NEW YORK has always been too big an idea to be rendered successfully in a single image: simultaneously cruel and generous, dazzling and demeaning, unbearably vibrant and — as it waits to see what path a tropical storm will take — suspensefully calm. But one thing that almost every New York moment has in common is a surprise of some sort. Some surprises are dreadful. An 8-year-old boy named Leiby Kletzky was supposed to walk the seven blocks back to his home in Borough Park one day in July, but he never made it. Other surprises were joyful. Same-sex couples did not go into the year thinking they would have the right to marry before the summer was out. Felix Ramirez and Peter Vargas of the Bronx had already been together 24 years by the time they were wed at City Hall. (Or at least near it.)
As fall began, the name Zuccotti Park was familiar to only a small number of people downtown. By winter, it had become known around the world, as the Occupy Wall Street movement was emulated in one city after the next. And then there was that self-assured congressman who made no disguise of his mayoral ambitions or — it turned out — of other ambitions, either.
Any one of these images describe the New York of 2011. Taken together as a crazy quilt, they describe a New York that is simply timeless.