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Urban Grit

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Any disappointment felt by New York over its failed Olympic bid—and there was some disappointment evident, as well as a certain measure of relief voiced by a public that had shown relatively lukewarm interest in hosting the Games—had to be reckoned as trivial compared with what the winning city went through. London’s euphoria gave way to shock and grief with the next day’s terrorist bombings. The sangfroid exhibited by Londoners evoked a special feeling of empathy here: Their nerves had been steeled by the Blitz, just as ours were (we hope) by 9/11. Reminded anew of what a soft target mass transit makes—suddenly there were more cops on the subways, more bomb-sniffing dogs in the terminals, more pundits saying “when, not if”—some New Yorkers chose to distract themselves with other news of the week. There was the fate of the Brooklyn skyline: Would a newly unveiled scheme to surround the planned Nets basketball arena with a half-dozen undulating Frank Gehry skyscrapers (the tallest of which was dubbed “Miss Brooklyn” by its designer) make that intimately scaled borough too much like Manhattan, or even Houston? There was the Lil' Kim perjury sentence: Did the rapper get off too easily because of the precedent of Martha "M. Diddy" Stewart—who, the judge observed, “happens to be older and whiter and whose entertainment following is richer”? There was the jailing of the pushy but redoubtable Times reporter Judith Miller for refusing to reveal her sources: Was it really necessary to make her sleep on the floor of her cell the first night because of an alleged shortage of prison beds? And there was the death at 74 of Nan Kempner, the Upper East Side socialite internationally adored for her style and conviviality. The departure of such an iconic figure lent another touch of sadness to a grim week, as did the thought that we’d never again be seeing those “NYC2012” TV ads, which made the city look so achingly romantic.


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