You won’t find it in the stats but “real” New Yorkers, born and bred are talking about the end of New York’s great 20-year run as a fantastic metropolis. These New Yorkers have lived through the good and the bad times and have a deep sensitivity to change. And what they feel these days scares them. It scares them because they feel the vibe of the bad days, the days of danger and chaos, the days before Mayors Giuliani and Bloomberg.
In the subway, there are days when nearly every car has someone harassing you for money. On the street corners, there are times when you can’t walk two blocks without someone getting in your face with demands for money. There are more people sleeping in the subways stations, more urine and feces on the ground. There are more people living on the sidewalks who are off their medication, shouting angrily, waving their arms. More people sleeping in ATM spaces. There is more petty theft of iPhones and handbags, more stealing in clothing stores, more subway trains being held because of “incidents."
And there is a more sotto voce conversations being held about this growing dangerousness among New Yorkers who worry whether we are heading back to the bad old 70s and 80s when the streets were unsafe and the politicians unwilling to do what was necessary to make them safe.
Of course, all this is happening at a time when New York politics is changing. A new, progressively liberal mayor has been elected to replace an old, progressive mayor. Ironically, many of the people who voted for this progressive mayor are the ones now worrying about the rising danger in the streets and subways. They want to believe that the issues of inequality and housing will be tackled in the years ahead but see with their own eyes what is happening to the cityscape as the political transition takes place.
They worry about strikes that could cripple the city–as they did in the past. They worry about harassment in public places being defined as free speech–as it did in the past. They worry about ineffective policing that allows petty crime–as it did in the past. They worry about neighborhoods declining–as they did in the past.
New Yorkers feel the change and worry about it. Cities rise and fall over time all the time, NYC included It’s glorious entrepreneurial startup drive will come to an end. The revival of neighborhood after neighborhood in Brooklyn and Queens will go into reverse. The beacon drawing so many from Europe, Asia and Latin America–as well as from all over the US–will dim. Unless the current trends are reversed, New York will be over.