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The City That Never Sleeps--at A Time When It Never Had A Worry

May 01, 1994|MARTIE ZAD | THE WASHINGTON POST

Old folks feel free to tell the young ones about the good old days, but the young ones clearly don't enjoy listening to those tales over and over.

Now there are a couple of wonderful videos that provide an opportunity to see New York as it used to be: a big city where fear did not dominate; where street crimes and drug wars were not in the neighborhoods, which were filled with people who lived and played happily in ethnic clans and intermingled.

Living in row houses, where doors were not locked, people helped each other through the rough days of the Great Depression, and a Sunday trip to Coney Island was a super treat.

These one-hour videos are titled "New York the Way It Was" and the recently released sequel "New York the Way It Was, the Old Neighborhood." They were produced by New York public television stations WLIW21 and Thirteen/WNET.

The videos capture a lot of what's to love about the good old days: pictures artfully spliced with comments by renowned natives including Alan King, Lou Carnesecca, Pete Hamill, Gov. Mario Cuomo, ex-mayor Ed Koch, Roberta Peters, Carlos Ortiz and Floyd Patterson.

One sees and hears how the neighborhoods of old New York were like giant communes, where immigrants filled a need to be with their own, and they provided a texture and protection that gave residents a strong sense of security. They made people creative, resilient and friendly, propelling them to work hard, play hard and love profoundly.

There's a glimpse of vendors who brought their stores to the people--sellers of ice, milk, fruits and vegetables, and dealers of junk. Children played memorable games in the hallways of the tenements and in the streets.

There's also a tour of Coney Island, where fathers took their families for special treats (a nickel for an ice cream or a hot dog), and a swing through Times Square, capturing the sounds and sights at the crossroads of the world.

It was a simpler time when everyone had a neighborhood, a self-contained world that gave one an identity. Where have you gone, old New York?

Each New York video is $25 and can be ordered by calling 1-800-847-7793.

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