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Lines at the Lunchcarts
Even the construction boom has brought its toll in dirt, noise, and the destruction of treasured landmarks and favorite spots. The good small restaurants that were the city's pride are being torn down, to be replaced by 15-minute-service counters in skyscraper basements. In the Wall Street area, where building activity and crowding are most intense, lines form in front of hot-dog carts at lunchtime, and a sign in a Broad Street bookstore reads: "Please-no browsing from 12 to 2." Says Architect Percival Goodman: "Size can mean healthy growth or cancer. In New York, it's become cancer."
New York has always had its detractors, and out-of-towners often find odd comfort and perverse joy in discussing its faults and inconveniences. But many people who once loved the city are now regretfully finding their passion growing cold. "There's a morale factor that's missing," says Marion Javits, wife of the New York Senator, "that magic and loveliness I used to adore. More than ever, the people are not lovely, or gentle, or likely to say 'excuse me.' It's as though New York no longer feels loved." While New Yorkers may feel a throb for their city, they do not tend to it or cherish it, as the citizens of some other cities do theirs.
There is little overt civic pride. Even Big Business is either too big, fragmented or uninterested to offer the kind of leadership it exerts in cities like Pittsburgh and Atlanta. Extraordinarily kind on occasion, New Yorkers in the mass can be the rudest, surliest, nastiest citizens of America and, with the possible exception of Paris, the world.
After chronicling the wonders of New York for English audiences for 30 years, Journalist Alistair Cooke is embarrassed to say that he no longer likes being in and about the city. "Now my apartment is a haven, a sanctuary against the city. New York is not manageable for the ordinary citizen living in it." He adds: "It's all right there in the last two volumes of Gibbon. All this opulence and comfort have led to sophistry. We're now hopelessly confused between privileges and rights. Nobody feels an obligation to the city any more. The only obligation is to one's family. The breakdown in society comes when people can't recognize any public obligations beyond their family." The electric excitement of New Yorkwhich no other city in the country can match or even approachis still there. By comparison, almost everyplace else is Oshkosh.
For the city's minorities, it is not a question of dullness or excitement, but survival in the urban jungle. Properly dissatisfied with the inferior education that most of their children were receiving, the city's Negroes long ago began pressing for local control of schools in black neighborhoods. With encouragement from Lindsay, the Central School Board last year grudgingly met them part way, offering black communities limited autonomy in three experimental districts. If the districts succeeded, the prospect was that the entire school systema "pathological bureaucracy" in the words of New York University Professor David Rogerswould in time be decentralized so that parents all over the city would