The state of the ethnic neighborhoods is sad and frightening. Some are totally abandoned—Chinatown’s stores are staffed in part by contingents from several Queens neighborhoods, so this was not a day to buy a knockoff designer purse or go on a dim sum bender. It was, however, a day to buy stolen goods—outside a few of the steel-shuttered stalls, young guys loitered, discreetly asking passersby if they’d like to buy a watch or a purse. It felt more like Ed Koch’s New York than Mike Bloomberg’s, and perhaps that’s what it will eventually return to being. There’s a shift that happens between… good and evil is too simple, but between contentment and desperation, or between routine and invention, that happens whenever something big and unknowable crashes into the city and demands changes of it. You can feel the shift happening now.
We walked up through intersections abandoned to common courtesy by blind stoplights, through Flatiron toward the Empire State Building. North of Madison Square Park on 5th, five police cars and a huge vehicle that looked like a cross between a fire truck and a paddy wagon blocked 27th St. completely. The door to the Cathay Bank next to the Museum of Sex was ajar, and one of a dozen police officers was interviewing a thirtysomething Hispanic woman. “Did he get away?” he asked her.
“Yes,” she said. “He ran off.”