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A Nicer New York

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A Nicer New York

(New York) A few years ago, New York was a mess. It was like Calcutta without cows. You needed guerrilla training just to get through the day. If the pipes and sewers on your street did not collapse or explode, it was a good day. And visitors were greeted by New York's unofficial ambassadors of ill will, the squeegee men.

Since Rudy Giuliani became mayor, things have changed a bit. Murders are down, muggings are down, squeegee men are practically an endangered species. But all of this progress has had a rather sinister sideffect. New York is becoming nice.

"The Capitol Steps," a political satire group, has noticed the changes, too.

(Excerpt from "The Capitol Steps")

Performers (in unison): Dear Officer Rudy, you're causing us pain. Nobody likes New York if there's no cause to complain. We're getting impatient. We're counting to 10. Please bring us back our squeegee men.

Unidentified Performer: Squeegee men.

(End of excerpt)

Smith: Down on the subways there are now platform conductors who make sure passengers who are getting off have room to. And the language they use? Incredible.

Unidentified Man #1: Step out of the doorway, please.

Unidentified Man #2: "Please" is the magic word.

Smith: Does it work?

Man #2: It works 95 percent of the time.

Smith: "Please," in New York. Can you believe it?

(Excerpt from "The Capitol Steps")

Performers: Saying please, saying please, saying pretty please.

Performer: There's no word for that in Brooklynese.

Performers: Oh, come on.

Performer: OK.

(End of excerpt)

Smith: Above the ground, 42nd Street has long been one of those sleazy, don't-go-down-there kinds of places. Now look who's moved in.

(Excerpt from "The Capitol Steps")

Performer: It's all so goody-goody since crooks have felt the heat. There's no more porn on 42nd Street.

(End of excerpt)

Unidentified Officer: ...right there on 42nd Street.

Smith: And check this out. In Times Square now they have purple-patched, Mountie-looking guys whose job it is to help sweet little old ladies find their matinees.

Unidentified Woman #1: OK. Thanks.

Officer: Sure.

Unidentified Woman #2: Yeah. Thank you very much.

Smith: Nice, isn't it?

Former Mayor Ed Koch: 42nd Street fell for maybe 20 or 30 years into a great decline. Now it's coming out of that decline so don't knock it.

Smith: Uptown in Harlem, folks can barely get to church Sunday for all the tourists that pour through. Nice Harlem has been discovered. Next thing you know, someone will turn it into a theme park.

Unidentified Man #3: Pistol, pump it.

Unidentified Woman #3: Ordering.

Smith: The old New York isn't gone; you just have to find it.

Man #3: Be back in about an hour. Don't go away.

Smith: The Carnegie Deli still serves a pastrami sandwich guaranteed to kil your cardiologist. A sandwich like this would be illegal in the suburbs.

Man #3: And you're on a diet. You're not on a diet, right?

Unidentified Woman #4: Not on a diet.

Smith: And the waiters can give you heartburn, too.

Unidentified Man #4: Look at this putz, walks right through in the middle. You couldn't walk around? He's got to be on the camera, right? He's got to be in...

Man #3: Please don't take my picture. My wife doesn't know I'm a waiter. She thinks I'm a stockbroker.

Smith: No, New York has not lost all its New Yorkness, but be prepared to have a nice day. Harry Smith, CBS News, New York, New York.

First aired on the CBS Evening News

March 14, 1997

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