Monocolumn

A daily bulletin of news & opinion

15 March 2013

Breaking up is never easy so I’m going to be upfront. New York, it’s over between us – at least for now. In a couple of weeks I’ll be leaving this island of Manhattan for another much warmer one far away in the South China Sea.

From blizzards to blackouts we’ve been through a lot over the last five years but the time’s come to move to a city where the skyscrapers really do nearly scrape the sky and where the subway doesn’t resemble a rubbish dump. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll miss you while I’m in Hong Kong but I’m hoping that by the time I return, you’ll have ironed out a few crucial creases in your urban fabric. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

The next time I arrive in the city, would it be possible to be welcomed back by a friendly face at immigration? After all, these officers serve as the first taste of American hospitality for many visitors. Instilling a little charm into team Homeland Security doesn’t mean they’ll be any less effective at protecting US borders. We can also try to reimagine the immigration hall itself. Rather than feeling like a holding pen illuminated by strip lighting and the buzz of a patriotic film, invest some money into making it an airy and modern marvel of American architecture with the same grandeur and impact as Grand Central or Washington DC’s Union Station would have had a century ago. And for some added convenience, why not take a look at Hong Kong’s International Airport and build a path specifically for frequent travellers to the US to thank them rather than punish them for their regular custom?

Once I’ve collected my luggage I’d like to avoid the long taxi line, time-consuming traffic and frequently dubious driving skills of New York cabbies and instead jump on an express train to Manhattan. It shouldn’t take long for an efficient rail service to get me the 15 or so miles into town and it will be immediately popular with New Yorkers who will love its convenience.

Having saved time on getting into the city, it would be great to spend time on other things that New York loves to rush; let’s slow that famous New York minute down a bit. Change the wage system of restaurant workers so that they’re paid decently by the hour and are not dependent on tips. If they aren’t driven to turn over as many tables as possible, that tedious New York trait of receiving the bill before you’ve asked for it will stop and we can all relax a little more over our meals.

Finally, put the city that never sleeps to bed every now and then. The 24-hour delis, gyms, chemists and food-delivery services may offer convenience but in real terms, they do little for New Yorkers’ quality of life.

Dear New York, I hope you get some good R&R while I’m gone and that you’ll be a little more fresh-faced when I see you in a year’s time.

Aisha Speirs is Monocle’s (outgoing) New York bureau chief.

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