With a camera, hotel worker sets out to prove NYC is not 'dead'

In August 2020, the New York Post published an essay called "New York City is dead Forever." It enraged (for a lack of appropriate terms) many New Yorkers. One of them was Jerry Seinfeld, who responded with an essay in the New York Times saying the city is not dead. But he's not the only one. 

"That storyline of 'New York City is dead,' I got pretty angry about it," said Leo Jacob, who works at the Bowery Hotel.

"As a hospitality professional, we were here. We had to let go of a lot of staff — it was really emotional," Jacob continued. "Everyone worked really hard to reopen and I'm watching restaurants, storefronts, the butcher, everyone is just trying to operate and keep their businesses alive — keep the city alive, and people were saying it was dead. I was like, 'We need to do something about this.'"

Through his passion for photography, Jacob decided to shine the spotlight on the people keeping New York City afloat during the height of the pandemic. 

"I started reaching out to everyone to see if they have a few minutes to get involved for me to come by and get some shots and talk," he said. "And nobody has said no."

So Jacob pitched the photo book idea to camera company Leica, which gave him a camera to shoot away. He highlighted restaurateurs and even some of their favorite celebrity customers.

"Jason Momoa gave me some feedback, Zoe Kravitz, Frank Grillo," Jacob said. "A lot of them are supporters of New York City. They've gone to the restaurants."

Interviewing restaurant owners, Jacob encapsulated the struggles and triumph of operating a business through the pandemic.

"This project is just tied to not forgetting that this happened. I think 10 years later it'll be a cool book to pull off your bookshelf and say, 'I remember that — that sucked. That year was a tough year,'" he said.

Jacob's 168-page hardcover photo book is called, New York Is Dead? Long Live New York.