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New York is a City of Immigrants

Sometimes things just happen in neat little bundles. Yesterday, my wife, daughter and I spent much of the afternoon at Flushing Meadows Park in Queens. The park was the site of the 1939/1940 and 1964/1965 world’s fairs. It now hosts The Queens Museum in a solid, rectangular building which Wikipedia says was built for the earlier fair, used for the second and in between served as the United Nations General Assembly before the permanent headquarters was built in Manhattan.

The museum is home to a massive and extraordinary scale model of the city, from up in the northern Bronx all the way down to the southwestern reaches of Staten Island. Originally built for the 1964 fair, the model is scaled at one inch to 100 feet. It is periodically updated and features every structure in the city. Visitors walk on a catwalk around the model. Tiny planes, attached to what looks like fishing line, take off from LaGuardia and JFK.

A bad shot of part of the big model of NYC at The Queens Museum.

As wonderful as the model is, the real story is the park. It was one of the first nice days of the spring, and it was full of people from all over. Latin American countries were particularly well represented. The park was mobbed and everyone was having a good time.

We ended up in nearby Corona, the Queens area made famous by two great American musicians: Paul Simon and Louis Armstrong. Simon, of course, sang about the Queen of Corona. Armstrong, the most important American musician, spent his last years in Corona in the only house he ever owned. It also is home to The Lemon Ice King of Corona, makers of what many people consider the best ices in the city.

The great thing is that being in the Corona/Flushing area is like being in Mexico. It is a poor and grimy neighborhood, but the people are out in the street, the food is great and there is music everywhere. I had arroz con pollo after deciding that arroz is bueno for Passover.

The bundle that tied it all together was the song that came on the radio as we drove between the restaurant and the ices. Steve Earle’s “City of Immigrants” was perfect. New York is not explicitly mentioned in the song, but the implication is clear. The closest he comes is mentioning a city that doesn’t sleep.

Songfacts says that the song was written in 2008 in response to steps taken by the Bush administration. Earle, the site says, had recently relocated to New York City after living in Nashville for three decades. It is pretty obvious that his views are not likely to have moderated in response to the first three months of the Trump administration.

Those interested in the long and fascinating story of how immigration literally and figuratively built New York City, check out the terrific “City of Dreams” by Tyler Anbinder. It’s the first choice in the Amazon listings below.

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