I went to NYC in 1989 to visit a girlfriend. I was so appalled by what I saw that I swore to never go back. I had gone there several times a year to shop for music and books that were not available in York, PA - pre Amazon, and even pre-Borders.
There was garbage and bums laying all over the streets and walks, even in front of elegant restaurants. The people just stepped over them. My girlfriend lived in a one-room apartment, with a very sophisticated lock because of the high crime. She religiously followed the pooper scooper law, carrying an inside out baggie, which she used to pick up her little yapper’s droppings, and there were plenty of open garbage cans, full of uncollected garbage, for her to deposit the bag of feces.
There were panhandlers all over the place, scam artists set up in Times Square, and the unwelcome windshield washers at every traffic stop.
In November of 2001, my fiancee and I visited NYC to pay homage to ground zero. I was very pleasantly surprised at the change. The streets were much cleaner, free of garbage, bums and panhandlers. The taxis were clean, and the drivers were polite and helpful.
I suppose the New Yorkers can’t stand prosperity.
There is an element who miss the Pre-Guilani days because they claim NYC was "gritter" and "edgy" back then.