Magazine December 22, 2019, Issue

Dump of a City

A worker cleans up confetti and garbage after New Year’s celebrations in Times Square in New York City. (Andrew Kelly/Reuters)

When I was a young boy in the 1970s, my hometown of Queens, New York, was a garbage dump. At least, this is how I remember the place. Polluted. Soiled. Dirty. Smelly. A place people wanted to flee. Queens Boulevard, the unimaginatively named thoroughfare that runs through the borough, was overwhelmed with soda cans, cigarette packets, and brown bags often filled with half-eaten, rotting food. One early memory finds me visiting Flushing Meadows Park — the site of the famous 1964 World’s Fair, dedicated to “man’s achievement on a shrinking globe in an expanding universe” and a place I considered “nature”

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