Most people heave a sigh of resignation when the calendar turns from August to September. But Manhattan residents have a special reason to dread the approach of summer’s end. As routines return to normal, as the pace of commerce resumes its hectic pace, as deadlines loom once again, the world descends upon Manhattan for the annual opening of the United Nations General Assembly.
The result: Extreme chaos, frustrating delays, jagged nerves and wasted time. Portions of midtown and downtown are turned into armed camps to accommodate the schedules of the world’s leaders, a fair portion of whom attend the session just for the sheer fun of insulting the U.S., Israel and the West.
This is the burden of being the capital of the world. For the most part, Manhattanites understand that sharing their island with the globe’s leaders requires patience, sacrifice and a certain degree of resignation.
But surely the time has come for the U.N. to adjust its calendar to take into account the requirements and necessities of its host city. For the good of New York, the U.N. should move the General Assembly session to August.
Manhattan in August has many charms, as millions of tourists can attest. Certainly among those charms is the relative tranquility of the island’s streets, since so many residents and workers are in the Hamptons or the Berkshires or even (if you can imagine this) at the Jersey shore.
The General Assembly session simply has become too disruptive for millions of people who either live or work in Manhattan. When the U.N. opened in the late 1940s, the arrival of diplomats and heads of state might well have been a colorful and much-anticipated event. But the security concerns of the 21st century and the growth of the U.N.’s membership since the end of Europe’s colonial empires have combined to create a logistical nightmare.
This is not to suggest that New York can’t handle the special concerns that come with hosting world-class events. In fact, no other city on earth is better trained to serve and protect the world’s leaders. The New York Police Department is as good as it gets when it comes to securing large swaths of geography for the safety of presidents, prime ministers and ordinary citizens.
But securing midtown and lower Manhattan these days requires large parts of the island to become frozen zones, often with little or no notice. That brings commerce and everyday life to a standstill, leading to extreme and even dangerous inconvenience. Of course, diplomats and heads of government experience none of these headaches—they are whisked from event to event without giving a passing thought to the people whose lives are being disrupted for their safety.
Rescheduling the General Assembly for August would bring all kinds of benefits to residents, workers and world leaders alike. First of all, many workers and residents simply won’t be in Manhattan, which means they won’t be inconvenienced. Second, the diplomats and international big shots will get a chance to experience August in New York. What better time to be in the Big Apple? August means the Mostly Mozart Festival at Lincoln Center and the U.S. Open in Queens. It means shorter lines at the Shake Shack. It means Shakespeare in the Park and outdoor concerts and street festivals galore.
New York in August—what’s not to like? The U.N. owes its hosts a serious look at this respectful proposal.