A love letter to the poor of New York City. An ode to El Barrio

Being in poverty is a difficult existence. It can be brutal, painful and shameful. Decades of poverty can leave you with a feeling that you will never succeed and that the world is stacked against you, permanently. I see this type of poverty in my neighborhood in uptown Manhattan, El Barrio. I’ve lived here for twenty of my thirty six years and see what being poor does to people.
This is not a post about the plight of the underprivileged; this is about joy and what we do have! The poor of New York have a tremendous advantage. Things they never think of because they don’t know how much worse it could be. This is my message to you:

– You are poor in the greatest job and idea engine in the United States.
New York is the hub of creative ideas and job creation in the country. Yes, there are small states with very low unemployment but they don’t have the vibrant and dynamic economy of New York. It’s there for you if you see it and seize it.  If you need help,  I will help.

– You are poor in the city with the best public transit system in the United States.
You live uptown and can get a job on Wall Street without driving or living two hours away from work! Other cities don’t have that. You have the advantage of being able to get to any job you want to for the low cost of $2.50 a ride. That’s very, very cheap!  Ask someone what living in Patterson and working in New York City feels like.

– By virtue of growing up in New York you are automatically cooler, hipper, have more knowledge about the world than just about any American you meet.
There is a reason all those Europeans love hip-hop or come uptown to see what’s going on. It’s you! You have that street knowledge, flair and understanding of how to live in a City. That’s not nothing! (double negatives are in) It means something, it an advantage. Don’t be afraid, talk to people, you really are fascinating.  People want to hear about your experiences.

– Yes, you live in public housing and it’s crowded, did you know in other cities they would KILL to have that problem?
New York City is set up for you succeed. You live efficiently; you don’t have a high carbon footprint. Just by living the way you do, you are saving the environment. We want more people like you around the country!  

– Where you live is the most valuable real estate in the world.
When you see the gentrifying white people show up in your hood what does it mean? It means you live where they want to live. You live (El Barrio) in Manhattan. 30 minutes from the coolest of the cool in downtown Manhattan, 15 minutes from Yankee Stadium and 10 minutes a huge shopping area (86th street,116 Street or 125 Street.) You live in a neighborhood with culture, history, which is near the greatest park in the world. (Central Park)

Remember poor New Yorkers, you have it all. You live where people are dying to live. You live were people risk their lives to come. You live where people abandon their families to live. Yes, you may not have monetary wealth but you are rich in natural resources and advantages just by being in New York City. Feel good about yourself. Be confident. You have everything, except money! I believe in you.

Originally appeared from

By Laurent Courtines

I'm here and I am ready to go. Been doing my homework and I have things to say.

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