New York:a city transformed

A four-day visit to New York last week confirmed the rumors: the world’s favorite city is back on top. Clean, courteous, and comfortable aren’t adjectives that would have been used to describe New York in the past, but things have changed dramatically.

There aren’t many travellers who need to be sold on the virtues of a visit to New York. The problem for many was the fear and downright disgust evoked by the Big Apple’s crime rate, mean (and dirty) streets and reputation for downright rudeness. The city has been on the comeback trail for several years, and efforts to clean it up (in every way) have really paid off.

Like most tourists, I confined my visit to Manhattan, where I saw exactly one (1) homeless beggar in three full days of walking the scrubbed and litter-free streets. The efforts of the city’s tough-talking (and acting) mayor notwithstanding, one has to wonder exactly where the homeless have gone. Wherever they are, they are not (as in Toronto and other Canadian cities) bothering people for a donation.

If the legendary New York “rudeness” has prevented you from visiting the city, think again. Without exception, my requests for directions from people othe street were answered so pleasantly it sometimes was almost spooky – is the mayor putting something in the water? Walking by the Westin Hotel opposite Central Park, I asked the doorman if he knew the location of a tourist information centre I remembered from a previous trip. “They moved,” he said, “what do you need?” When I told him I was in search of a subway map, he went into the hotel and returned with two copies and a smile.