The famous skyline has been anonymized by the towers of glass that rise above Hudson Yards leaving only a glimpse of the needle on top of the Empire State building visible as we drive in from the west but the heart still beats faster as the city approaches.
We have a day off so I get up early and go for a run along the Jersey shore before taking the NY Waterway from our hotel in Weehawken across the Hudson to the W 39th Street ferry terminal. I’m meeting friends in Union Square: it is sunny and cold and beautiful and I have given myself the time to walk, the only way to get about Manhattan—if you have the time. It is early on Easter Sunday so maybe it shouldn’t be a surprise that this is the quietest I have ever seen the city. But it feels very different from when I was last here seven years ago—it is not just the skyline that has changed: there are cycle lanes everywhere; every restaurant seems to have tables on the street. All good stuff, but the city feels less alive than it did seven years ago. Gentrification? Covid?
From Union Square we head out on the subway to PS1, MoMA’s fabulous contemporary art space in Queens. The adjoining Little Five points, the graffiti capital of the world has been swept away and a towering grey apartment complex has taken its place. But the Court Square Diner is still there and thriving, and still serves a mean Reuben sandwich. After lunch there we head back into Manhattan to the upper west side and stroll back down through Central Park to take the subway back down to the Village. We pick up a pizza from Bleeker Street and a ‘funky’ bottle wine from New York State recommended after a long conversation in a trendy Hudson Street wine shop that is described to us as ‘unique’ and ‘earthy’. The pizza is excellent. The wine is well strange. It has a beer bottle cap. We give it time to breathe, we do our best to like it, but if you tried to serve this kind of stuff in Paris, even with pizza, there might be a civil disturbance. New York is still a place to savour.