Milton Glaser, the graphic designer who was the father of the iconic logo, I ❤️ New York, passed away on his 91st birthday on June 26th. Five weeks before, he was interviewed by Jeremy Elias regarding his final creative endeavor. He was working on the treatment of the word ‘together’ inspired by the meme that has come to embody our response to the Covid-19 pandemic, ‘we’re in this together’. He was looking to find a way to make the letters look as though they were different yet all related—a fitting representation of what defines New York.
Glaser said in the interview that, “New York is full of diversity and complexity–the word used is ‘toughness’, with also a combination of cynicism and generosity. It’s unprecedented anywhere in the world, so it cannot be characterized as just ‘another’ city. It’s a self- contained universe.” He goes on to say, “I have no faith in my own prediction, I don’t think there’s a way of telling what’s going to happen. I know this [pandemic] is a cosmic change and that nothing will ever be the same again.” Glaser goes on to say that, “it’s a collective consciousness, if we realize we are all related and we need one another, that would be the best thing that could happen.”
As we learn to adapt to the ever-changing conditions that Covid-19 has brought to our city, I can bear witness that in my own field of real estate, there are some notable and sometimes alarming developments that convey just how deeply our usual customs have changed. The new protocols for showing and listing apartments in residential real estate have added additional challenges to an already difficult business. The absolute and urgent need to continue to wear masks during the hottest season, while keeping our distance, begs to ask, how much more can we endure? And that is just for starters.
An article in Sunday’s New York Times, “Real Estate Agents Return to Work as City Reopens”, outlines the mandates required in order to set up appointments–not to mention the strict rules set in place–once the client has entered. In addition to the expertise and finesse required in showing and ultimately selling, we have now become housekeepers and maids, policing every move of the potential buyer, insuring that once a surface has been touched it will be sanitized for the next showing. And of course, there are disclosure forms that need to be signed, as well. All challenges brought to a higher level in these unprecedented times.
I for one, have decided that going forward I will refer my business to those in my office who are still comfortable with in- person appointments, as I no longer want to be placed on the front line for the mere sake of a 6% commission, split and divided a multitude of ways. And I should add that most listings in the current market are being signed with a 5% commission while the split remains the same. A lot of work and stress once the pie is divided.
I refer to changes in the business of real estate because it is the one I know best, but it is not the only one that demands that we adapt. As the world seems to be suspended in space, and the future remains unclear, we need to devise methods of patience and creativity to endure these next months. We have all become adept at alternate parties–Zoom and other social networks offering at-home entertainment. We are also on the cusp of considering social distancing at outdoor (in person) parties, while respecting the 6 feet required between tables and guests. Melissa Clark wrote a wonderful piece in the food section of the New York Times regarding her ‘first’ outdoor barbecue, with the same excitement reserved for a first date! I completely understand the enthusiasm, as I also entertained my first guests in over four months while trying to maintain a comfortable distance between myself and my two guests, in my 900 square foot apartment. Truly another example of challenges brought to a higher level.
Over these months I have had long and serious thoughts about the current state of our (beloved) city, and have come to realize that we are presently shrouded in a veil of sadness. As an optimist, I am hopeful that at some point we will regain our status and return to the vibrant and electrifying city that we are loved for. And without the need to add sorrow to our universal situation, suffice to say, the streets are unrecognizable, the empty store-fronts and ‘out of business’ signs devastating.
The ongoing question remains the same, where do we go from here and how long are we expected to stay in place while under the dictatorship of a disabled leader? Although the virus was not the direct result of this administration, the mishandling of the pandemic under Donald Trump’s helm remains one of the country’s most debilitating and destructive events. The future becomes increasingly clear as we look forward to our election choices in November.
Milton Glaser was right on all counts: we still love NY and we are all in this together, but it is now more imperative than at any other time to make a concerted effort to erase the slate and start anew. NYC is, and always has been, a work in progress. Today’s challenges are serious but we’ve been there before and we have proved our endurance.
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