Nate Feltman: Here’s what Indy could learn from New York

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A former colleague of mine told me about something special she and her siblings did a few years ago for her mother’s 80th birthday. They took her to New York and enjoyed a Broadway show and all that New York has to offer. Her mom loved it, and they created wonderful memories.

I loved the idea, and my sister did, too. So, we planned a trip to New York for my mother’s 80th birthday over Labor Day weekend. I wasn’t sure what to expect given the negative publicity New York City has endured over the last couple of years. But my mom was up for it and mentioned that she had heard about a new Broadway show, “Mr. Saturday Night,” starring Billy Crystal.

So off to New York we went last Thursday. At 74 years old, Billy Crystal shined, and so did New York. To our delight, the city is back and bustling. Restaurants and museums are packed, sidewalks are filled, and Central Park is full of cyclers, joggers, walkers, kids and dogs. New York felt vibrant and safe.

In addition to our visit to Broadway, we visited the 911 Memorial and Museum, the new World Trade Center, the Museum of Modern Art, and restaurant classics Tavern on the Green, the Russian Tea Room and Carmine’s. We had an incredible time. Upon reflecting on what made New York shine (besides the wonderful family time), I decided that a few things stand out.

For one, it felt safe—safer than I feel in downtown Indianapolis most days. When there are people everywhere, there is a sense of safety in numbers. Tourists and New Yorkers were out and about. Dense residential city living provides New York a buffer against the remote-working phenomenon that is hitting our downtown harder than those cities with more residential housing in their downtown core.

It certainly didn’t hurt that there was a noticeable and comfortable presence of NYPD officers on busy street corners and other public spaces. I don’t feel that same presence of IMPD officers in our city core on most days.

Each morning, I started my day with a walk through Central Park. New York City planners were ahead of their time when they designated and preserved 800 acres in the center of Manhattan as a public park. If we want more downtown Indy residents, we will need to invest in more downtown green spaces that are a draw not only for city dwellers, but for the region as a whole.

As we laughed our way through “Mr. Saturday Night,” my mind began to wander. In addition to the great sports teams and facilities that are draws to our downtown, what additional amenities would add to the vibrancy of Indy? Maybe a new performing arts center and entertainment district that could host musicals, plays, opera, ballet, concerts and more.

The only negative experience we had while visiting NYC was the omnipresent stench that lurked around every corner. It wasn’t trash piled up, but instead marijuana, which is now legal in New York. If that is what Hoosiers have to look forward to if marijuana is legalized, we might want to continue holding out for that reason alone.

We had a great trip to New York, thanks partly to the positive experience provided by Uber. Uber singlehandedly made New York a better place to visit. We never waited more than a few minutes for a comfortable transfer from a trustworthy and friendly driver at a pre-negotiated rate. A game-changer.

In addition to the wonderful time spent with my mother and sister, I came away convinced that the demise of big cities has been greatly exaggerated. Young and talented people will continue to choose urban living. Let’s take the best that New York and other talent magnets are getting right and make Indy an even more attractive destination.•

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Feltman is publisher of IBJ and CEO of IBJ Media. Send comments to nfeltman@ibj.com.

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3 thoughts on “Nate Feltman: Here’s what Indy could learn from New York

  1. Great observations. I couldn’t agree more. Indianapolis definitely needs to increase the number of residents living downtown and in the near downtown neighborhoods. Green space – yes. Also, the arts center would be great, if located in mile square.

    Also worth noting is that New York (Manhattan) doesn’t have freeways running through it. Indianapolis would be much, much better if the downtown loop was replaced. A surface boulevard would create a beautiful, and vibrant environment. Chicago has a network of beautiful, park-like boulevards that Indianapolis could learn a lot from.

    1. Yet INDOT is content to double-down on the mistake of the reconstruction of the North Loop by doing the same to the South Loop … then, perhaps, looking at what they should have done differently.

  2. Great article! I too took a trip to NYC this summer to visit my son during an internship. While I had the same experiences with the smell of pot everywhere as well as some overflowing trash cans my experience was in general a good one.
    What’s interesting to me is that I have spent waayyy to much time thinking about the image of our city to visitors during my commutes. The Interstate system around here is in shambles and under construction everywhere it seems (I live south). I think about how the city must look like a war zone to visitors coming in from the airport with roads in poor repair, weeds that are 2 ft. tall and buildings that look like they need condemned. Only 2 years ago they completely closed sections of 465, 65 & 70 to do what amounted to temporary patchwork. My hope is that all this construction will be over sooner rather than later and routine maintenance to public spaces will improve.

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