Dead End on Sesame Street

Corrupt and corrosive, the big town may be no place to live any more, but Hollywood still likes to visit

City is a dirty word now. To most Americans it is the hole the welfare state crawled in to die. It is the grand urban experiment -- O.K., everybody into the melting pot -- gone spectacularly awry. And what's left? The city as techno-sump, the pot of ordure at the end of the rainbow coalition, the dead end of Sesame Street.

Films used to portray New York City as a penthouse aerie, where tuxes and smart chat were mandatory. Moviegoers saw the jagged grandeur of Manhattan's skyline as a cardiogram of American sophistication. Fred Astaire used to symbolize New York; now...

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