Sunday, August 13, 2006

# Posted 11:14 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

REMEMBER THE BAD OLD DAYS? While we're on the subject of crime, I thought I should put a good word in for a superb book I just finished reading, by the name of Ladies and Gentlemen, the Bronx is Burning. It is the story of New York City in the summer of 1977, beset by a blackout, a serial killer, rioting, arson, urban decay and those damned Yankees.

If the only New York you know is the bustling, friendly metropolis of Giuliani and Bloomberg, then get ready for a rude awakening. I'm not old enough to remember the summer of '77, but I remmeber the 1980s quite well. They weren't pretty. But they certainly weren't boring either. And I'm betting you won't want to put this book down once you pick it up.

FYI, I didn't get a free copy of this book from the publisher. But I did get it as a gift from my girlfriend. Having read it, I can tell you that it is absolutely worth paying for.

Now getting back to the subject of crime, I'd like to post an extended quotation from a speech by Mario Cuomo, who had just emerged onto the New York political stage in the mid-1970s and quickly became a darling of the liberal intelligentsia. (Yes, that was a back-handed compliment.)

Cuomo first emerged as a power-broker in 1972, when the city government enraged the middle-class, mostly Jewish residents of Forest Hills, Queens by planning to build a major public housing project -- consisting of three towers of twenty-four stories -- right in the middle of their neighborhood.

With the support of Republican mayor John Lindsay, Cuomo engineered a compromise -- three towers of twelve stories. Sounds terrible to me, but vertical ghettos still had a surprising measure of credibility back then, so Forest Hills appreciated Cuomo's contribution.

In 1973, Cuomo tested the waters for a run at the position of mayor. What follows is from one of his speeches:
"You've got all these blacks and Puerto Ricans down in South Jamaica [in Queens] where I was born and raised," Cumos said in an address to a political club in Queens.

"You think they're all bad because they're the ones coming up here , mugging and raping you and breaking into your homes. And you're saying, 'We don't want them in our neighborhoods. We don't want them anyhwere near us'...Well, the net result of their attitude is their poverty will get worse and they'll produce more muggers and rapists...

The liberals come and tell you it's our moral obligation to help those people -- the black, anyway -- for 400 years. That's what John Lindsay told you, right? However, here in Queens, how can I tell my father that?...He never punished a black, or hurt a black, or enslaved a black...

Here's what you have to say to my father: Whether you love them or not, whether you have an obligation to them or not, is between you and God...But unless you do something about where they are now, how they live now, they will continue to come into your neighborhoods and mug and rape...You have to find ways to break up segregated neighborhoods. And most of all, you have to find ways to get them job. Real jobs."
I believe when Cuomo refers to "blacks" he's talking about African-Americans. Anyhow, it's quite interesting how can suggest that he is tougher and less sentimental than the liberals, but then preach the liberal gospel of blaming society for crime instead of blaming liberals.

As it turns out, Cuomo ran for mayor in 1977, not 1973. He lost the Democratic nomination to Ed Koch, who suddenly became a staunch advocate of the death penalty and blasted Cuomo for being soft on crime. Cuomo refused to compromise his ethical objections to the death penalty, but with crime spiralling out of control and a full-fledged riot engulfing much of the city in July of '77, New Yorkers wanted someone tough. In hindsight, that may be a very fortunate thing.
(3) opinions -- Add your opinion

Would you happen to have a source/citation of that speech?
Why was choosing Koch, as tough on crime, a good thing? Crime got significantly worse under Koch in the 1980s. It wasn't until the end of Dinkins' mayorship that crime started to drop, thanks largely to Dinkins' Police Commissioner William Bratton and his broken-window approach (often attributed to Giuliani though it started under Dinkins). Giuliani took that ball and run with it.

Oh, and as for the death penalty? New York has executed nobody since reinstatement of the death penalty in 1995, and currently has no death penatly law on the books after a previous law was overturned by state courts.
Let's imagine that you had no job, and little hope of getting one. I presume you would lie down in the street and wait peacefully to starve?

To take note of the fact that social conditions affect crime rates is empirical science. It is also empirical science to note that in identical conditions two people will have a different propensity to commit crimes. To characterize an objective observation as 'blaming society' is political demagogery.
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