Posted on March 8, 2020

The Late Great City of New York

William Robertson Boggs, American Renaissance, March/April 1992

NYC Seal

If there is one city that stands for urban America, it is certainly New York. Its 7 million people — more than twice the population of its nearest rival, Los Angeles — believe their city to be the cultural, intellectual, and financial center of the nation. In some ways it still is. Foreigners often think that New York, rather than Washington, is the capital of the United States.

But New York, like many American cities, has been transformed by the population shifts of recent decades. The safe, bustling, optimistic, nearly-80-percent white city of 1960 has now become a virtual synonym for crime, filth, and squalor. A massive influx of non-whites, together with welfare policies that reward deviance and punish responsibility, have turned America’s flagship city into a hive of degeneracy.

The Great Shift

Between 1960 and 1990, the white population dropped by nearly half — a loss of some 2.5 million people — while the black and Hispanic populations grew by 74 percent and 291 percent. Whites, approximately half of whom are Jewish [“Redrawing city districts by minority vote,” NY Newsday, 12/11/90, p. 27.] , are now only 43 percent of the city. New York, for the first time in its history, has a non-white majority and a non-white administration. [Christopher Byron, “Where have you gone, Roger Marris?,” NY Magazine, June 10, 1991.]

Many of the newcomers who replaced fleeing whites were immigrants. During the 1980s, they arrived at a rate of about 100,000 a year and most of them stayed. It is now estimated that 35 percent of the city’s population is foreign-born. [Thomas Morgan, “New York still growing, studies assert,” NYT, 7/25/90, p. B1.] Entire professions are dominated by foreigners; 85 percent of the city’s 40,000 licensed cabbies are foreigners, and many of them scarcely speak English. [Brian Murphy, NY cabbies must pass stiffer licensing exams, LA Times, 2/10/91, p. A16.] Clashes of culture, demeanor, and expectations are a routine part of city life.

New York’s future is increasingly third-world. Not only do whites continue to leave, immigrants and non-whites have higher birth-rates. Only 19.9 percent of New York’s children aged four or under are white, [Profiling the children, NY Newsday, 9/27/90, p. 28] whereas 74 percent of New Yorkers over age 65 are white. [Morgan, “New York City still growing,” NYT, 7/25/90, p. B1.]

Even the fabled attractions that once drew whites to the city are fading. In 1968, 58 shows opened on Broadway; in 1990, only 35 did. [Thomas Disch, “The Death of Broadway,” Atlantic Monthly, March 1991, p. 94.] What were once legitimate movie theaters have switched to pornography or have closed down altogether. The white suburbs, which used to depend on New York for culture and services, are becoming self-sufficient enclaves. [Elizabeth Kolbert, “Region around New York sees ties to city faltering,” NYT, 12/1/91, p. A1.]

Race and Crime

One of the iron laws of urban America is that as a city’s population turns black and Hispanic its crime rate goes up. New Yorkers now kill each other at a rate of more than 2,000 a year. Murder is such a common occurrence that its absence is news. When, in 1990, there wasn’t a single killing in an entire five-hour period, the next day’s front-page headline in the New York Post was “Eerie Calm Spooks Police as Death Takes a Holiday.” [Reported by Bob Herbert, “The fear of violence is coring Big Apple,” NY Daily News, 7/1/90.]

The connection between race and crime is vividly born out in New York’s statistics on murder, rape, and mugging — the crimes that New Yorkers probably fear most. In 1989, blacks were 12.3 times more likely than whites to be arrested for murder, and Hispanics were 6.7 times more likely. For all sex offenses (including rape) blacks were 9.5 times more likely to be arrested and Hispanics were 5.4 times more likely. For robbery (mugging) the figures were 17 times for blacks and five times for Hispanics.

These figures, startling enough already, can be reworked to paint a picture of several vastly different New York Cities. One can imagine an all-black New York, for example, whose population contained the same proportion of criminals as does the city’s current black population. It would suffer 2½ times as many murders as the New York of today, more than twice as many sex offenses, and nearly three times as many muggings

What if New York City were all white — and its percentage of criminals were the same as in today’s white population? Muggings would drop by 84 percent, murder by 80 percent, and the sex-offense rate by 66 percent — all dramatic decreases. These comparisons are not entirely fair, because New York’s whites are older than its non-whites, and crime is generally a young man’s game. Nevertheless, the common impression about street crime in New York City is correct: Non-whites are far more dangerous than whites.

The results are to be found in the city’s jails. In 1990, 95 percent of the inmates were black or Hispanic. For the state as a whole, 82 percent of all prisoners were black or Hispanic. Twenty-three percent of black men between the ages of 20 and 29 were in jail, on parole, or on probation. The figures for Hispanics and whites were 12 percent and three percent. [William Glaberson, “One in 4 young black men are in custody, study says,” NYT, 10/4/90.]

Officials were embarrassed by the recent disclosure that in New York State, whites are twice as likely as blacks (and far more likely than Hispanics) to be victims of so called “hate crimes,” in which race is supposed to be the motive. [State: “‘Hate crimes’ hit whites hardest,” NY Post, 11/15/91. p. 8.] Many crimes against whites are likely to have racial motives, but a criminal must do or say something explicitly racial for his act to be classified as “hate.” The fact that New York’s majority population is more likely than minorities to be targeted for racial reasons shows that any given non-white is far more likely than a white to commit a “hate” crime — a stark fact for which there is no place in the liberal mind.

Poor and Getting Poorer

New York City is as beset with poverty and squalor as it is with crime. Last year, 940,000 city residents — more than one in eight — were on welfare. Together, they would make up the ninth largest city in the country. [Pete Hamill, City’s welfare mess unique in history, NY Post, 9/9/91, p. 21.] Half of the children born in the city this year will probably be on welfare before they turn 18. [Sam Roberts, New York in the nineties, NYT Magazine, 9/29/91, p. 35.]

These people are looked after by a mammoth, creaking Human Resources Administration with 32,000 employees and a budget of $6.2 billion (no, those figures are not misprints). [Thomas Morgan, Head of welfare agency is warned of too little progress after 8 months, NYT, 12/10/90, p. B3.] One of its more recent follies was to set up a program for “homeless families.” Any woman with a child simply need declare that she and the brood are a “homeless family,” and they are entitled to a two-bedroom apartment in a so-called Tier II shelter — which can cost the city as much as $2,700 a month. They then go to the top of the waiting list for city housing. “Homelessness” is now a rite of passage; it is the next step after getting pregnant, dropping out of high school, and going on welfare. [“Housing the un-homeless,” NY Post, 9/9/91, p. 20.]

Close to 35 percent of New York City’s $29 billion budget is spent on handouts and uplift of one sort or another — food, housing, medicine, therapy, and pay checks for the indigent. If the dollar value of all city handouts were simply divided up among eligible families, each would get $21,000. That is not far below the average New York City after-tax family income of people who work for a living. [Peter Salins, “Jump-starting New York,” NYT Magazine, 11/3/91, p. 54.]

It is little wonder that the professional poor head for the city. If the people who move into and out of the city are grouped by income, only one group now shows a net increase: those with incomes below $10,000. [Richard Levine, “Middle-class flight feared by New York City experts,” NYT, 4/1/91, p. A1.] Where does money for handouts come from? In 1990, the rest of the country paid for 9.6 percent of New York’s budget through federal taxes. Some help comes from New York State, and the rest is raised through a ruthless system of taxes and fees. Back in 1961, when the population was still nearly 80 percent white and could look after itself, New York did not even have a city income tax. [Christopher Byron, “Where have you gone, Roger Marris?,” NY Magazine, 6/10/91, p. 29.] Today, it wrests $20 in taxes and fees out of every $100 earned in the private sector. [Peter Salins, “Jump-starting New York,” NYT Magazine, 11/3/91, p. 54.] Visitors are always good for a legal mugging. The city hotel tax is 19.25 percent of the bill plus $2.00. [“An apple that has lost its sheen,” Economist, 6/1/91, p. 19.]

Of course, the biggest chumps are the people who work and pay taxes. Seven percent of the city’s households pay 50 percent of the city’s income tax. At the same time, they actually benefit from no more than 12 percent of the city budget — the part left over for policemen, firemen, street cleaners, parks, and museums. [A.M. Rosenthal, “Tax cows of New York,” NYT, 7/13/91.]

City of Drones

Even in New York, it takes quite a few people to spend a budget of $29 billion. There are 350,000 people on the municipal payroll [Joe Klein, “The pinochle club,” NY Magazine, 10/29/90, p. 19.], which is more than the population of the state’s second largest city, Buffalo. They live in the city, and can be 15 to 25 percent of the votes in a Democratic primary election. They are represented by 140 unions, and, for all practical purposes cannot be fired. Their primary interest seems to be jobs for the boys. [Joe Klein, “The pinochle club,” NY Magazine, 10/29/90, p. 19.]

Jobs they have gotten. Since 1961, as the city’s population declined by 6 percent, the number of city bureaucrats increased by 50 percent. The city now has four times as many employees for every 100 residents as Chicago, which is hardly a model of urban efficiency. [George Will, “Manhattan dreams and nightmares,” LA Times, 5/26/91.] This mass of dead wood, combined with thousands of state and federal employees, means that one out of every six New Yorkers who actually have jobs works for some layer of government. [Clifford May, “Noble goals rotted away in Big Apple,” Orange County Register, 5/22/91.] The bloat has not been uniform; the number of firemen and street cleaners has actually fallen since 1961. [Christopher Byron, “Where have you gone, Roger Marris?,” NY Magazine, 6/10/91, p. 29.]

With so many pencil pushers, jail birds, and welfare bums to carry around on their backs, it is a wonder that the city still has as many white, tax-paying citizens as it does. The number keeps dropping. Moving companies report that for every household they moved into the city, they moved out 1.7. [Richard Levine, “Middle-class flight feared by New York City Experts,” NYT, 4/1/91, p. B4.] Whereas half of the country’s 30 largest companies used to have their headquarters in New York City, today only two do. [“An Apple that has lost its sheen,” Economist, 6/1/91, p. 19.]

Even some immigrants have begun to realize that coming to New York was a mistake. Koreans, who have opened badly-needed stores in black neighborhoods only to be hated for their successes, are returning to Korea at a rate of about 50 families a month. [“Warning! Koreans are leaving,” NY Post, 10/1/91.] They are going back to a country that doesn’t subscribe to foolish notions about multiculturalism, and which therefore has the coherence, purpose, and unity that New York has lost.

As productive people leave the city, a shrinking tax base makes New York both desperate for money and less credit-worthy. Last year, when it raised $1.25 billion in the public markets, the financing was like a junk bond distress sale. The city paid more for its two-month notes than some cities pay for 30-year bonds. [Constance Mitchell, “New York City pays dearly to borrow,” WSJ, 5/1/91, p. C1.]

Felix Rohatyn, the financier who helped pull New York City out of the hole the last time it nearly went bankrupt, has washed his hands of a city he thinks no longer has the will to save itself. In late 1990, he resigned from the city’s Municipal Assistance Corporation and from the mayor’s Council of Economic Advisors, warning that New York was on the brink of “social and economic disaster.” [Mike Santangelo, “Rohatyn sees ‘disaster,’” NY Daily News, 10/18/90, p. 5.]

Because feeding an army of welfare recipients now takes priority over virtually everything else, New York City has cut spending on basic city maintenance. In 1991, the city closed the lower deck of the Manhattan bridge, a major link between Manhattan and Brooklyn. After years of neglect, an engineer finally decided there was a good chance a truck would fall through it. [Calvin Sims, Truck ban is announced for a bridge, NYT, 1/4/91, p. B1.] A subway line that used to cross the bridge has also been closed. Of all the bridges in the city, 56 percent are “structurally deficient,” and 70 percent can no longer bear the weight for which they were originally designed. [George Will, Manhattan dreams and nightmares, LA Times, 5/26/91.] The city recently had to close several that were built in the 1930s and had never even been repainted. [Stephanie Strom, New York City names a new chief of bridges, NYT, 5/8/91.] It would be hard to think of a clearer indictment of a city. Today’s New Yorkers cannot even maintain what yesterday’s New Yorkers had the wit and energy to build.

Library service has also come under the ax. In 1991, for the first time in its 50-year history, the Brooklyn Public Library’s main branch at Grand Army Plaza found it could no longer stay open every weekday. It is now closed on Mondays, and no one knows what day of the week it will sacrifice next. All across the city, libraries are on short weeks and are open for short hours. [Brooklyn main library cuts days, NY Newsday, 2/5/91, p. 29. William Bunch, Crown Heights’ youth services hurting, NY Newsday, 8/28/91, p. 30.]

One cost the city need no longer worry about is the maintenance of public toilets; it has simply shut them down. As New York’s population changed, its citizens could no longer be trusted not to copulate, murder each other, shoot up drugs, or simply live in public toilets. Ever larger numbers of sidewalk derelicts now defecate wherever they can. What could have been a solution to this problem appears certain to drown in liberal red tape.

Another “cost saving” comes from shutting down subway passageways that have become too crime-ridden to leave open. In 1991, the Transit Authority announced the wholesale closing of 15 entrances and passages, after a woman was raped in a tunnel that connects two Manhattan stations. [Calvin Sims, 15 more areas in subways to be closed, NYT, 3/29/91, p. B1.]

The dwindling tribe of white New Yorkers can insulate itself to some degree from the collapse. It glides from well-guarded office buildings to doorman-patrolled apartments and never visits the barbarian lands that are just a subway ride away. Nevertheless, when young children are taught to dive for cover if shots ring out, and when school windows look out over fornicating crack addicts, a city has passed an important milestone on the road to perdition. Probably no one, at the close of the Peloponnesian War, looked out from atop the Acropolis and declared that the age of Athens had ended.

The city might do well to block off a few more. An estimated 25,000 people live beneath the streets of New York City, in thousands of miles of subway and utility tunnels. Some of these passages are so old that no one even has maps for them. Subway workers can tell whether the population of “mole people” is waxing or waning by how often a train hits a body and derails. In 1990, that happened about once a week. Maintenance men have been threatened by mole people so often that many are afraid to venture into the tunnels to work the tracks. Late-night passengers, waiting on platforms, have been attacked by grimy men who come swarming out of the tunnels. [Jennifer Toth, “Moles” set up towns in bowels of New York, Miami Herald, Sept. 9, 1990, p. 1.]

People like these, along with drug users, AIDS carriers, vagrants, and third world immigrants, have brought back to New York City a disease that was thought eradicated in the 1960s: tuberculosis. Until recently, doctors and nurses never saw a single case in all their clinical training. Now they see plenty. The populations who get the disease do not come in for treatment until they are thoroughly sick and extremely infectious. Many do not have the discipline to stick to the six-month treatment necessary for a cure. By 1990, the disease was spreading so rapidly that in some parts of the city it was as prevalent as in third world countries. Even healthy people living ordinary lives were beginning to catch it, and editorial writers were muttering about quarantine. [Ann V. Bollinger, TB alert: no one is safe, NY Post, Oct. 15, 1990, p. 4. Also Keeping TB under control, New York Post, Oct. 22, 1990, p. 16.]

The city’s public hospitals, overwhelmed with crack babies, AIDS patients, and shot-up drug dealers, are in no position to deal with a new challenge. It now takes an average of 10.3 hours for a seriously sick patient to be transferred from the emergency room to a regular bed. Even Detroit, the next slowest city in the country, manages it in an average of 4.4 hours. [Emergency, LA Times, Aug. 28, 1991, p. A19.] Every week, 300 patients give up hope of ever seeing a doctor, and leave emergency rooms, untreated. [Mark Mooney, Memo: Hundreds a week “give up” on city’s hospitals, NY Post, May 3, 1990, p. 11.]

Harlem hospital, operated largely by blacks, is unquestionably the worst in the city. Its staff is notoriously rude and lazy, its equipment in bad repair, and its records incomplete. Its very accreditation as a public hospital is in perpetual doubt, and many of its staffers got their jobs through connections rather than competence. One of the hospital’s veteran nurses carries a card in her wallet that says: “Do not take me to Harlem Hospital in an emergency.” [E.R. Shipp, For the sickest patients, an ailing hospital, NYT, 4/7/91, p. 1A.]

The hospital, the largest employer in Harlem, is becoming ever more like the neighborhood it serves. Harlem’s 100,000 residents die of AIDS at 20 times the national rate and of homicide at seven times the national rate. Infant mortality is higher than anywhere else in the nation, and the life expectancy of a Harlem man is less than that of someone living in Bangladesh. [Shipp, ibid.]

Schools for Scandal

New York’s public school system is staggeringly corrupt, inefficient, and expensive. In 1961, when the system could actually provide an education, it employed 49,669 teachers and staff. During the next 30 years, while the number of school-age New Yorkers dropped by one fifth, the number of school system employees grew by 74 percent. [Christopher Byron, Where have you gone, Roger Marris?, NY Magazine, 6/10/91, p. 32.] The city now has more education bureaucrats than does all of Western Europe. [George Will, Manhattan dreams and nightmares, LA Times, 5/26/91.]

Students, 80 percent of whom are non-white, get precious little education. Fewer than half can read at grade level [Joelle Attinger, The decline of New York, Time, 9/17/90, p. 44.] and forty percent fail to finish high school. [Last one out of Gotham, close the door, Economist, 10/20/90, p. 21]

From 1985 to 1989, the city spent more than $120 million on a special program to keep the most likely truants from dropping out. Guidance counselors gave career and family advice, and social workers visited homes. Services costing $8,000 per pupil were lavished on 150,000 specially chosen participants — to no discernible effect. They kept on dropping out. Program administrators concluded that by the time students got to high school there was nothing that could be done to help them. [Joseph Berger, Dropout plans not working, study finds, NYT, 5/16/90, p. B1.] Though no one would dare say so publicly, New York has run up against one of the hard, cruel facts of 20th century America: It is nearly impossible to beat a high school education into a population of welfare-bred hooligans and dullards.

Another vast sinkhole for public money has been the school system’s “special education” program. Unlike regular teaching, “special ed” is protected from funding cuts by state law and court rulings. One in eight of all public school students is now found to be “handicapped” — double the number of 12 years ago — and thus entitled to special handling. Screening alone costs $3,000 per child for a total of $240 million a year, and the 119,000 “specials” cost $16,746 a year to teach — more than twice the $7,107 for regular students. They get classes of no more than a dozen students and the services of an army of therapists. The results? Only five percent of “specials” ever rejoin the mainstream, and only 17 percent manage to graduate. This near-total failure costs taxpayers more than $2 billion a year. [Joseph Berger, Costly special classes serve many with minimal needs, NYT, 4/30/91, p. A1.]

New York’s “regular” students are so prone to violence that the city spends $29 million every year on armed guards in schools — $29 million it cannot spend on laboratory equipment, band instruments or field trips. In 1988, New York began a weapons-detection program that has now been extended to 14 high schools and one junior high school. [Karl Zinsmeister, Growing up scared, Atlantic Monthly, June, 1990, p. 65.] Nursery schools haven’t joined the program yet, but they may have to. Late in 1990, Brooklyn teachers found that one of their three-year-olds had come to class with a loaded pistol. [Don Broderick, Tot, 3, packs loaded gun to nursery school, NY Post, Dec. 6, 1990, p. 3.]

At Thomas Jefferson High School in Brooklyn, so many students have been shot and stabbed in recent years that a class room has been set aside permanently for use by grieving friends. [Rob Polner, Mourning 101, NY Post, April 26, 1991, p. 5.] Early this year, a student shot and killed two school mates just a few hours before Mayor David Dinkins visited the school. In some New York City day-care centers, children barely old enough to talk are trained to hit the floor whenever they hear shots ring out. [Joelle Attinger, The decline of New York, Time, Sept. 17, 1990, p. 39.]

Enough children have been shot for their sneakers or jackets that some parents buy bullet-proof vests for them. Police agree that body armor will stop bullets but suspect that since a vest costs as much as $500, it may be even more attractive to thieves than a pair of $90 sneakers. [William Cormier, A sign of modern times, Philadelphia Inquirer, 9/9/90, p. 3A.]

Many school children are surrounded by abominations. There is so much prostitution in the streets around Public School 40 in the Bronx, that children must sometimes be held late to wait for the fornications to finish. There is so much gang warfare on the block that teachers sprint into class from the parking lot when they come to work. The children no longer use the school yard for fear of flying bullets. At Public School 76 in Queens, teachers find the school grounds littered with needles, crack vials, and condoms when they come to work in the morning. [Stuart Marques, Sex, drugs near PS 76 in Queens, NY Daily News, Oct. 23, 1990. Also Paul La Rosa, Prison of fear, NY Daily News, Oct. 14, 1990, p. 3.]

At Public School 43 in the Bronx, the sun never shines into many of the classrooms. Teachers keep the shades drawn and push students’ desks away from the windows. The school looks down on a vacant lot that has become an open-air market for drugs and sex. If the children could look out the windows they would see addicts pushing needles into their arms and crack users fornicating. [Paul La Rosa, Garden of evil, NY Daily News, Oct. 7, 1990, p. 3.] This year, in an attempt to combat the spread of AIDS in the high schools, New York City began distributing free condoms to students.

In the midst of these horrors, race-based politicking goes on as usual. In 1970, increasingly non-white schools run by non-white teachers demanded and got an unprecedented degree of autonomy from the “racist” central bureaucracy. The demand for same-race “role models” quickly brought in a flood of inexperienced, ill-prepared teachers and administrators.

By late in 1988, local autonomy had flowered into scandalous mismanagement. One black principal, Matthew Barnwell, was late or absent nearly four out of five school days. When he did show up, he was often drunk, and spent the day watching television. Staff who didn’t have connections simply bought their way into jobs. One quarter of Mr. Barnwell’s teachers were regularly late or absent. He kept his $60,000-a-year job for years, and got into the news only when he was arrested for using crack cocaine.

Thanks to local autonomy, charges of incompetence — unlike criminal charges — could be brought against Mr. Barnwell only by his local school board. At the time he was arrested, Mr. Barnwell’s entire board was under investigation by the District Attorney for taking drugs, stealing school property, and cooking the books. [Joseph Berger, Inertia of New York’s school system: shaky tenure of Matthew Barnwell, NYT, Dec. 27, 1988.]

At another school, one board member was a heroin addict, who lived on the street in a cardboard box. At her school, classroom aides often got their jobs through patronage, and some were illiterate; they couldn’t even fill out a job application form. One acting principal drove a van up to the school and loaded it with stolen school supplies. [Blumenthal and Verhovek, Patronage and profit in schools: a tale of a Bronx district school, NYT, Dec. 16, 1988, p. A1.]

Perhaps most pitiful of all were the results of school board elections held in corrupt jurisdictions just a few months after news of the scandals. Only seven percent of eligible voters turned out — an all-time low — and virtually all incumbents were re-elected. [Bitter lessons in N.Y. schools, SJ Mercury, June 22, 1989, p. 8A.] By 1990, nearly a third of New York’s 32 local boards were under investigation for corruption [Joelle Attinger, The decline of New York, Time, 9/17/90, p. 44.] — to the usual chorus of cries that such investigations were “racist.”

A Hideous Misery

The very texture of life in New York City today would astonish anyone who knew the city 50 years ago. Its cracked sidewalks and unswept public spaces are littered with human wreckage. From the interstices of a once-great city there oozes a hideous misery far more vile than the silent, ancient poverty of Africa or Asia. It is little wonder that 60 percent of the people who live there think the future will be worse than the present [Elizabeth Kolbert, Region around New York sees ties to city faltering, NYT, 12/1/91, p. 1A.] and would leave if only they could. [Joelle Attinger, The decline of New York, Time, 9/17/90, p. 39.]

New York, like so much of the country, is a monument to bankrupt policies. It is caught in the vise of a foolish immigration policy that floods it with non-whites, and an equally foolish welfare policy that taxes the responsible to support the irresponsible. It is a city run on white, liberal principles, increasingly inhabited by a non-white population to whom principles of any kind are unknown. It practices welfare of a Scandinavian lavishness, but on a population with no homogeneity and coherence — without which welfare becomes pure confiscation. It is a city that has poured out its wealth upon the alien, the defective, the criminal, and the dissolute.

Libraries must close, but every dim-witted single mother must have a comfortable home for her brood. Street-cleaning is haphazard, but unteachable students must have expensive therapies of every kind. The sidewalks stink of human excrement, but no public toilets may be built unless cripples can use them. Bridges could come crashing down, but crack babies must be saved, at all costs, to become blighted, burdensome children.

It is still possible, in the whiter parts of Manhattan, fleetingly to believe that New York City is still the center of the universe, that it will always bewitch and enchant. But the heartbeat of the city is no longer European. The barbarians are not at the gates; they are within the citadel. Another Detroit is in the making.