I moved to the NY metro area from suburban NJ in late 1989 to go to college. To live and / or work in New York City at the time was like the Chinese curse, ‘may you live in interesting times’ for it was interesting. New York with the election of the far-left David Dinkins coupled with the height of the crack-cocaine craze, fell into chaos that even an intrepid science fiction writer would have trouble imagining. The city was becoming something out of ‘Escape from New York’, ‘Death Wish’, or ‘The Warriors’. Granted, the trains were no longer covered in spray paint
City parks turned into open drug marts and dens of drug addled vagrants. Bryant (aka Needle Park) and Tompkins Square Park were unfit for use during the day and outright dangerous to be in after dark. The chaos effect went beyond just the parks. Trying to use the subway meant passing through a mass of vagrants, crazies, gangs, and god know what else. For example, there was a tunnel built decades earlier to allow commuters to reach the upper 30’s from the 33rd St. PATH station without ever having to ascend to street level. By the late 80’s, the tunnel had degenerated into a piss soaked corridor full of trash and junkies. One poor woman around my age at the time was pulled behind one of those trash piles and raped. The response from the authorities: Clean out the tunnels, roust the vagrants, and aggressively patrol the area. Well… no.. This was the age of Dinkins, the age of surrender to the forces of darkness. The tunnel was closed and remains so to this day.
Times Square which today resembles Disneyland was back then something out of the movie Taxi Driver.Walking out of the tourist areas involved risk, which a classmate of mine found out. He found himself surround by a group of black teens who promptly relieved him of the $10 he had in his wallet. Luckily that is all they took as this was the age of an earlier version of ‘Knockout King’. In the 90’s though it was called ‘wilding’, which the most outrageous examples of it was the Central Park Jogger rape and beating and the murder of a teenage tourist.
Dinkins and the rest of the far left running the city cared little. The attitude of the left in general was “Welcome to the new normal. The old New York of order and laws will never come back”. The police force was divided into three not very effective divisions (regular, transit, housing) and staffed by people who were badly demoralized. The police force was strictly reactive to major crimes and ignored the fare jumpers, aggressive vagrants, and most importantly, the gangs. This was the age of the violent Korean Deli Protests and the Squeegee men. The racial grievance industry had become violent and had a passive if not outright sympathetic mayor in power. This is not to say Dinkins couldn’t be effective when motivated. Being an avid tennis fan, he successfully lobbied to have flight paths rerouted so the US Open would not be interrupted by the roar of jet noise. Howard Stern from that point on would refer to Dinkins derisively a “The Mayor of Tennis”.
At the time I was dating a woman who was a student at Columbia University, which required me to travel to Columbia from Hoboken. The lobby of her apartment building was adorned with flyers warning of attacks on students. Several of my girlfriend’s friends had already been robbed. The modus operandi of the attack was a victim to be sucker punched in the back of the head, then kicked by a conga line of attackers until the victim was paralyzed by pain and fear. The final attacker would relieve the victim of her belongings. I referred to these trips as ‘running the gauntlet’ as I would often return home at a very late hour (hey. I was young then and she was very cute). To my dying day I will remember sitting at the 96th St station waiting what seemed like an eternity for a No. 2 or No. 3 train to arrive. The scene around me consisted of:
- A rather large man on his knees, vomiting on the platform.
- A super-hyper emaciated black woman with no shoes on running around screaming incoherently. She ran over to the puke man, tasted his puke, and announced that he was on crack.
- Another guy standing next to me who for some unknown reason began screaming at an imaginary person standing on the train tracks.
- A ripe smelling vagrant counting little rocks of crack cocaine (at least I assumed it was) he just removed from a small glass vial.
- Lastly, a finely dressed gentleman smiling, singing, and handing out religious literature to all the crazies on the platform. God was nowhere near this place.
Eventually Gomorrah on the Hudson became too much for the majority of New York City’s residents. Dinkins lost his bid for a second term which ushered in the age of Giuliani and the very capable William Bratton as police commissioner. Neither of these men tolerated the chaos and race pimps of the previous regime. In the following years unlivable neighborhoods transformed to be safe and expensive. Former drug dens such as Bryant Park transformed into a place of relaxation, fairs, and cultural events.
Right before the election of Bill de Blasio, I recounted the remembrances above to my wife’s friends at a get together. One woman, who has been living in Manhattan since 2006 stared at me with wide-eyed wonder. “I read stories like this, but I never thought they were actually true” she spoke. The bad days of New York City, the crime, the chaos, the decay… Many people who live in New York today never experienced it. History must be experience to be truly understood. To later generations, the bad old days have become myth and legend. Too many do not know what hell that the ideology of a Dinkins and de Blasio leads to. What they did hear was the siren call of free daycare, end of white privilege (whatever the hell that means), free stuff paid for by the rich, unicorns, and rainbows.
To all of those that enthusiastically voted for de Blasio: May you live in interesting times.