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Peter Quinn

On What Sets New York Apart:
The great cities are military and political capitals. And the genius of New York is it's a city about selling things and buying things. I've often thought that the motto on the seal of the city of New York should be "Let's make a deal."

On Public Life:
My feeling is that the need for public life is instinctual. And no matter if all these machines come along that the city will learn to live with, a part of people will always crave something like New York. There will be enough people and places saying, "I just don't want to do this in my room. I don't want to have an office in my house. I want to go out and mingle with other people. I want to have different kinds of food. I want to know what other people look like. I want to know, I want to be in physical proximity to them." To me, today, one of the most thrilling things you can do is walk down Fifth Avenue on a spring day. You walk from Rockefeller Center to the New York Public Library, and I think it's one of the most dramatic landscapes, cityscapes, humanscapes in the world. And you have that sense, just walking down the street, I'm part of something bigger than myself, I'm part of something wonderful. I'm part of a human creation that goes back 200 years.

On The Bowery:
The Bowery is one of the first great public entertainment centers in the United States where people came to have fun. It was a step up from the Five Points. It ran up from the Five Points and you'd have beer gardens and the theaters -- and it was a place where, you were talking about the "Bowery Boys," where there was an urban male who strutted and dressed differently. This was very different from somebody on a farm or in a small town -- they had an air about them. They had a way that they walked down the streets which survives in New York and in cities. The city makes you different. The city makes you free. People walk different in New York. You know, the Bowery Boy had a swagger, a different way of walking. And people still say New Yorkers don't pay attention where they're walking or that there's still a particular way of walking in New York. Well, that walk is first recognized on the Bowery in the 1840s and 50s. And then the Bowery becomes, in the 1850s, a place of gangland warfare. And the gangs in New York in the 1850s are very interesting because they're much more like the gangs in Los Angeles; they are semi-political. One of the famous Irish gang leaders, Dick Croker, was with the Fourth Avenue Tunnel gang -- he later becomes the boss of Tammany and a multimillionaire, and retires to the West of Ireland to raise race horses -- which is another great New York industry, politics and getting rich through it.

Peter Quinn
Quinn is a novelist and essayist, and a chronicler of Irish-America. A third-generation New Yorker whose grandparents were born in Ireland, Quinn is the author of BANISHED CHILDREN OF EVE (1994, Viking Penguin), which won the American Book Award. An historical novel set amid the New York City draft riots during the Civil War, the novel combines Quinn's lifelong interests in New York City, Irish history and immigration, and the Civil War. Since 1979, Quinn has been a speech writer, first for New York Governor Hugh Carey, until he left office in 1982, and then for Governor Mario Cuomo from 1983 to 1985. He is the chief speech writer for Time Warner.