The City Resilient
Lagerfeld, Steven, The Wilson Quarterly
Thirty years ago, my morning commute took me on foot across New York City's West 42nd Street. It was not a good place to start the day. The street was lined with peepshows, porn theaters, and shabby shops, and its sidewalks were littered with trash and a smattering of unconscious human beings from the night before. Dante would have been speechless.
Today, critics complain that 42nd Street is too squeaky-clean, that it has been "Disneyfied." I prefer to marvel at the rebirth of the storied entertainment mecca New Yorkers once called the Deuce. New York City's rebirth is a particularly inspiring story, but it has been repeated to one degree or another--with a few notable exceptions--in cities across the country. Crime is down, business is up, and while Americans are not flocking back to live there, they now see downtown as an exciting (and safe) place to go. There is a sense that some of the last great urban problems, particularly improving public education, won't prove so intractable after all. At a time when the United States is beset by self-doubt, it's important to appreciate such triumphs. …