The Descent of New York

After World War II New York emerged as one of the few leading world cities completely unharmed, making it the ideal place to host the newly formed United Nations; it was still a major port and was also the capital of the world’s blossoming television industry. Unfortunately though, the wealthy middle-classes began to abandon the city throughout the 1950s, moving out to the suburbs; New York’s economy was in a steady decline as heavy industry, TV production, the Brooklyn Dodgers and New York Giants baseball teams all moved away to the West Coast. It was a very long time before the service industry took over from manufacturing as New York’s breadwinner; it was seemingly every month that a factory or public institution, a nightclub, department store or architectural landmark was closed down and boarded up, the situation went on for years.

New York became world famous for its graffiti-strewn rail network during the 1970s, the rundown trains were almost an icon of the city’s rundown condition; New York was saved from total bankruptcy by a huge federal bank loan. New York reached absolute rock bottom during the summer of 1977, during this time the city was stalked by a serial killer and a tremendous heat wave – Son of Sam, the name given to the killer, stalked and killed the city’s young people. Also at this time New York suffered from a major power outage only days after a power company official swore that such a thing was impossible; thousands of looters stole millions of dollars worth of goods from stores during the power blackout, the city was out of control, crime ridden and a scary place to visit – from here the only way was up.

New York’s saviour was being at the forefront of the world’s financial dealings, which made it the ideal player for the money oriented 1980s. The city had already begun a cultural revival in the form of movies being shot on the streets of New York soon after the low point of 1977, Broadway musical were also making a comeback and the New York Yankees won the World Series two years running. There was still worse to come though during the 1980s with the emergence of AIDS, and crack cocaine leading to a further rise in crime – both of which overstretched the city’s welfare and law enforcement agencies.

This era of uncertainty saw Ed Koch presiding over all as three-term mayor of New York; he was an opinionated yet vibrant fellow who seemed to be the epitome of the New Yorker’s ability to irritate and charm at the same time. Billions of dollars were made on Wall Street during the devil-may-care years of Ronald Reagan, bringing new life to the city. Koch’s reign ended in 1989 when he was defeated by New York’s first black mayor, David Dinkins; however the new mayor was criticized for merely looking on and watching as the city’s government was in need of reform – Dinkins was denied a second term by a marginal defeat to moderate Republican Rudolph Giuliani.