The police and city officials hardly had a chance to breathe a sigh of relief after the Pope departed for Philadelphia last Friday. They still have to protect and transport some 170 heads of state here for the annual General Assembly Week at the U.N.
Yesterday and today President Obama is in town and speaks to the General Assembly. Russia's Putin and dozens of others -- friends and not so friendly -- will have their say at the General Assembly podium down the street from my office.
We New Yorkers are used to traffic, congested sidewalks and the seemingly constant shrill of sirens from police, fire and EMS vehicles. It's just part of living in this wonderful city that we love.
But it all ramps up during General Assembly Week. First Avenue and the cross streets in the east 40's have become parking lots. Some blocks, like East 44th Street, are barricaded, with police and bomb-sniffing dogs checking vehicles heading East toward the UN. Pedestrians aren't exempt from the inconveniences, often having to wait several minutes to cross a street as official caravans with foreign delegations drive past, preceded and followed by police cars and big SUVs with dark windows, with lights flashing.
People throughout the world will be seeing stories with the dateline UNITED NATIONS, New York, and photos from General Assembly proceedings will be beamed globally on TV.
With all its faults, I still believe the UN serves an important purpose. It's a place where nations, who often have very different and opposing interests, can sit down across from each other and hash it out, raising voices sometimes, but not raising arms.
The diplomacy doesn't always stop the fighting or the abuses of power or the denials of personal freedoms around the world. But sometimes it does. And the annual meeting here in New York puts the world's focus on not only the differences and disagreements, but also on the honest attempts to find ways toward peace and dignity. And for those fleeting times when it does work, the UN is worth it after all.