A Life in New York City

Ross Sandler

Ross Sandler

William J. Dean, lawyer, New Yorker, pickup basketball player and volunteer for the homeless, recounts his life in 83 wonderful essays now available in his book, My New York: A Life in the City (2013) (available on Amazon). I purchased my copy directly from the author, a friend for 30 years, who sold his book from a booth in the Union Square Farmer’s Market, a dispensation granted for Dean’s years of service as lawyer to the Market sponsor.  The essays first appeared in the New York Law Journal, Christian Science Monitor, the Wall Street Journal and other publications. The essays are charmingly told, unforgettable in detail, and perfect as tales of New York City. Readers will fall in love with Dean’s City, both its beauty and its troubles.

Dean could only live in New York City. Dean owns a bike, but not a car. He knows precisely the number of steps (30) he descends daily to the subway. He never owned land, but owns the terrain of Central Park.  He buys his breakfast from a street vendor and consumes it while sitting on a City bench. He worries about the pilot light in his stove. He installs and removes his air conditioner with the seasons. He has been stuck in an elevator.

As a school boy baseball player on Randall’s Island, Dean closed his eyes and made an historic catch in center field. Dean lived a dream as a supernumerary in Don Carlo at the Metropolitan Opera. As an adult in his 70s he plays basketball at a local gym. Once Dean fainted after a minor basketball injury while on the Lexington Avenue Line as it left the 51st Street station, and relishes the magic of event and the EMS’s quick and careful response.

Dean’s real work is helping. On Wednesday evenings he drives a food van for the Coalition of the Homeless. He headed up the City Bar’s office providing volunteer lawyers for poor people. Dean visited Rikers Island and the City’s Potter’s Field. He taught young children in India and Puerto Rico.

Dean’s book is a mirror of New York life. Dean likes to write his pieces in public places, and prefers the subway. In that public space he finds “no shortage of company.” His book of essays is a gift back to his fellow travelers.

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