So why is it better? A lot has to do with safety. In the old days, New York was a dangerous place, and that sense that no one was safe led to a generalized suspicion and aggressiveness. Now, in the post-Giuliani era, it’s much safer. A few years ago, one of my friends from NYC was taking his kids to Paris and found himself warning them to pay attention to their surroundings and be on their guard: Remember, you’re not in New York City anymore!

He laughed at himself when he realized what he was saying, but it was true: New York in recent years has been unusually safe for a big city, and when you feel safer, you’re generally in a better mood.

At any rate, there’s a lesson here. In the era of such movies as Death Wish,Taxi Driver, and Escape From New York, it looked as if New York City was doomed: An abyss of crime, poverty and degradation from which the most one could hope was to, well, escape. But, instead, things got better.