New York, New York, It WAS a Wonderful Town

July 2, 2020 Updated: July 6, 2020


I always thought I would retire in New York City. I grew up there.

In the 1950s, it was a pretty great place. It’s hard to believe now that my friends and I, eight years old or so, would shoot up the Jerome-Woodlawn line to the Bronx by ourselves and sit in the bleachers to watch the beloved Yankees, debating who was better, Mickey Mantle or Willie Mays, until it was too late to be home for dinner.

Nowadays, no middle-class parent, or any parent if they have their head screwed on even faintly right, would even consider such a thing for a kid that age. It’s far too dangerous, to put it mildly.

The city’s in flames—figuratively, morally, and literally, emphasis on the literally—with the murder rate more than doubling from last year and shootings up 45 percent. (Not that anybody, as Nicole Gelinas wrote in the New York Post, seems to care.)

The truth is New Yorkers have no one to blame but themselves for the drastic decline of their once fabulous city that was the envy of the world not all that long ago.

They can claim they didn’t know Mayor Bill de Blasio would be the worst civic politician since Nero, but they did elect the man, and they had a perfect example from the 1990s for what that would mean.

Those were the days David Dinkins was mayor. Cops were handicapped, and NYC was as riddled with crime as Gotham in the Batman movies. With de Blasio, we have, in the words of that quintessential New Yorker Yogi Berra, déjà vu all over again. Only in this case, it’s worse, much worse, with no signs of improvement.

Nobody’s singing “New York, New York, it’s a wonderful town!” anymore. Certainly not Frank Sinatra or Gene Kelly. (Watching the joy in this old clip breaks your heart about New York and Hollywood at once—a twofer. Or how about this one, with Jimmy Cagney giving his regards to Broadway? Or Irving Berlin’s “Easter Parade,” with Fifth Avenue all boarded up from rioting?)

Most of the New Yorkers I speak with on the phone (It’s hard for me to go there. As a resident of Tennessee, I’d have to self-isolate for two weeks) want to get out. They wonder aloud if they could sell their apartments—once a real estate goldmine.

Others are already out, living in vacation homes in Connecticut or Long Island with no immediate plans to return.

Who can blame them when you watch the crazed Hieronymus Bosch-like goings-on outside City Hall (for how many days now?) with protesters demanding yet more pounds of flesh, never to be satisfied, from the same people—the police—who gave their lives for them on 9/11?

The now-viral video of the young white woman, dishabille, prancing around and yelling expletives at a cop she assumes never went to college and calling him a “black Judas” will perhaps go down as the historic low-ebb marker of our benighted times.

And now their erstwhile mayor wants to emblazon the words “Black Lives Matter” in front of Trump Tower. That’ll teach ’im!

Of course, it never occurs to de B that he might be the race-baiter, not Trump. These kinds of thoughts are outside the purview of Democratic politicians and their followers in this era of maximum projection. (The Black Lives Matter “mural” has apparently been temporarily postponed.)

New York used to be a place of great knowledge (and self-knowledge) where trends were set and ideas nurtured. Now, knee-jerk protest of the most rote and brain-dead sort rules the day, with statues desecrated and innocent people cursed and assaulted in the streets.

Epoch Times Photo
“Revolution Nothing Less” is painted onto the sidewalk as activists and protesters occupy an area across from City Hall in Manhattan before a City Council decision on police funding in New York on June 30, 2020. (Charlotte Cuthbertson/The Epoch Times)

It’s still leading the nation, but it’s leading it the wrong way.

All those disaffected New Yorkers I talk to … it sounds like rich people’s problems. But it’s more than that. These were good people who wanted the best for everyone. Now they don’t want to be in the city so many of us thought, rightly or wrongly, was the center of the universe.

Truth to tell, I don’t much want to go there either these days, at least until things get better. Like Jimmy Cagney in the clip linked above, “Give my regards to Broadway!” But unlike Jimmy, in the words of the musical comedy genius George M. Cohan, I’m not sure “I’ll be there e’re long.”

Roger L. Simon is a prize-winning author, Oscar-nominated screenwriter and co-founder of PJ Media. His most recent books are “I Know Best: How Moral Narcissism Is Destroying Our Republic, If It Hasn’t Already” (non-fiction) and “The GOAT” (fiction).

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.