In January 1978, when new mayor Ed Koch took his post, New York City was dirty, dangerous and $10 billion in debt. Budget cuts to the police, fire and sanitation departments had contributed to a hostile urban environment: landlords abandoned buildings rather than pay property taxes, cockroaches overran even inhabited apartments, fires burned across the Bronx. Crime, from robberies to assaults, murders to grand larcenies, was so rife, that members of the NYPD issued an unofficial pamphlet called Welcome to Fear City: A Survival Guide for Visitors to the City of New York.
How am I doing?
Koch was voted in to City Hall after a twenty-five hour blackout caused by lightning strikes led to widespread looting and mass arrests. A lifelong Democrat from Greenwich Village, he promised to restore law and order and prioritise public safety, and famously stood at street corners and greeted pedestrians with the slogan “How’m I doin’?”
Over the next forty years, New York City underwent one of the most radical transformations of any city in the US. Back from the brink of bankruptcy, it became a magnet for financial capital and, as the baby boomers came of age, pioneered the yuppie lifestyle. It went from being a hotbed of crime to becoming one of the safest cities in the world. The urban landscape was transformed with housing projects and parks, and a homegrown art and hip-hop scene thrived and became synonymous with the NYC brand.
New York was also hit by crisis after crisis: AIDS, crack cocaine, 9/11, the 2008 crash, and, most recently, the Covid-19 pandemic all devastated the city, but created solidarity among its residents. Its mayors from the late 1970s on —Ed Koch, David Dinkins, Rudy Giuliani, Michael Bloomberg, Bill de Blasio— have become iconic figures, and their approach to city governance has, for better or worse, influenced local policymakers worldwide.
NEW york’s new mayor
Eric Adams is the new mayor of New York. Born in Brooklyn, he was the borough’s president before he became the Democrat nominee. In the election, Adams beat Republican Curtis Sliwa, the founder of Guardian Angels, the non-profit volunteer organisation dedicated to crime prevention. A former police officer himself, Adams prioritises public safety and measures against crime and is in favour of police reform, but against defunding the police. He promises to expand tax credit for low-income families and invest in schools and public housing. He also plans to upgrade the electric grid to renewable energy and focus on wind and solar projects to create jobs. Adams will have to work closely with state governor Kathy Hochul.