New York chooses city of Beatles as its twin with New York

Matthew Brace
Friday 16 July 1999 23:02 BST

AT FIRST blush, it seems an unlikely pairing. Liverpool, long associated with urban decay, is to forge new links with hip, cosmopolitan New York.

The transatlantic link, due to be formally blessed by the mayors of the two cities later this year or early next, will see close ties between businesses, police, schools, sport and the arts. The emphasis is on practical development rather than ceremony - a "sister city" arrangement between two cities looking to brighter futures but with much restructuring to do.

The love affair between New York and Liverpool has a long history. Radio stations in the United States regularly have Beatles Weekends, with the Fab Four dominating the airways for up to 48 hours. A three-acre plot of land in Central Park, called Strawberry Fields, is dedicated to the memory of John Lennon, who lived opposite in the Dakota apartment building until he was shot dead by a crazed fan in December 1980. It was said Lennon picked the Dakota because the view reminded him of looking out over the parks in his native Liverpool.

The sister-city partnership will also mean close links between police forces. Next month Merseyside Police are sending officers to New York to join its officers on patrol. New York might be ahead of Liverpool on combating crime (the overall rate has dropped by 40 per cent in the past few years, with a halving of the number of homicides since 1990), but is behind in offender profiling and the use of DNA for detection, so a return visit of New York detectives to England will also take place.

Schools will link via the Internet in a virtual twinning, perhaps leading to exchange trips. There is also a plan to take the Liverpool football squad to play at Shea Stadium, home of the Mets baseball team and the place where the Beatles first wowed America.

Last October a delegation from Liverpool City Council met Lennon's widow, Yoko Ono, to plant a tree in Strawberry Fields in Central Park. Keith Davies, Liverpool's head of tourism, arts and heritage, took advantage of the visit to begin forging new links. "I thought I would knock on a few doors at City Hall as we were going to be in town for a couple of days," Mr Davies said. "It was like knocking on an open door. I suggested some professional and formal links and we started to get on with it.

"This is one way of getting Liverpool moving again and giving its people the confidence to believe they actually have a great city. They'll be able to say, `Look, we're on a par with New York.' But they'll only be able to say that if we make sure the emphasis is on practical links. We don't just want the pomp and ceremony that you usually get with twinning events. People have to really benefit."

Since the tree planting, a steady stream of ambassadors has been jetting across the Atlantic from Liverpool to drum up business and draw the cities together. The latest was James Moores of the Liverpool family that founded Littlewoods. I found him deep in discussion in a former warehouse near the Hudson river with a team from the Liverpool Biennial of Contemporary Art, a major new painting exhibition being launched this autumn. He has put up pounds 1m and was in New York to persuade others to follow suit.

The concert promoter Sidney Bernstein brought the Beatles to Shea Stadium after twisting Brian Epstein's arm, and has remained a loyal fan not only of the group but of the city that spawned them.

From his roof garden last week, he looked out across Manhattan and spoke of his latest venture: "I want to bring the best of New York and Liverpool music to Liverpool next year in a huge concert. I'm looking at Aintree as the venue," he said.

"This is the biggest thing I've done for years. There will be no fees, no expenses: all the money is to go to charity. It's my way of saying thank you to Liverpool. I love that city so much."

How The Cities Stack Up To Each Other


Tourist attractions: Limited. The Anglican Cathedral is impressive, and the renovated Albert Dock worth a visit. An old favourite is the Liver Building

Climate: Cold, wet, and occasionally lashed by Atlantic gales

Famous residents: Quite a few, including, most famously, the Beatles, plus Cilla Black and Alan Bleasdale

Claims to fame: Riot-torn suburbs, political corruption and high unemployment

Nightlife: Not exactly throbbing, although there are a number of clubs, including the Blue Angel, known locally as "The Razz"

Restaurants: Liverpool's swankiest, Becher's Brook, charges pounds 35 a head for three courses with wine

Hotels: Liverpool's best hotel is the now-faded Britannia Adelphi, immortalised in last year's fly-on-the-wall soap. A double room costs pounds 87 a night at weekends

New York City

Tourist attractions: Visitors are spoilt for choice. Chief sights include the Statue of Liberty, Central Park, Empire State Building and Greenwich Village.

Climate: Icy winters and hot, humid summers when the sidewalks melt and the subways boil

Famous residents: Dorothy Parker, George Gershwin, Allen Ginsberg and F Scott Fitzgerald, plus hundreds of others through the ages

Claims to fame: The city that never sleeps; all of human life is here

Nightlife: Hundreds of bars and clubs, including the Limelight, popular nightclub in a deconsecrated church

Restaurants: It would take years to eat your way around Manhattan. A meal with wine at the fashionable Union Square Cafe costs about pounds 40

Hotels: One of the best, the Plaza, with views of Central Park, is pounds 150 a night

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