The city without limits.
I’ve landed in New York City at the end of the summer of 1986, and it was the love from the first sight. It was over 1900 murders in NYC that year, almost 5500 rapes and lots of less critical unlawful events. The city was vibrant and eventful.
Charles Bronson running around town blowing bad actors away in his Death Wish movies become an inspiration for some guys who tried to get even with the city underworld. Unfortunately, they weren’t Charles Bronson, so not much came out of their good or should I say bad, intentions.
New York City of the 80s and early 90s was a fusion of nightmarish beauty, psychopathic drug-induced fantasies and wrapped in the graffiti-soaked cloth of multiculturalism, oasis of ugly reality which members of high society and run by them politicians refused to see. ( O.K. This paragraph is a little too deep even for my taste, but what the hell, why not? If you can figure out what my brain was trying to tell me, use a comment section below to explain it to me. Thanks in advance).
Talking about ugly reality. New York City was as ugly as hell. There was garbage everywhere, and it was normal. On a windy day, one could be hit in the face by some unidentified flying object and most people didn’t care because they understood that it was a part of being a New Yorker. It was challenging to take a walk without being engaged by multiple small business entrepreneurs ranging from squeegee people trying to clean your sunglasses, thru streetwalkers to retail drug dealers trying to get you interested in their product, and visiting certain parts of Big Apple was comparable to a suicide attempt. The city was so messed up that it got to the point…
When ugly became beautiful.
I really loved that mess. Why, why do you like it so much? People kept asking me, and my standard answer to that question was: Because I couldn’t afford to pay millions of dollars for Jackson Pollock painting. The mess I was interacting with, was free and at least as artistic as Mr. Pollock’s work.
I could never understand why all those rich adrenaline junkies from Wall Street, ware paying thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars to go on an African safari or be taken to see some “undiscovered tribe” living in the middle of Amazon jungle. All they needed to do was take a short drive to the South Bronx in NYC. There were multiple teams of highly trained professional car tuners, who specialized in improving the look and driveability of vehicles by removing all unnecessary dealer options and ornaments which they viewed as useless. That included wheels, seats and more often than not, engine and transmission. I’m sure that watching those gentlemen at work, would cause sizeable adrenaline spike in any of the thrill seekers out there.
There was even an attempt at creating a tour bus company which would bus tourist thru the most colorful areas of Big Apple, but for some unexplainable reason, company founder could not find anyone willing to insure his business.
So, overall, New York was doing great. There was lots of action around the city, giving me a reason to visit and a chance to temporarily disconnect from my boring everyday life. And then, when my happiness ware flying high and fast, disaster struck. Some guy named
Rudolph (Rudy) Giuliani became Mayor of New York City,
and I did not see it coming.
Why? Why people elected that man to be the mayor? He was talking about cleaning my beloved town. New York was as clean as I wanted it to be. No additional cleaning was required. But what did I know?
The new mayor reached for his mop immediately after moving into the Gracie Mansion and started swinging like it was no tomorrow. He began to implement the thesis of so-called The broken windows theory by George L. Kelling and James Q. Wilson.
Kelling/Wilson theory, as I understand it, suggested that if you don’t react to low-level petty crime, the hardcore criminals will move in next.
Simply speaking, if you don’t respond to some kid breaking the glass in your living room window, a couple of teenagers will show up next, and pull the entire window out. If that won’t trigger any action on your part, you’ll see all your belongings being carried out, and in the end, some psycho will blow your brains out and set your house on fire.
I have to admit, this point of view makes perfect sense to me, but I just don’t believe that blindly following any theory, even the best one, is a good idea. Unfortunately, Mayor Giuliani decided to throw all the New York City into a washing machine and then added a triple dose of heavy-duty detergent and bleach.
In effect, a few years into Mr. Giuliani term of office, New York become very clean, safe and extremely
There was no action what so ever.
I’m not talking about museums, galleries and theaters. Whatever was worth seeing, involved admission fees, and if it was free, there was always a good reason for that, no one was willing to pull a wallet out, and pay to see whatever it was that someone put proudly on display.
I’m talking about street art. I’m talking about artists who used sidewalks, walls, and sometimes police cars as their canvas. Some of their artwork was good, some bad and some spectacular.
I’m talking about musicians who tried to get noticed by record producers. Some of them were good, some just made noise and some were spectacular.
I’m talking about the greatest art gallery in the world – New York City subway system. There was graffiti everywhere, mostly gang-related. Some of the works were good, some really bad but some of it was spectacular.
Unfortunately, all of it been classified as harmful to society and thrown in a garbage can. No one cared that not all of it was bad. No one cared that some of it was, you guess, spectacular.
I have nothing against improvement, nothing against fixing what’s broken, but exaggerated cleaning isn’t good either. Living in a sterile environment weakens your immune system.
Finally, after many years of heavy cleaning, (after Giuliani left, another guy stayed in office for 12 years regardless of 8-year term limit rule), Gracie Mansion became home to Mayor de Blasio, and hints of
Reversal of bad luck had shown on the horizon.
The new mayor started slow, using small steps approach.
So far, between visits to a gym and naps in the office, he managed to increase New York’s homeless population (Over the course of City fiscal year 2018, 133,284 different homeless men, women, and children slept in the New York City municipal shelter system), and made sure to distribute them evenly thru entire city by creating new shelters, mostly in areas frequent by tourist. I’m sure visitors to Big Apple appreciate the chance of seeing members of less fortunate part of our society, doing things which should not be done in public.
The most significant jump in a number of homeless people occurred among adult singles.
Chart by Coalition For The Homeless
In recent years, homelessness in New York City has reached the highest levels since the Great Depression of the 1930s.coalitionforthehomeless.org
Another small step in the right direction – the new approach to petty crimes.
Police officers have now the power to use their discretion and issue a civil summons, rather than a criminal one, for offenses such as public urination and public drinking. More often then not, they decide to do neither. This makes perfect sense. Since homeless slowly becoming one of the NYC tourist attractions, we don’t want them to be disturbed when taking care of their business and being photographed by our guests from Japan.
Friendliness towards petty crimes is bringing street art back to Big Apple. The heart of the biggest gallery in the world – NYC Subway, starts beating again. As for now, and we are at the early stages of this new trend, the cost of graffiti cleaning jumped just over 350% up over the last couple of years. We’ll see where the future will take us.
So, as I stated above, taking small steps but steadily moving forward, Mayor De Blasio is transforming NYC into more dynamic and adventures place. With over two years still to go, he has time to add many more achievements to his political portfolio.
I, of course, know that he’s running for president, but I don’t expect that New Yorkers will let him move to Washington, they love him too much. He’s almost as popular among NYC residents as our current president, Donald Trump.
Keep up the excellent work, Mr. Mayor, I’m rooting for you.
Thank You For Reading