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For residents, New York is a city of neighborhoods

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Popular wisdom has it that New York is a wonderful place to visit but a terrible place to live. For a great many people, however, the opposite is true. Within a few minute's walk, a New Yorker can choose from an incredible variety of shops, markets, movies, and restaurants. Decisions to go to the theater, to the opera or ballet, to a classical concert or recital, can be made on the spur of the moment. Fine museums, first-rate schools, major sporting events, the best jazz, rock, or pop entertainment, can all be had without ever getting into a car.

The visitor, on the other hand, finds himself in an overwhelming welter of speeding taxis, pushing crowds, and undecipherable subways. It's no surprise that many people leave New York wondering why anyone would ever live there by choice.

What they may not understand is that New York is a city of neighborhoods, areas defined by their ethnic group or economic status, and that most New Yorkers identify first with their neighborhood and second with the city.

These communities are the real New York, ignored by tour buses and far removed from midtown hotels and the seediness of Times Square. Exploring them on foot, one discovers the diversity, the energy and excitement, that explain why, for so many, New York is home. Columbus Avenue and the Upper West Side

A decade ago, Columbus Avenue in the 70s was bordered by run-down apartment buildings and decaying brownstones. Then, as so often happens in New York, someone had the audacity to open a restaurant in one of the worst sections of town. It was a huge success, and now Columbus Avenue between 86th Street and Lincoln Center boasts fashionable clothing stores, art galleries, and innumerable restaurants and gourmet shops.

On weekends, the residents take to the streets, turning the area into an urban parade. A good place to join it is at D. D. L. Food Show on 81st Street. The latest production of movie mogul Dino De Laurentiis, it is an extravaganza of brass, brick, tile, and wood separated into specialty departments.

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