Fear of the 70s Persists


Here’s catnip to such as we: a Reuters story called “New York City fears return to 1970s.” Author Joan Gralla helpfully backgrounds: “The 1970s were a low point in city history… crime rates soared, and homeless people crowded sidewalks.” This she largely attributes to New York’s financial collapse, which suggests a parallel to our time. But Gralla is comforted by former city comptroller Harrison Goldin, who says the city “is in a position to act pre-emptively and to avoid ending up in the sewer.” Neither he nor Gralla, however, are explicit about how we will keep our feet dry; the rest of the item is mostly a list of Bloomberg-era pros (“gunshot victims are more likely to survive, thanks to faster ambulatory times and medical advances”) and cons (“Bloomberg is faulted for granting city workers overly generous pay hikes”). Nor do they mention the decades-long decline of the city’s manufacturing base, which threw many families into poverty and has continued apace under Bloomberg.

This Septuagintaphobia has been going around. Yesterday the Post worried over the perceived rise in quality-of-life crimes (loitering, public urination, etc), which it called “a flashback to the 1980s” — maybe because the backslide is not yet severe enough to merit mention of the 7-word.

And last week the Times examined the TV show “Life on Mars,” set in 1973 New York, and asked, “Why is such an unsafe and often unhappy period in the city’s history still fetishized by the same people who struggled through it?” The reporter hauls in an expert, who explains that some exciting culture came out of that cauldron, though he says he wouldn’t want to give up the safety and comfort he presently (if tenuously) enjoys in the Bloomberg city.

The expert adds that nostalgia may be a factor — when things get more 70s-like, he says, “people might be nostalgic for the Giuliani era.” Well, we’ll find out soon enough.