“There are roughly three New Yorks. There is, first, the New York of the man or woman who was born here, who takes the city for granted and accepts its size and its turbulence as natural and inevitable. Second, there is the New York of the commuter — the city that is devoured by locusts each day and spat out each night. Third, there is the New York of the person who was born somewhere else and came to New York in quest of something … Commuters give the city its tidal restlessness; natives give it solidity and continuity; but the settlers give it passion.” – E.B. White, Here Is New York
Last night, Williamsburg’s The City Reliquary took on a heated topic in the back room of their kitschy Metropolitan Avenue space with their event Redefining “Native New Yorker.” It’s a topic that’s been hotly debated well before E.B. White even wrote his stunning ode to New York in 1949.
“For many people, the term ‘native New Yorker’ usually refers to someone born and raised in one of the five boroughs,” the event description read, “While this is one way of understanding what it means to be a native in New York, this group of presentations and performances will offer a broader and more inclusive look.”
The panelists included a Ditmas Park native, a descendant of a Lenape tribe member and a native Hawaiian who has lived in New York for almost 20 years. All but the native Brooklynite shied away from the question of who gets to call themselves a native New Yorker, and instead performed traditional aspects of their own culture. They were all undoubtedly New Yorkers, even if they weren’t born here. While they didn’t settle the question, they highlighted the idea that New York has always been made of immigrants, wanderers and people from somewhere else .