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Nude As The News

graffiti catBefore my story starts, I need to make a point about New York’s story. It is a story as rich in ironies as it is in skyscrapers. One of the things that made the late twentieth century so bitter here is one of the things that has always made New York so sweet: its intense and vibrant street life. Our nineteenth-century street system, built for pedestrians to walk around in, and our early-twentieth century mass-transit system, built to move streets full of people en bloc, constitute public space of a breadth and depth undreamt of in the rest of the U.S. (and possibly unmatched in the rest of the world). A random walk in the street or ride on the train can give us a splendid view of the abundance, diversity, and color of New York life. All of our people’s energy and beauty are there to see, hear, feel in the street. But this means that our strains and rages are out in the street as well. Openness of being is one thing that makes New York a thrill. But openness may lead our tensions and struggles—between classes, between races and ethnic groups, between men and women, between generations—to boil over openly, in front of everybody. The New York street strips us naked, sometimes in the midst of people we may not want to be naked with. But it strips them naked, too.

–Marshall Berman, from New York Calling: From Blackout to Bloomberg

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