Letter from New York by Sue Nichterlein

Sue Nichterlein

Letter from New York


The crisp clear days of September gave way to haze, rain and eventually snow by mid-October. Will a foreshortened fall presage another severe winter? Did the nuclear ‘accident’ at Three Mile Island in April confirm what everyone will tell you – the weather patterns are changing.

At least the snow will deaden the noise and bury the garbage. Every year when New Yorkers return from their dachas on Fire Island or in the Hamptons, or come back from France and rural England, it is the noise and the dirt which assaults their temporarily rested sensibilities. We have done our bit for community rights on Professors’ Row – written off letters of complaint to the Interchurch Center up the road, that bastion of the Protestant churches in America that persists in having its garbage collected by industrial sanitation trucks that chew the paper on the spot, between the hours of two and four in the morning. And we have challenged the owner of the moog electronic synthesizer to control his children or else. The noise was more tolerable on the edge of Spanish Harlem – at least salsa has rhythm.

The scaffolding is still up around Columbia’s many buildings on Broadway. Three months ago a Barnard College student was killed by a falling chunk of masonry. It was only four pounds; the piece that fell of our building was 56 pounds but it landed in the roadway between cars.

The rubbish on Broadway accumulates because the city cannot afford to have it collected regularly. The merchants have no will to organise to clean it up themselves. The people who live on Broadway – the winos, the drug addicts and dealers, the pimps and their prostitutes, the shopping bag ladies

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