You have people from all over the world, you have more languages spoken in New York City than any city in the world. You have every national group, racial group, religious group represented here, and what they're competing to do is really create a better life for themselves. So as they do that for themselves they do it for other people. The city, therefore, is constantly discovering something new about itself, creating something new, neighborhoods remain the same and then they change over time and you get a sense of a new culture, a new civilization that's informing you. It's absolutely a remarkable experience. I don't think there's ever been an experience like New York City ever before in the history of the world.
On How The City Changes A Person:
When I lived in Washington for five years, I would miss the city. And if I was away from the City of New York for two months, I'd almost have this physical longing for it. I wanted to be back there, I wanted to walk the streets. When I got within a half hour of the city -- one of the tunnels or the bridge -- my personality would change. I'd wake up, I'd start to become a little bit more sarcastic, I'd probably drive a little faster to get ready for the city, maybe even cut a few people off. There's a personality change that goes on.
I was born in Brooklyn in 1944, and I always emphasize born in Brooklyn because I've used that as an applause line. If you say you were born in Brooklyn, you can always get people to applaud for you because someplace in the world, every place in the world, there is somebody that was born in Brooklyn. It was the Brooklyn of the Brooklyn Dodgers. I lived one mile from Ebbets field. My father was born in Manhattan, and my mother was born in Brooklyn -- which in those days was like being born in two separate countries -- and my mother got my father to live in Brooklyn. So my father's revenge was to make me a Yankee fan one mile from Ebbets field.
On Great Mayors:
New York City went through one period of great turmoil, the depression, only to move into the period of even greater turmoil, the Second World War. All during that time, Fiorello La Guardia was the mayor. He kept the spirit of the city alive, substantively he contributed work programs, public works, a whole emphasis on culture. It's Fiorello La Guardia that started the New York City Opera Company in the middle of the depression. The usual criticism of starting an opera program in the middle of the depression is -- how could you spend money on opera when there were people out of work and people that were starving? Because Fiorello La Guardia understood that you had to appeal to the sense of beauty, and the sense of love, and the sense of universality that people need in order to get through life.