From our friends at the Save Jersey Blog:
By Joe Schilp | Joe’s Blog
Sometime around 1980, when I was about
thirteen years old, my Grandfather took me to the New York Auto Show,
held at the New York Coliseum on Columbus Circle in Manhattan. Before I
left with my Grandfather, my mother warned me to hold his hand at all
times, not to speak with or even look at anyone and to be careful. I
had little experience in New York City (a couple of class trips and a
few visits to Madison Square Garden for family shows) and had no idea
for the reason for her concern. I had grown up near Manhattan, about 15
miles west, in suburban New Jersey, but Manhattan in the 1970s and 80s
was a wholly different world despite its proximity to my hometown.
As we drove in, my Grandfather told me
that we would drive through the Lincoln Tunnel, park at the Port
Authority Bus Terminal and walk up 42nd Street before heading uptown on 8th
Avenue to the Coliseum. My Grandfather was born and raised in New
York’s lower east side Italian ghetto and never passed up an opportunity
to walk the streets of the city. I looked forward to this walk with
great anticipation. I had seen commercials on television for a new
Broadway musical called 42nd Street and imagined that 42ndStreet must have been the most wonderful place in the world.
When we got through the tunnel, we
stopped at a traffic light and crazed-looking man wearing tattered
clothes spat on my Grandfather’s windshield before proceeding to smear
his discharge with a dirty rag. For this “cleaning” job, he expected a
tip, but the light turned green and my Grandfather sped off toward the
Port Authority parking ramp. Disgusting, I thought, but that was only
We parked in the Port Authority parking
deck and descended in the elevator to ground level. When the elevator
doors opened, I was struck by the foulest stench I had ever experienced;
a combination of body odor, stale urine and death. We headed to the
exits by walking over, around and through rows of bums sleeping on
yellowed newspapers. After attempting to hold my breath for minutes, we
were out of the hell hole and on the street, headed to the glory of 42nd Street.
As we turned onto 42nd, I
was, once again, stunned. The marquee signs that lined the famed
thoroughfare bore words and symbols like, “XXX,” “Live Nude,” and “Peep
Show!” There were prostitutes walking the streets and filthy people
sleeping in alleyways. At a few of the street corners, there were
preachers attempting to engage in an argument by screaming at people
about the end of the world. Drug dealers were whispering to passers-by
things like, “uppers, mesc and Jamaica’s best.”
By now I was white-knuckling my Grandfather’s hand.
After what seemed like the longest walk
I had ever taken, we finally arrived at the New York Coliseum and I
asked my Grandfather why New York was so filthy. He replied that the
city was too far gone and would never be a great city again because no
one cared. That was true in the 1970s when Abe Beame was mayor.
By the time I turned 17 and earned my
driver’s license, things had not changed. It was the 1980s, Ed Koch was
mayor and my Dad was working at Kennedy Airport in Jamaica, Queens, as a
supervisor of aircraft maintenance for American Airlines. He carpooled
regularly and one night, had to work overtime, meaning someone had to
go pick him up at the airport after his shift to get him home. That
someone was me.
I drove from our home in Saddle Brook
on I-80 eastbound, to the George Washington Bridge, a routine drive on a
safe and clean interstate highway. Upon crossing the bridge into
Manhattan, I immediately noticed that the roads were covered with
potholes and that the walls surrounding the highway were covered with
graffiti and road grime. I took the exit for the Harlem River Drive,
the shoulder of which was lined with cars that were stripped, burned and
propped-up on cinder blocks. After crossing the TriBoro Bridge, I got
on the Grand Central Parkway, which was also similarly polluted with the
remains of stolen cars. The Van Wyck to Kennedy Airport was no
better. Every now and then, you’d see a train pass overhead and they
were all covered with graffiti.
I repeated this trip to pick my Dad up about once a year with similar sights. It was also around this time that the film Escape from NewYork
was released; the premise of the film being that New York had become so
dangerous that the river crossings were demolished and the island
turned into a prison colony.
That didn’t seem far from reality. New
York City, by 1992, under mayor David Dinkins, realized an average of
just over 6 – SIX! – murders a day. Times Square was the theater
district, but one did not want to spend too much time there because the
place was loaded with pickpockets and three-card monte dealers who
regularly conned tourists out of their money.
In 1993, Rudy Giuliani was elected
mayor and almost immediately began transforming the greatest city in the
world from a place to avoid, rife with crime, to a tourist destination
with one of the lowest crime rates among large cities in America,
indeed, in the world. The trains were cleaned-up, the squeegee men and
crooked card dealers were prosecuted and homeless people put to work.
The murder total dropped from 2,245 in 1992 to 641 at the end of
Giuliani’s term, in 2001.
Giuliani turned New York City around
after decades of squalor. And Mike Bloomberg kept New York City safe,
using stop-and-frisk policing to keep crime down. There were just 333 murder in Bloomberg’s last year as mayor.
Last year Bill DeBlasio (real name Warren Wilhelm,
communist supporter), was elected as mayor. Many people, myself
included, predicted a return to the 70s-era crime wave for New York City
because DeBlasio’s mayoral campaign was a campaign against police. The
results, predictably, have been astoundingly bad.
In just one year, the squeegee men have returned. Today, the NY Post has reported
that the three-card monte dealers are back as well. Last week, two
NYPD officers were assassinated after Al Sharpton’s marchers chanted for
the want of dead cops. Sharpton is most famous for promoting the
fraudulent race cases of Tawana Brawley and the Duke lacrosse players.
Sharpton was marginalized by Giuliani and was kept away by Bloomberg, as
well, but has found friends in both Barack Obama and DeBlasio.
It’s absolutely depressing to see New
York City falling apart so fast. Sadly, anyone under the age of 30 has
no idea just how bad New York City once was, so they have no idea what
path DeBlasio is leading them down. I never thought NYC would return to
the days when parents put their kids to bed in bathtubs to protect them
from stray bullets, but that seems to be where we’re headed.
It does not have to be this way. Those
calling for DeBlasio’s resignation have to yell louder and more
consistently. They cannot relent. They have to grow in size and
scale. It’s really New York City’s only hope.