The Upper West Side is the area of Manhattan west of Central Park. It’s a lively mixed-up district, the part of town that can claim most success in racial integration. Here a hodgepodge of intellectuals and artists live side by side with shopkeepers and bus drivers of different ethnic and racial backgrounds. There are old New Yorkers who wouldn’t let wild horses drag them away from their neighbourhood. And indeed, they’d be quite wrong to move since the West Side, which has seen some bad years, is now getting better day by day.
It was construction of the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, between 62nd and 66th Streets west of Broadway, that launched the revival of this neighbourhood. In 1955 John D. Rockefeller III put forward the proposal for a great cultural centre to house the Metropolitan Opera, the New York Philharmonic, the New York City Ballet and the Juilliard School of Music. The city bought the land and razed the Puerto Rican ghetto on the site. Financed entirely by private funds, the Center covers an area of some 12 acres. The plaza, an esplanade surrounding a fountain where open-air shows are put on in summer, is the focal point for the three major buildings, each designed by a different architect to blend harmoniously with the others.
To the left of the plaza is the New York State Theater, home of the New York City Ballet and the New York City Opera. Designed by Philip Johnson and built in 1964, it has a simple, stately fagade, but a lush, red and gold auditorium studded with crystal.