January 28, 2020
I haven’t posted in a while, partly because I was away for a week. We went to see my sister in Greenwich, Connecticut and then to see my son and daughter-in-law in Manhattan.
I had not been in New York since last summer and conditions in the city took me by surprise. First, there seems to be much more litter and garbage on the streets than anytime since the 1970s. I don’t know what sort of metrics the NYC sanitation department uses, but they are not doing well.
Then there are the homeless, or, more properly, the people living on the street. New York supposedly has about 70,000 homeless people, with about 4000 living on the street. They are highly visible, encamped in church doorways and under scaffolding. A stretch of Madison Avenue between 35th and 34th Streets — where B. Altman used to be — is now occupied by the homeless.
Then there are the rats. They are everywhere, scuttling through Union Square, zipping along subway platforms, ducking into construction sites. I lived in Manhattan and Brooklyn for 13 years — from 1975 to 1988 — during which time I saw exactly one rat. I saw three on this trip alone. It’s incredible, to me, that New Yorkers put up with this. But I know that Paris, London, LA, San Francisco and many other cities are confronting the same problems.
New York is still a lot of fun. We saw Hamilton for “just” $300 per ticket and it was great. We ate in wonderful restaurants, including Monte’s on McDougal Street and Paul and Jimmy’s on 19th Street. We shopped in SoHo and saw two good indie films, JoJo Rabbit and Pain and Glory. But I found myself wondering how long it would be before the high prices, the trash, the rats and the homeless start keeping people from coming back.
And the city is still full of pleasant surprises. We ducked into Grace Church at 11th Street and were amazed by the architecture and the stained glass — right up there with many of the churches we saw in France.
We spent a pleasant half hour in a SoHo luggage boutique talking with the proprietor, who had an interesting story about every piece we looked at. (No, I did not get away unscathed).
It was a good trip. We spent time with people we love and did a lot of fun things. One of the best parts of going to New York these days, however, is that it confirms for us the wisdom of having decamped from the Northeast for Richmond. It was great when we did it, but we don’t really have any desire to live in the New York area anymore.
Below, a cell phone shot of one of the stained glass windows in Grace Church: