For New York, it's a 'sensible thing to do'

The Associated Press

NEW YORK Crime, dirt, crowding. You'd have to be crazy to live in New York, right? Maybe the answer will come after the Big Apple puts itself on the psychiatrist's couch.

New York plans a $40,000 study to assess the mental health of a city synonymous with madness to millions of Americans.

''I think it's a very sensible thing to do,'' Mayor Rudolph Giuliani said of the city-financed plan Tuesday. Officials believe New York will be the nation's first city to subject itself to such an examination.

Giuliani, of course, is the same man who detailed millions of dollars in harrowing budget cuts during a February speech that closed with these words: ''Happy Valentine's Day.''

Clearly, this is a town in need of therapy.

''If you want to improve the mental health of New Yorkers, get a good bullpen for the Yankees,'' said Mitchell Moss, head of the New York University Urban Research Center, who dismissed the study as ''the height of mental health madness.''

The New York Post, reflecting on the study, ran a story detailing a week's worth of city-style insanity everything from the latest on New York's crumbling schools to a pair of bus hijackings on a weekend afternoon.

''We don't need anybody to tell us we're crazy,'' its headline announced.

New York is where former Mayor Ed Koch became a hero by lambasting critics as ''wackos'' and ''insane,'' and where a mental patient dubbed ''The Wild Man'' became a pseudo-celebrity by terrorizing Manhattan's Upper West Side.

Sounds like this study is a no-brainer, huh?

''I really couldn't say anything about that,'' said Allen Wright of the city Department of Mental Health.

Is Wright still sane after nine years in New York? ''I'd like to think so,'' he replied.

The folks involved in the study make it clear that the city's psychiatric well-being is no laughing matter.

''The headlines make it sound like a joke, but there's a whole variety of circumstances that create pressure on people that may contribute to their mental health or lack thereof,'' said Yeshiva University dean Sheldon Gelman.

Experts from Yeshiva's Wurzweiler School of Social Work will be conducting the survey for the city, developing an ''Index of Mental Health.'' Their work will determine if a more in-depth study should be done.

The city of 7 million has long been a city of multiple personalities, where Staten Islanders hate Manhattanites, who look down their noses at Brooklyn and Queens. (The Bronx is a whole 'nother story.)

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