Saturday, July 31, 2021

Can New York City Be Saved?

What happened to New York City?

As you know I take a special and self-interested concern for the state of my home city. As I have been reporting, things are not very good in the Big Apple. If I were prone to lame metaphors, I would say that the core is rotting.

Now, John Podhoretz offers an excellent comprehensive analysis of the decline and fall of New York City. By his reasoning, with which we cannot take exception, the fault lies with our political leaders, beginning with Mayor and comrade Bill de Blasio.

Podhoretz explains:

And what of the decade dominated by Bill de Blasio’s eight years as mayor? When he leaves office in January 2022, the population of New York City will likely be around 8.25 million. He will not only leave office with the city in far worse shape than it was when he became its chief executive in 2014; he is the key cause of its renewed depopulation.

As for crime, the numbers are damning:

By almost every conceivable benchmark, even his own, de Blasio has failed. Take crime. Critics predicted that under his leader­ship, crime would skyrocket, and for a while it looked like we would have to eat our words as the crime rate continued to fall. In July 2019, de Blasio announced with great fanfare that the city had booked 40,000 fewer miscreants into jails that year than in the year he took office.

“The safest big city in America is ending the era of mass incarceration,” he said proudly. “For decades, we’ve been told we can only arrest and imprison our way to a safer city. Under my administration, New York City has proven that’s not true. Instead, we can keep fathers at home and kids in school and get even safer.”

By the end of 2019, the murder rate had risen by 7 percent, with other violent crimes also increasing at a comparably modest rate. Then, in 2020, everything went south. Shootings increased by 97 percent (that is not a typo), the homicide rate by 44 percent, the burglary rate by 42 percent, and the number of car thefts by 67 percent.

And then there is homelessness:

A year into his mayoralty, the city found itself awash in street dwellers, many of the newer indigents apparent opioid addicts who had moved into the city because it was an easy place to panhandle and because word had gone out that vagrancy would be tolerated. De Blasio accused the everyday New Yorkers who complained about the piles of garbage on Broadway and elsewhere of “fearmongering,” even as he increased spending on homelessness.

As usual, when you subsidize something, you get more of it — and in 2020, nearly 21,000 individuals were sleeping nightly in public shelters, an all-time high. When the vagrants are not in the shelters, they’re on the streets, sleeping or raging or rampaging, degrading the daily life of the city’s working residents and their children.

You were wondering about the state of the city’s educational system. Wonder no more; it’s a calamity:

Education is de Blasio’s greatest shame. He has spent his mayoralty consumed with the notion of making “equity” the signature issue in the city’s public schools. He began by waging a war on charter schools, a war that was in part personal — he had had a long-running feud while serving on the city council with Eva Moskowitz, who left politics to start and run the stunningly successful Success Academy system, and wanted to destroy her. But he also loathes the notion that competition is the only way to improve public schools and is offended by the results that charters like Success Academy have shown.

He was prevented from running the Success Academy charters out of business by Governor Andrew Cuomo, whose psychopathic rage against any politician near his ambit who gets press attention led him to go for de Blasio’s jugular on this issue. But de Blasio has continued to do everything in his power to assert the primacy of equity over excellence and leveling over achievement. Though he poses as a tribune of the poor, his efforts to destroy both the city’s gifted-and-talented programs and the existence of eight selective high schools to which students gain entry by taking a single test have been a poisoned dagger aimed at the heart of one of the city’s least affluent groups: working-class Asian immigrants who push their children hard to excel in school so they can rise out of their struggling circumstances.

Perhaps we should blame it on the pandemic? Not so fast, Podhoretz explains:

Whatever the damage done to the city by the pandemic, and it was substantial, it was nothing next to the depredations of Bill de Blasio.

That we would reach the end of de Blasio’s years in office this way was sadly predictable from the way he began his tenure in 2014. From the outset we were told, by de Blasio and by his fans on the left, that this was to be no ordinary mayoralty. There were ecstatic levels of expectation that de Blasio could, should, and would transform American politics at the national level. Bob Master, a union official, put it this way in the pages of The Nation just days before the mayor took office: “De Blasio will have an opportunity to chart an entirely new direction for municipal social and economic policy — forging policies explicitly designed to intervene in the economy and make it work better for the millions left behind during forty years of trickle-down.”

So, the unions and The Nation magazine were all in for Bill:

The Nation’s excited anticipation of de Blasio’s regime was understandable, since he had already begun to speak about himself and his goals for his office in ways designed to make any good American leftist think he had died and gone to Cuba....

Befitting The Nation’s hopes, de Blasio’s inaugural speech set an astonishingly grandiose tone. “We recognize a city government’s first responsibilities: to keep our neighborhoods safe; to keep our streets clean,” he said. “But we know that our mission reaches deeper. We are called to put an end to economic and social inequalities that threaten to unravel the city we love.”

And, also:

And not only that. “Today,” he boomed, “we commit to a new progressive direction in New York. And that same progressive impulse has written our city’s history. It’s in our DNA.” De Blasio loves to speak about New York City in this way. “New York has always been the center of progressive America,” he said on his hundredth day in office. “We weren’t sent to City Hall to change New York’s character. You sent us here to restore New York’s proud legacy as the progressive city.”

New York has never been the “center of progressive America” and has no “proud legacy as the progressive city.” It was Chicago in the late 19th century that pioneered the kind of early union activism that de Blasio likes to lionize. Later, in the opening decades of the 20th century, it was the state of Wisconsin, not New York City, that offered itself up as the working model for progressive governance. And for good measure, most leftist thinking since World War II has been a product and by-product of universities and university towns.

Strangely, de Blasio does not even like New York City. All previous mayors have loved the city. They happily embraced the ad campaign that announced: I Love NY. Not so with Bill:

And he is the first mayor of New York City who seems to dislike New York City. It’s not just that he believes the city is a font of injustices, from what is (in his view) the unfair distribution of private incomes to the supposedly brutish behavior of its police (at least when he wasn’t running the joint) to the putatively money-grubbing conduct of its landlords to the mulish determination of local parents to seek a better education for their children by whatever means are at hand — whether that’s a gifted-and-talented program, or a charter school, or a selective high school where placement is determined entirely by the score on a test administered to whoever wants to take it. I mean, when you look at Gotham in this way, what’s there to like, really?

The most notable thing about de Blasio as a public figure is that he evinces almost no interest in the city’s traditions, quirks, and folkways. He plays no role in the life of the city, is never to be seen at local restaurants or attending the billion cultural events that take place on an hourly basis, or much of anywhere outside the unremarkable Park Slope gym to which he seems so fetishistically attached that he had his security detail drive him eleven miles every day to and from Gracie Mansion to work out on its machines.

He does not root for the city’s teams; indeed, he has stubbornly insisted on remaining a Boston Red Sox fan, which is a little like marrying into the Hatfield clan and then revealing that you’re a McCoy. Then there’s his bizarre discomfort with the civic rituals that have always been a special feature of the city’s public life. He has spent his mayoralty skipping out on them — the Columbus Day parade in the Bronx (2014), the Puerto Rican Day parade (2019), and, of course, the St. Patrick’s Day parade. He claims he avoids the latter owing to its supposed homo­phobia, but his habit of playing parade hooky in general seems more of a piece with his disdain for the city’s century-long embrace of ethnic particularism….

Most mayors are cheerleaders for their cities; it’s part of the job description. But there’s nothing like a New York City mayor’s drinking deep of the myriad pleasures offered up by the five boroughs to give you a sense of New Yorkers’ local-patriotic fervor and passionate attachment to their city — why they cram into vastly smaller spaces than they might be able to live in elsewhere and put up with the inconveniences that come with living cheek by jowl with twice as many people as the next-largest city in America….

De Blasio does not identify as New Yorker. He is a child of the Revolution, a leftist ideologue whose commitment is to the great cause:

New York is not in de Blasio’s blood, and he doesn’t want it to be. He came to the city at 27, fresh from his visit to Nicaragua, and his apparent determination not to drink deep of New York’s pleasures seems driven by the same ideological fervor that undergirded his not so youthful love of communism. He is driven instead by a conviction that the city itself is unjust and in need of moral and spiritual repair only he and his ilk can provide. No bread and circuses for Bill de Blasio — at least, not in public.

In practice, the policies told a grim story. Under de Blasio New York City was governed by community organizers:

De Blasio and the progressives need the “communities of color” alliance to give them strength in numbers. This is how they advance their case for redistributionist economics and a rebalancing of political power in ways that truly favor not the communities themselves but rather the broad ideological goals of so-called community organizers who leverage the self-proclaimed leadership of their subgroups. He has brought many of these organizers into city government, where they have acted more than a little bit like inmates running the asylum.

And so have de Blasio and his wife, Chirlane McCray. He “empowered” her campaign to put mental-health issues at the forefront of the city’s social-justice efforts with a program called ThriveNYC. All in all, more than $800 million has gone into ThriveNYC, an astonishing total for a single initiative. And it has been an abject failure, so much so that the program has been quietly rebranded and shoved inside another city department in preparation for de Blasio’s departure from office.

In the words of Stephen Eide in City Journal, “Instead of hiring more social workers, psychiatrists, and psychologists, the initiative focuses on drawing non-mental-health providers into the behavioral-health system. Examples include cops (CIT training), ‘School Consultants’ (who instruct parents and kids where they can find services in the community), and the public (Mental Health First Aid training). It’s still not clear how many separate programs make up ThriveNYC, but the original count was 54, which the administration touted, as though an initiative with dozens of programs is better than one with just a few.”

The Thrive initiative is symptomatic of the de Blasio governing philosophy:

What you see in Thrive is what you see in de Blasio entire. He throws money at things. The money rains down on the city’s activist sector. He claims he has achieved revolutionary change and glorious results — but there are no credible statistics to back up his claims. That’s because he doesn’t need statistics. He has achieved a different set of results, the ones he really wanted: He has created a new class of government veterans — progressives with experience, who can leverage their time in the de Blasio administration in pursuit of their transcendent aims. He has helped build a new kind of machine, a leftist ruling class.

Today, the great hope is one Eric Adams, the man who will surely be elected mayor in around three months:

His likely successor, Eric Adams, is giving interviews in which he is all but guaranteeing he will follow not in de Blasio’s footsteps but rather in those of Bloomberg, Giuliani, and Koch — resolutely anti-ideological and focused on achieving results that will convince New Yorkers there will be a second renaissance. But the next mayor will have to contend not only with de Blasio’s legacy but with the army of progressives he empowered over his eight years in office. That army will be at the ready to fight back on behalf of the noxious ideas that are causing New Yorkers to vote with their feet and get the hell out of Dodge once again.

As you see, Podhoretz is not at all optimistic about New York’s future. Everyone wants Adams to turn it around, but cleaning up the Augean stables is a Herculean task. It is not as simple as replacing an inept mayor with a competent mayor. Hopefully, Adams will make it clear, off the top, that a new sheriff is in charge.


IamDevo said...

Diblasio/Wilhem was elected by a combination of the coalition of the fringes and voter apathy. Tons of outside globalist money supported him (as also in the case of Ocasio-Cortez). From the AP: "Bill de Blasio was elected New York City’s first Democratic mayor in two decades Tuesday, running on an unabashedly liberal, tax-the-rich platform that contrasted sharply with billionaire Michael Bloomberg’s record during 12 years in office." He benefited from the results of his Republican predecessors, then proceeded to eat all the seed corn they had stored up. The stupid and indolent thought the good times would never end and believed it was time to start looting their way to personal prosperity. They thought (if their mentation can accurately be called, "thought") it was time to vote themselves into prosperity. As usual, however, it was those who held the reins of power who grew richer. Research how her husband's political power financially benefited Charlane McCray; a quick google search will open your eyes. Now the larder is bare. I mean no offense, but all of us out here in fly-over country have a hard time working up any sympathy for the limousine liberals who sat in their luxury high-rise apartments and watched it all take place during his first four years, then reelected him as a sign of their social virtue. Jefferson was correct; there is no actual virtue to be found in cities; it lies elsewhere. He wrote,"The mobs of great cities add just so much to support of pure government as sores do to the strength of the human body." Though Jefferson partied in Paris and had a hand in shaping Washington D.C., he thought cities were dens of corruption and inequity that would spoil the young American republic. He told James Madison, "I think our governments will remain virtuous for many centuries as long as they are chiefly agricultural; and this will be as long as there shall be vacant lands in any part of America. When they get plied upon one another in large cities, as in Europe, they will become corrupt as in Europe." QED

Sam L. said...

Not until the Democrats are defenestrated. Democrats, liberals and progressives are liberal with YOUR money and NOT with theirs...

Sam L. said...

"Befitting The Nation’s hopes, de Blasio’s inaugural speech set an astonishingly grandiose tone. “We recognize a city government’s first responsibilities: to keep our neighborhoods safe; to keep our streets clean,” he said. “But we know that our mission reaches deeper. We are called to put an end to economic and social inequalities that threaten to unravel the city we love.” Soooo, he lied. Quel suprise! (The little French I know.)

“Today,” he boomed, “we commit to a new progressive direction in New York. And that same progressive impulse has written our city’s history. It’s in our DNA.” As I keep saying, the word "progressive" always reminds mo of "cancer". Both will eat you up.

I have to ask: WHY have NYCers put up with him?

370H55V said...

"Hopefully, Adams will make it clear, off the top, that a new sheriff is in charge."

Yeah, right. You were expecting Frank Rizzo maybe?

Monotonous Languor said...

After decades of seeing the left in action, is this behavior by de Blasio hard to understand?
Leftists are moral narcissists on a jihad with reality. Any facts amounting to empirical real-world feedback are considered 'fascist', and either ignored or vilified. The only thing that matters is the left's utopian delusions, with which they self-identify. Real-world results don't matter, it's the thought that counts, don'cha know?

Sam L. said...

You may have to call in a dozen (or many, MANY more) faith healers to lay hands on the mayor. (Just a thought.)