New York - a city with the planet at its feet

Want to experience the world? Go to New York City

New York draws people from around the world in search of a dream, writes Bay journalist Dorette de Swardt.


The city of New York can be explored for days on end and you will still not have seen half of it.
The city of New York can be explored for days on end and you will still not have seen half of it.
Image: Dorette de Swardt

Want to experience the world? Go to New York City.

If you sit for long enough in one place in NYC, you will see the whole world pass by.

Of course, when in New York, you are unlikely to sit around for too long – you can explore the city for days on end and you will still not have seen half of it.

New York is the ultimate embodiment of our collective human imagination.

“Listen to the song of my people,” our born and bred New Yorker tour guide proudly proclaims, as a police siren rings out over the noise of the air conditioners, subway trains, car hooters and scores of people.

With a population of more than eight million people speaking 800 languages, it comes as no surprise that NYC has the planet at its feet. It's the place where the world meets.

New York was purchased from the Algonquin Indians by the Dutch who named it New Amsterdam and eventually declared it a city.

It was later taken by the British, who named it New York City.

Settlers from all over the world came here – African, Jewish, Irish, Germans, Italians.

By the 1800s, immigrants were greeted by the Statue of Liberty, made and gifted by the French.

The colossal copper Statue of Liberty in New York Harbour was a gift from the people of France to the people of the US
The colossal copper Statue of Liberty in New York Harbour was a gift from the people of France to the people of the US
Image: Dorette de Swardt

New York is, and always has been, a cultural boiling pot – stewing a broth of diversity, creativity and survival.

The city unavoidably also carries its diversity in its area names.

Heading downtown on Broadway towards the financial sector where the Twin Towers once stood, one can head into Little Italy and Chinatown.

Just off Times Square lies Little Brazil. In Fifth Ave, the Irish St Patrick's Day parade is held. The human race convenes here.

It's where the United Nations sits, it is home to the New York stock exchange where financial markets are argued.

I look up at the mesmerising screens in Times Square just to see our very own Trevor Noah on one of the hundreds of flashing billboards.

Lower Manhattan as seen from the top of the Empire State Building.
Lower Manhattan as seen from the top of the Empire State Building.
Image: Dorette de Swardt

Not only does the world come to New York but New York has gone all over the world.

It is where Bob Dylan found his voice, where Marilyn Monroe sang Happy Birthday to then president JFK, where Muhammed Ali fought his world-famous match against Doug Jones, the scene for King Kong and Spider-Man, the home of Friends and Sex and the City.

Think Lady Gaga, 50 Cent, Alicia Keys. The list goes on.

Across the world, people know New York, it's moved into our living rooms through our TV sets and lives within our popular culture.

At the site where the Twin Towers once stood, the names carved into the 9/11 memorial indicate various nationalities.

When the towers were hit by those planes it was not just an attack on New York City or America, it was an attack on the world.

The inhabitants of NYC are as diverse in their origin and cultures as they are in their professions.

One tour guide we speak to was once also in finance on Wall Street, a skateboarder, a dog walker and at one stage during his life here in New York, a wine seller.

On the Staten Island ferry I spot the musician I had seen playing at the John Lennon memorial in Central Park the day before, wearing an official uniform and ushering tourists around. Many people clearly run more than one job.

Lighted billboards around Times Square.
Lighted billboards around Times Square.
Image: Dorette de Swardt

A local tells me how he had once seen a rat and two pigeons fight over a slice of pizza dropped in the street. That's New York – great risks met with either great rewards or great disappointment.

Here you can see humanity. Every part of it. People who live out their daily lives in as many ways as there are humans in this world.

Bound by one thing – the idea of promise represented by New York City.

New York is the ultimate embodiment of our collective human imagination.

It is the place where anything humans can dream up, will come true.

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