The following comes from a 2004 interview with Luc Sante in The Believer. I recently stumbled upon it and thought I'd share some excerpts.
“In the 1970s New York City was not a part of the United States at all. It was an offshore interzone with no shopping malls, few major chains, no golf courses, no subdivisions. We thought of the place as a free city, where exiles and lamsters and refugees found shelter. Downtown we were proud of this, naturally.”
--Luc Sante, from "My Lost City"
THE BELIEVER: In the essay “My Lost City,” you describe 1970s New York as a place of danger, authenticity, personality, and color—a city for outcasts.
LUC SANTE: All I know about 1970s New York City is that it’s where I grew up, and you always have an umbilical connection to the time and place of your growing up. It was cheap, didn’t have too many people in it, you could go to the movies or whatever on the spur of the moment, you could get by without working too much and especially without involving yourself in the corporate world. It was a wild, one-in-a-million conjunction of circumstances, a sort of black pearl of world history, when New York City was at one and the same time both the apex of Western culture and the armpit of the Western world. So you had to deal with junkies now and then—I would far rather deal with junkies than with lawyers or developers.
BLVR: How can New York regain its personality? Or are we getting the city we deserve right now?
LS: The city we have now is the one we deserve, the coagulation of money. I’m very pissed off because I love cities and yearn for them, and I can’t live in them now—and not just because I can’t afford to. My ideal city is more like the city (New York and Paris come to mind, but it sort of applies to all) that existed up to and including the 1930s, when different classes lived all together in the same neighborhoods, and most businesses of any sort were mom-and-pop, and people and things had a local identity. The sort of city where—I’ve just been reading Richard Cobb on 1930s Paris—a burglar, a banker, a taxi-driver, an academician, a modiste, and a pushcart vendor might all fetch up together in a corner banquette at the end of the night. That won’t happen again unless we have some major, catastrophic shakeup, like war (at home) or depression, and do we want either of those?