amNY begins a series about the possibility that cash-strapped New York is going back to the “bad days” of the 70s. The possibility is unadmitted by our politicians, who say all we need is the “continuity” of Mayor Bloomberg (and to be frightened by an occasional lecture about how bad things once were), but Rolando Pujol sees a pattern: small slippages in maintenance and policing that may accumulate into a crisis.
Pujol lays out some categories and neighborhoods where crime is no longer going down, but up. He also passes along some Bloombergite boilerplate (“Strong mayoral and City Council leadership is seen as key”), which suggests the week-long series will be sufficiently “balanced” not to scare advertisers.
But it’s hard to balance out Jimmy Breslin, who first reminds his interviewer that “kids from Washington Heights” are “getting killed in a war… Franklin Roosevelt said you can’t have guns and butter,” and declares that the current money situation is actually much worse than it was in the 70s: “Who ever heard of a bank bouncing?… You could go get a loan in the ’70s. You can’t get a loan today. You can’t do anything.”
Ellis Henican sees “too many signs” of neglect — litter, scratchiti, shitty train service. He thinks back nostalgically to 1990, when Transit boss David Gunn picked up a candy wrapper on the subway and told him, “it’s the little things.”
All very nice, but we doubt the current problem can be fixed by city officials picking up garbage (though we approve of putting them on daily work gangs dedicated to that task). We welcome amNY‘s examination, but when we see traditional nudges on the agenda like Curtis Sliwa, and the Manhattan Institute’s Julia Vitullo-Martin arguing for a “focus more on quality of life,” we expect we’re mostly in for another round of yak about how we’re all going to save New York one squeegee man at a time — without the flood of capital than actually enabled New York’s transformation in the 1990s.
We still insist that the drop will come will-we nill-we, and when it does we will focus on the bright side: the return of cheap apartments, the possibility of decent art, and the departure of people who should have been living in suburban Virginia in the first place.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on November 19, 2008