Reports of NYC’s Demise are Greatly Exaggerated

(been there, done that)

Yes, that’s a friggin’ oil slick near the Statue of Liberty (May 1973)

But a few things for starters:

  • There are real-life people living here and there’s nothing badass about rooting for our pain.
  • Not everyone in this city is a non-binary snowflake in a BLM t-shirt. We all don’t agree that rioting is a form of social justice.
  • NYC is a complex city that deserves a complex perspective.
  • Things have been worse here — WAY worse…as you’re about to see.

No one has to tell this lifetime New Yorker what a shithole this city can be at times. But we’ve bounced back before and I trust we will again.

Alphabet City: 1970s

The New York I grew up in didn’t use the term “homeless” yet. You’d go to the Bowery and see people that everyone casually called “bums.”

I watched heroin addicts (including friends) overdose and die on the streets.

We’d participate in legit gang rumbles.

I can recall taking the subway all the way downtown to kung fu school several times a week. You couldn’t see out the windows because of the graffiti and there was no air conditioning! I’d ride between cars so I didn’t faint.

Bryant Park was “Needle Park” and Times Square was “Forty-Deuce”:

When you visited Brooklyn in the crack era, scenes like this were not unusual:

Do you think boarded-up stores are common now? During the 1970s, the city had more than 11,000 abandoned buildings. From 1969 through 1975, New York City lost 500,000 manufacturing jobs. When the nearly bankrupt Big Apple asked Washington for help, the result was this iconic headline:

he October 29, 1975, Daily News article began: “President Ford declared flatly today that he would veto any bill calling for ‘a federal bail-out of New York City’ and instead proposed legislation that would make it easier for the city to go into bankruptcy.”

And let’s get to all the recent media mendacity about unforeseen levels of murders. Here’s just some of what’s not included in those clickbait articles:

  • NYPD reported 488 murders in 2021.
  • The city is on pace for about 11% fewer murders in 2022.
  • That’s about 81% fewer murders in 2022, compared to 1990.
  • In 1990, there were (wait for it) 2,605 murders in the Big Apple.
  • From 1990 to 1994, NYC averaged over 2,000 murders per year.

Those early 90s numbers lead to another iconic newspaper headline:

For further context, go all the way back to 1975 and learn that 1,690 murders took place in NYC. Again, in 2021 — as the nation gleefully pours dirt on NYC — there were 488 murders.

I’m not saying this is anything to be proud of but it doesn’t even crack any list of 100 most lethal U.S. cities (per capita).

In case you’re interested, the 10 cities with the highest murder rates in the U.S. are:

  • St. Louis, MO
  • Baltimore, MD
  • New Orleans, LA
  • Detroit, MI
  • Cleveland, OH
  • Las Vegas, NV
  • Kansas City, MO
  • Memphis, TN
  • Newark, NJ
  • Chicago, IL

South Bronx: late 1970s

I present this article, not as some futile, decidedly incomplete attempt to defend my hobbled hometown.

Rather, it’s a golden opportunity to practice not buying into narratives.

It’s an excellent teaching moment on the topic of not taking the easy way out.

It’s also a welcome chance to practice some compassion during difficult times.

Mickey Z. is the creator of a podcast called Post-Woke. You can subscribe here. He is also the founder of Helping Homeless Women - NYC, offering direct relief to women on New York City streets. Spread the word. Read other articles by Mickey.