My husband and I are city people, so when one of our sons moved to Manhattan, we increased the frequency of our trips to the Big Apple.
We just got home from one such trip, a long weekend in New York, and I continue to marvel at what that city has done and is doing. My son’s very spiffy apartment building is located in a neighborhood adjacent to the Hudson Yards redevelopment project–a rapidly developing part of town that prudent people avoided 15 years ago. The High Line park–a favorite walking route these days–used to be an abandoned elevated rail line. The city took an eyesore and made it into an amenity so desirable it has reportedly spurred two billion dollars of adjacent redevelopment. Despite the city’s lack of alleys, city streets and sidewalks were clean and free of garbage. Bikes were everywhere, and more are coming: the city plans to roll out the first ten thousand bicycles of a planned bike-sharing program in a couple of months. Small pocket parks are everywhere, and the ones we saw were meticulously maintained.
When I was in city hall in Indianapolis, back in the late 1970s, then-Mayor Hudnut used to say we wanted to be “a city that works.” Clearly–with all its challenges–New York is a city that works. If we are honest, it works a lot better than Indianapolis does these days.
New York’s crime rate is lower than ours. Its ability to maintain public spaces should shame us–a few years ago, the Mayor wanted to get rid of small parks that were “too hard” or “too costly” to care for, and a walk on the downtown canal is a depressing reminder that this administration doesn’t understand the importance of maintenance. The canal is one of Indianapolis’ most important amenities, and it’s being allowed to fall apart.
Public transportation? New York has buses and taxis and subways, and isn’t resting on its laurels: a new subway station is going in a couple of blocks from our son’s apartment. In Indianapolis, we can’t even manage decent bus service.
When a city is safe and well-managed and convenient, people want to visit. When it isn’t–when it is a hassle to get from one place to another, when crime rates are worrisome, when public amenities are neglected–all the SuperBowls we can host won’t make us a favorite destination.