What a difference forty-two years make. In 1977, when I was 17/18 years old a group of my fellow college students and I went, on two occasions, to New York City. The school hired the bus and booked the hotel rooms, I think the whole thing may have cost $60.
At that time New York was a dirty and dangerous place. Entering the city you would see abandoned cars on the side of the highway that looked like they had been there for some time. Forty-Second Street was awash with strip bars, live sex shows, drug dealers and Three-card Monte hustlers. You cannot deny that there was a vibe, but not necessarily a good one.
The more acceptable businesses on Forty-Second Street, mostly fast-food franchises, all had NYC police officers stationed in them. Not rent-a-cop security guards, but actual cops. It seemed as if all hell could break loose at any point.
Flash forward to last week when my wife and I spent several days in New York City. What a change! The city is clean, not just in comparison to my first experience all those years ago, but generally a clean city. And it seems much safer than I remembered it being. I saw women walking alone after dark in Soho, on Broadway on the Upper West Side families stroll along looking for a place to have a bite to eat. There is, of course, a very heavy police presence but that is understandable in a city that has experienced terrorism like no other city.
Doing the usual tourist things one cannot help but be struck by the vast number of police vehicles, from patrol cars to pick-up trucks to hundreds of Smart cars (which they park sideways half on and half off the sidewalk). Many streets are closed to vehicular traffic unless authorised, including the area around the United Nations and Trump Plaza.
More photos and impressions to follow in future posts.