, “Find Your Beach” from The New York Review of Books (2014)

16. “The city seen from the Queensboro Bridge is always the city seen for the first time, in its first wild promise of all the mystery and the beauty in the world.”―F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby (1925)

17. “The true New Yorker secretly believes that people living anywhere else have to be, in some sense, kidding.”—John Updike, multi-Pulitzer Prize winner for fiction writing (1932-2009)

18. “Most people are in New York because they need evidence—in large quantities—of human expressiveness; and they need it not now and then, but every day. That is what they need. Those who go off to the manageable cities can do without; those who come to New York cannot.”Vivian Gornick, Bronx-born journalist and essayist from The Odd Woman and the City: A Memoir (2015)

19. “Each neighborhood of the city appeared to be made of a different substance, each seemed to have a different air pressure, a different psychic weight: the bright lights and shuttered shops, the housing projects and luxury hotels, the fire escapes and city parks.”―Teju Cole, from the PEN/Hemingway award-winning Open City (2012)

20. “I was superstitious. Today was a Monday. I was born on Monday. It was a good day to arrive in New York City. No one expected me. Everything awaited me.”—Patti Smith, from the punk poet’s memoir  Just Kids (2010)

21. “I love New York, even though it isn't mine, the way something has to be, a tree or a street or a house, something, anyway, that belongs to me because I belong to it.”―Truman Capote, writer “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” (1924-84)

22. “New York is an ugly city, a dirty city. Its climate is a scandal, its politics are used to frighten children, its traffic is madness, its competition is murderous.

23. “But there is one thing about it—once you have lived in New York and it has become your home, no place else is good enough.”―John Steinbeck, Nobel Prize-winner in literature (1902-68)

24. “So I went to New York City to be born again. It was and remains easy for most Americans to go somewhere else and start anew. I wasn't like my parents. I didn't have any supposedly sacred piece of land or shoals of friends to leave behind. Nowhere has the number zero been of more philosophical value than in the United States.... and when the [train] plunged into a tunnel under New York City, with its lining of pipes and wires, I was out of the womb and into the birth canal.”―Kurt Vonnegut, from the novel Bluebeard (1987)

25. “When it's 100 degrees in New York, it's 72 in Los Angeles. When it's 30 degrees in New York, in Los Angeles it's still 72. However, there are 6 million interesting people in New York, and only 72 in Los Angeles.”Neil Simon, Bronx-born Pulitzer Prize-winner in drama (1927-2018)

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