Greening of the Big Apple -- springtime in New York

New Yorkers are finally able to put asid their memory of springs past and contemplate the reality of spring present. Although March 20, the offical start of spring, may not have marked a substantial turning point in the weather, "spring is in the air" everywhere in the Big Apple these days.

Spring in New York brings back the bees to Central park, the primroses, tulips, and azaleas to the New York Botanical Garden's Haup Conservatory in the Bronx, and the annual Easter lily extravaganza to Rockefeller Center.

But spring also brings back a profusion of tourist, setting the scene this year for what could be another all-time record year for visitors, with the Democratic National Convention in August just one or more than 800 expected major conventions here in 1980.

In 1979 the city had 17.5 million visitors -- more than any other city, national park, or any kind of attraction in the world. This year, the Democratic National Convention alone will lure more than 20,000 out-of-towners, according to the New York Convention and Visitors Bureau Inc. And while this convention may not be the largest of the year, it could push the number of visitors above the 17.5 million mark for the first time in history, one bureau spokesman says.

New Yorkers, meanwhile, are much more interested in the enjoyment of the city's fresh- air spring delights than in counting visitors. Besides the annual flowering of sidewalk cafes, street entertainers, and street fairs and festivals in all five boroughs, the season ushers in the old standbys such as family pilgrimages to the Statue of Liberty:

* The Circle Line boats leaving regularly for Liberty Island are growing chock full of little boys and girls craning their necks for one glorious view after another of the famous lady with the torch. But scheduled tours to Ellis Island "next door" to Liberty won't begin until April 26. Then boats for Ellis, where millions of immigrants first set foot on US soil, will leave from the same place -- Battery Park at the tip of lower Manhattan -- as the boats bound for the statue.

* The Empire State Building at 34th Street and Fifth Avenue, on the site of New York's "first" Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, continues to reign as a top tourist attraction, affording breathtaking views from observation decks on the 86th and the 102nd floors. Both platforms have recently been renovated.

* Rockefeller Center, soon to parade hundreds of Easter lilies in its famous "Channel Gardens," remains one of the city's most exciting cities within a city. After the Rockefeller Plaza skating pond does its annual disappearing act April 27, there is outdoor dining there amid a plethora of plants. And Radio City Music Hall next door if offering a lavish new musical extravaganza twice a day.

* Then there are New York's neighborhoods, such as Chinatown with its sweet-and- sour smells wafting through the air of Mott Street, and Little Italy, which some New Yorkers boast has some of the best Pizza and Spaghetti this side of Venice. Uptown and on the west side of Manhattan Island's commercial belly is Times Square, where the legitimate theater is undergoing a renaissance.

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