Can New York City Be Saved?

CommentaryI just spent a few days in New York City working on a new project with the extraordinary people at The Epoch Times that I hope you will all be hearing about shortly. It gave me an opportunity to visit the city of my birth for the first time since COVID, if that’s where we are. Or are we on the brink of yet another pseudo-plague when we have to wear masks against something called monkeypox, an obscure disease no one I know has ever encountered, but of which we had better beware or else? Outside the inspiring precincts of The Epoch Times, it was not a heartening visit. To be honest, I hadn’t expected it to be. Who could miss the news coverage of the murders in the subways, the attacks in the streets with thugs pushing little old ladies into the gutter at random? It seemed like a real-life version of the “ultra-violence” from Stanley Kubrick’s “A Clockwork Orange.” The politicians in charge were doing little about it. As for the actual mayors, the last decent one who had made the city livable with his broken windows programs was the now-reviled Rudy Giuliani. Nobody, it seemed, wanted to bring back the man once known as “America’s mayor.” I was going to New York with, to put it mildly, mixed feelings. The night before I left Nashville I had trouble sleeping, dreaming fitfully of New York when I was a kid in the 1950s. The soundtrack of my dreams was the Central Park carousel organ playing “The Sidewalks of New York” as it did when my mother would take me as a 5-year-old: “Boys and girls together/Me and Mamie O’Rourke/We trip the light fantastic on the sidewalks of New York.” On and on it went, as the carousel went round and round. Of course, there was never really a New York as perfect as my dreams. There was always plenty of violence, as anyone who has seen the opening of “Godfather II” can tell you, not to mention a half dozen Marty Scorsese films, starting with his first and best, “Mean Streets.” Nevertheless, New York in the 1950s was a wonderful place to me—in my mind maybe the greatest place to grow up ever. When we were 10 years old, my friends and I would take off for the day by ourselves, sometimes to check out that spooky Egyptian tomb collection at the Met, but more often to hop on the Jerome Woodlawn line for Yankee Stadium and sit in the bleachers, or better yet, the upper deck—not just because those were the only seats we could afford, but because Mickey Mantle himself might hit one our way. Ernest Hemingway famously wrote of Paris in the 1920s that it was “A Moveable Feast,” and for us 10-year-old New Yorkers of that time, our city was just as great a feast. And our parents were kind enough to give us the run of the place—to let us explore and learn and have adventures in the process. That couldn’t happen now, of course. No parent would dream of it. At the age of 10, you’re lucky to be allowed to cross the street by yourself. And moreover, our group was very racially and ethnically mixed, but no one made any kind of deal about it. As a sign of affection—not hatred or any kind of prejudice—we would use racist epithets on each other that would get us locked in PC jail for life today with the key thrown away. We didn’t take those nasty comments seriously. They were for fun. We called it “doing the dozens.” We believed in the old saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” Could any of that happen now? Not on your bloody life! Practically everything is different—and worse. And no, I’m not being a nostalgic geezer. I’m being honest. The New York I visited this week is a grubby, sad place, littered with garbage except in the redoubts of the extremely rich. “New York, New York” is no longer a wonderful town, as the song went from “On the Town.” (Who was it? Gene Kelly? Sinatra himself?) The Bronx may still be up and the Battery down. And maybe some people still ride in a “hole in the ground” (how else to get to work?), but half the time they’re scared out of their wits. Speaking of which, late one afternoon I walked into the lobby of my hotel to find two rather large Antifa-types, both sporting the requisite black bandanas, splayed out on easy chairs, smoking joints. What were they doing there? As far as I could tell, they weren’t clients of the hotel, but no one seemed to want to confront them. In fact, everyone appeared to be deliberately turning away so they wouldn’t have to. Had anyone called the cops? Would they have come if they had? Who gets arrested for smoking pot these days? They eyed me as I crossed toward the elevator, then one of them lifted his bandana and laughed. He took a long ostentatious pull on his joint as if to mock me and then exhaled in my direction. When I came down for dinner a couple of hours later, they were gone, off to do I knew not what. But I wouldn’t have been surprised if there was a little of the old “ultra-violence” involved. Who’s fault is this precipitous decline of the once-great city of New York, the c

Can New York City Be Saved?

Commentary

I just spent a few days in New York City working on a new project with the extraordinary people at The Epoch Times that I hope you will all be hearing about shortly.

It gave me an opportunity to visit the city of my birth for the first time since COVID, if that’s where we are. Or are we on the brink of yet another pseudo-plague when we have to wear masks against something called monkeypox, an obscure disease no one I know has ever encountered, but of which we had better beware or else?

Outside the inspiring precincts of The Epoch Times, it was not a heartening visit.

To be honest, I hadn’t expected it to be. Who could miss the news coverage of the murders in the subways, the attacks in the streets with thugs pushing little old ladies into the gutter at random? It seemed like a real-life version of the “ultra-violence” from Stanley Kubrick’s “A Clockwork Orange.”

The politicians in charge were doing little about it. As for the actual mayors, the last decent one who had made the city livable with his broken windows programs was the now-reviled Rudy Giuliani. Nobody, it seemed, wanted to bring back the man once known as “America’s mayor.”

I was going to New York with, to put it mildly, mixed feelings.

The night before I left Nashville I had trouble sleeping, dreaming fitfully of New York when I was a kid in the 1950s. The soundtrack of my dreams was the Central Park carousel organ playing “The Sidewalks of New York” as it did when my mother would take me as a 5-year-old:

“Boys and girls together/Me and Mamie O’Rourke/We trip the light fantastic on the sidewalks of New York.” On and on it went, as the carousel went round and round.

Of course, there was never really a New York as perfect as my dreams. There was always plenty of violence, as anyone who has seen the opening of “Godfather II” can tell you, not to mention a half dozen Marty Scorsese films, starting with his first and best, “Mean Streets.”

Nevertheless, New York in the 1950s was a wonderful place to me—in my mind maybe the greatest place to grow up ever. When we were 10 years old, my friends and I would take off for the day by ourselves, sometimes to check out that spooky Egyptian tomb collection at the Met, but more often to hop on the Jerome Woodlawn line for Yankee Stadium and sit in the bleachers, or better yet, the upper deck—not just because those were the only seats we could afford, but because Mickey Mantle himself might hit one our way.

Ernest Hemingway famously wrote of Paris in the 1920s that it was “A Moveable Feast,” and for us 10-year-old New Yorkers of that time, our city was just as great a feast. And our parents were kind enough to give us the run of the place—to let us explore and learn and have adventures in the process.

That couldn’t happen now, of course. No parent would dream of it. At the age of 10, you’re lucky to be allowed to cross the street by yourself.

And moreover, our group was very racially and ethnically mixed, but no one made any kind of deal about it. As a sign of affection—not hatred or any kind of prejudice—we would use racist epithets on each other that would get us locked in PC jail for life today with the key thrown away.

We didn’t take those nasty comments seriously. They were for fun. We called it “doing the dozens.” We believed in the old saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.”

Could any of that happen now? Not on your bloody life! Practically everything is different—and worse. And no, I’m not being a nostalgic geezer. I’m being honest.

The New York I visited this week is a grubby, sad place, littered with garbage except in the redoubts of the extremely rich. “New York, New York” is no longer a wonderful town, as the song went from “On the Town.” (Who was it? Gene Kelly? Sinatra himself?) The Bronx may still be up and the Battery down. And maybe some people still ride in a “hole in the ground” (how else to get to work?), but half the time they’re scared out of their wits.

Speaking of which, late one afternoon I walked into the lobby of my hotel to find two rather large Antifa-types, both sporting the requisite black bandanas, splayed out on easy chairs, smoking joints. What were they doing there? As far as I could tell, they weren’t clients of the hotel, but no one seemed to want to confront them. In fact, everyone appeared to be deliberately turning away so they wouldn’t have to. Had anyone called the cops? Would they have come if they had? Who gets arrested for smoking pot these days?

They eyed me as I crossed toward the elevator, then one of them lifted his bandana and laughed. He took a long ostentatious pull on his joint as if to mock me and then exhaled in my direction.

When I came down for dinner a couple of hours later, they were gone, off to do I knew not what. But I wouldn’t have been surprised if there was a little of the old “ultra-violence” involved.

Who’s fault is this precipitous decline of the once-great city of New York, the center of the known universe when I was a kid?

Of course, COVID played a part, but the problem had begun long before that and was only exacerbated by unnecessary government policies during the supposed pandemic.

You have to say the Democratic Party and its followers are the larger part of the problem. The city has been living under one-party rule for some time now.

Can it be reconstituted? I guess, but it will take a long time—many times longer than it took to fall apart. It may never fully recover, but if it does, it will be immigrants who save it, refugees from countries like China, Iran, and Venezuela who have seen the real fruits of one-party rule up close, the horrors of totalitarianism, and are willing to fight for true democracy.

One place they are already doing that is called The Epoch Times.

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.


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Roger L. Simon is an award-winning novelist, Oscar-nominated screenwriter, co-founder of PJMedia, and now, editor-at-large for The Epoch Times. His most recent books are “The GOAT” (fiction) and “I Know Best: How Moral Narcissism Is Destroying Our Republic, If It Hasn’t Already” (nonfiction). He can be found on GETTR and Parler @rogerlsimon.