What do you love about New York?
1. My first ritual is very easy—to walk over the Brooklyn Bridge. It’s the subject of my first film for public television more than 30 years ago. At the time of completion in 1883, it was the largest suspension bridge on earth and one of the greatest engineering accomplishments, if not the greatest engineering accomplishment, of the nineteenth century. And the designer and builder John and Washington Roebling, respectively, designed it so that the pedestrians had privacy. The elevated promenade, which still to this day thousands of people clog the bridge and you can have magnificent views of the harbor.
2. I love walking through Central Park, which is another great engineering feat of the nineteenth century. It’s designed by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux. It’s just a magnificent tour de force. It’s a relatively small area. We think of it as large, but it’s still a relatively small area. And yet it offers you, after just a few steps, just a complete change of scenery. You round a bend and all of a sudden you’re in a different place and you take a few more steps and you’re in another place. It’s a testament to their vision that they knew how to bring to be the center of a gigantic metropolis, a sense of the rural experience that was fast disappearing.
3. The third ritual is a brand new one—the ones I described have been going on all of my life or at least 35 years in the case of the Brooklyn Bridge—and that’s the High Line. All of my life I’ve had a vivid imagination. I remember coming to New York as a kid on a Boy Scout trip and seeing the High Line and just imagining the motion of the trains going in and out of buildings at an elevated place. Since it was overgrown with weeds and was not used at all or very little used back then, I sort of fantasized thinking of dramatic film in which the chase would take place with the trains moving in and out. … All these rituals are democratic experiences. Often our lives are filled with routines like where you get your cup of coffee, and that’s important too. But what’s so wonderful about these three routines is that everyone can do them, and it will not cost one penny.
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