Now that the Knicks and Rangers are both in the playoffs I cannot help but reminisce about the last time they were both playing for their respective championships. It was June of 1994. Just twenty-three-years-old, I was on an Amtrak train from Arizona, where I had lived since I was ten, back to the place of my birth, New York. I was bent on leaving behind my wild and crapulous days to be a man and eventually take over my father’s business, a shopping center in Howard Beach.
My train pulled into Penn Station the evening of June 9, just as the Rangers had defeated the Canucks at Madison Square Garden in Game 5. I was weary from my three-day train ride and wanted nothing more than to go to sleep in a real bed. But the city was erupting with untamed jubilation.
Manhattan was still a cesspool of crime, graffiti, and seediness. People were terrified to walk through Central Park at night and Times Square was known more for peep shows than Broadway plays. Certainly, no one wanted to vacation in New York City. But all that was about to change.
As I settled into my new life, away from all the friends I had ever known, I was living in an office, which doubled as an apartment. Five day later, on June 14, the Rangers won the Stanley Cup for the first time since 1940. From city sidewalks of Manhattan to Brooklyn, from Staten Island to Queens, and in Howard Beach, people were celebrating in the streets as though we had just won a war. I watched from my second-story window and listened to the constant caravan of cars blowing their horns, which lasted into the early morning.
Several days later, on June 22, I watched as the Knicks tried to defeat the Huston Rockets in Game 7 to bring a second championship to the Garden. It was not to be. Still, the city was on the cusp of revival. Soon, crime would plummet, the streets would be cleaned-up, and Times Square would become the tourist Mecca it had once been long ago. I, too, felt as if my life was having a rebirth. Soon, I would be sitting on top of the world. But it was a fleeting moment. For New York and I would take different paths, as she continued to prosper and within a year I would find myself completely broke, without a job, and living on my brother’s couch. But the journey was just beginning.