On New York's "Americanness":
New York is really the only cosmopolitan American city. It's the only true city in America, in the sense that it's an international crossroads for more than one thing, more than one business, more than one activity. You have to go to London or Paris or cities of that caliber to really find this much sophistication, this much diversity . . . .
Immigrants who came to America in the 19th and early 20th centuries were coming under the assumption that they were coming here to stay. They were coming here to stay because it was better than the way they were leaving. It was a sense of pride -- being given a chance to become a citizen. Whereas, now you have very much the sense that people are coming here, often for a limited amount of time, and their identity is fundamentally the one they've left behind. There's almost a begrudging sense of coming here. "I'm coming to America because I have to make some money, but I'm sending the money home, back to the country where I come from, and as soon as I am able to, as soon as I've made enough money, I am going back home myself." That's an entirely different thing.
On Views Of New York:
William James, I think, had the best quote that I have ever heard about New York which was -- when you live in New York, everywhere else in the world seems insipid and just sort of trivial, and that when you move away and you are living somewhere else and you look at New York, you can't imagine how anyone lives there. That dichotomy is the perfect expression of what New York is. When you are here, you can't imagine living anywhere else.
On The Dark Side Of New York:
Because the history of New York is so rife with violence, with corruption, with a lot of scary elements, there is a ghostliness about it. All of that seeming underside seems to go along with the beauty of the city. The seeming underside never really seems to die, and there are ghosts in New York. I mean you can't walk down any street without being reminded of either some wonderful or terrible thing that occurred -- probably on the very block that you're walking on. You can look at the wonderful big buildings and the wonderful big museums and they look old, and they look marvelous and you think, well that was the good old days in New York. But the tenements downtown are as old as the museums uptown, and in many ways they are just as important and just as critical to the life of the city, to the history of the city. So that element is what really surprises people -- to discover that all the sides of New York are so old. The good and the bad. There really is no golden age, there was no gilded age in New York, in the sense of a time when things were really nice here. It's always been a very brutal, very tough city.
I think juxtaposition is really the key to New York. I think where you get that most strongly is probably in Central Park, which is really the thing that makes life in New York possible. New York's not a practical proposition without Central Park, and I think that you get that sense of juxtaposition, that you're really in a wild place, in many parts of Central Park. You're in an extremely wild place -- both good and bad. Very bad things happen in that wild place, as tend to happen in wild places, but very good things happen too. And then you can look around you and you're completely surrounded by skyscrapers, office buildings. No other city in the world, I don't think, would allow that much acreage, that much of the most expensive acreage in the world, to remain parkland. Any other city, certainly in America, would have sold it off a long time ago and made a huge profit off of it.