Reprinted from yesterday's late editions.
There were signs around the room - real New York street signs reading "Wall St." and "Brooklyn Bridge," "Rockefeller Plaza" and "5th Ave." and "Avenue of the Americas" - bright, readable black-on-yellow signs that would not look familiar to those who have been away from the city for a long time.
"Those are the new-style street signs," explained Richard J. Blume, a New Yorker-in-exile lured to Wednesday night's party at Georgetown University by a case of acute nostalgia. "Not only were the old signs illegible even in a good light, but they used to put them at just the right angle to the street lamps so that they wouldn't get any light at all."
He pointed to the sign reading "Avenue of the Americas" and asked: "What's that? No real New Yorker ever called it that," and if his vowels and his presence had not already betrayed him, this bit of knowledge would have branded him as a real New Yorker.
The scene was the first stand-up-for-New York meeting of a new and rapidly growing group called "Ex-New Yorkers for New York," and it was a bit like the city itself - crowded, neisy, full of smoke and a bit disordlgly, but also excitingly packed with a wild variety of stimuli.
People milled from one table to another, picking up "Big Apple" buttons and bumper-stickers that said "I Love New York" or "Let's Hear IT for New York," spread cream cheese on-bagels, chewed on chocolate-flavored licorice or hot pretzels and mixed their own eggcreams.
The purpose of the meeting was to encourage federal support for New York City, and as an opening shot in the campaign Anita Epstein, founder of the organization, challenged the Senate Banking Committee to "a stickball game - preferably on New York Avenue, if that can be arranged."
The list of speakers included some distinguished names: Sen. Jacob Javits (R-N.Y.); Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.); writer Richard Whalen, who introduced the other speakers; and former television newsman Daniel Schorr, among others; but the most fiery speech of the evening was given by founder Epstein.
"Just by being here tonight," she said, "we are helping to remind this country that if there's any debt to be paid, it's the nation's debt to New York, rather than the other way around. And we're going to keep on reminding every one.
"We are going to remind them how New York has opened its arms to the uprooted and the destitute when others have turned their backs.We are going to remind them that New York's education system and its rich life have produced some of the most talented and caring people in this country. We are going to remind them that New York has provided the giant share of this nation's theater, literature, art, music, its financial system, fashions and much, much else.
"And we are going to remind them, perhaps above all, that we are all in it together, that what happens to New York is likely to have a profound impact on all our lives, in every town, in every city."
Master of ceremonies Richard J. Whatlen stated the ground rules: "This will be a three-sewer stickball match, there will be no weighted bats, and the Secret Service will not play."
Later, Epstein said that no date for the game has been set, and it can be played "only if they agree - if not, we'll get the White House."
The timing could hardly have been worse for a rally of New Yorkers; not only was it raining, but the event had to compete with an event unforeseen when te date was set: the final installment of "Holocaust." Despite these obstacles, nearly 300 people crowded into the hall where only 125 seats had been set up, and by the evening's end some 50 of them had signed up for memhership in the organization ("Originally $5 - For You, $4.98").