New York was the first capital of the United States and since 1790 it has had the largest population with some 11 million inhabitants. The city is made up of 5 districts: Manhattan, lying between the Hudson and the East River, Brooklyn, the Bronx, Queens and Richmond.
New York is the financial and cultural capital of the nation and, being the seat of the United Nations, it can be considered a world capital.
To foreigners New York symbolizes America because it testifies the American people’s reverence for bigness and money. New York has the greatest port in the world, the highest building (the Empire State), the biggest cars and the most expensive shops. It has more than 600 large hotels and about 12,000 restaurants (from the expensive ones to the cheap cafeterias and automats).
There are cinemas in Broadway that are larger than many European squares (such as Radio City Music Hall), others which have never been closed, day and night, for years. There are more people working in Rockfeller Centre than in many cities in Europe, and there are more banks in Wall Street than pizzerias in Naples.
Broadway, the most famous street in Manhattan, is America’s greatest theatrical centre. Here, at the Metropolitan or at Carnagie Hall, you can hear the best musicians and opera singers, and at over 50 theatres you can see world famous actors presenting everything from musical comedies (a typically American art from) to the classic, from the works of Arthur Miller to the informal plays of the Living Theatre, at night the street is so full of giant advertising signs that it’s as bright as day.
The main shopping centre of Manhattan and of the whole nation is Fifth Avenue, whose shops supply the largest selection of goods: priceless jewels, latest-fashion clothes, fabulous fur-coats, chinaware, yachts, antiques and so on. At the end of the street, providing a striking contrast with its luxurious atmosphere, are the Bowery, the street of slums, cheap bars and dormitories for vagabonds and drunkards, and Harlem, where Negroes live their miserable lives in segregation.
Much of New York’s flavour comes from the variety of people who inhabit it. The Statue of Liberty, standing at the entrance to the port, has seen the arrival of millions of immigrants, who make a great contribution to the city’s colour. You can hear dozen of languages spoken in New York, and in the streets of the city you can see Chinese wearing blue-jeans, Italians eating hot-dogs, Puerto Ricans going out for pizza and Slavs and Poles spending Sunday in Chinatown.
Source: R. Colle – I. Vay, L’esame di inglese, Lattes, an old Italian book 1974.