Headed Back to the 1970s in Bed Stuy and Beyond?

“The economic crises of the early 1970s overwhelmed New York City,” writes James Doran in the British newspaper The Guardian. “The stock market crashed, oil prices plunged and unemployment soared.” Now that we’re rewriting that same scenario, will the same crime wave surge again? The article zeroes in on Bed-Stuy, the domain of Frank Serpico who would be wowed and disoriented by the million-dollar brownstones of the neighborhood today. “Crime has dropped dramatically over 30 years and continues to show strong reductions,” in the area. But what will happen now that we’ve got a billion dollar budget gap and a 5,000-man reduction in the police department? “There were 455 murders in New York City in the year to 16 November compared with 429 in the same period last year, an increase of 6 per cent,” they write. “And this is just the beginning of New York’s woes. The slump is expected to take a big toll on a city which relies on the financial services sector for some 10 per cent of its overall tax revenue. Add to that the amount of money that is pumped into the economy by wealthy bankers and financial traders who until recently were buying mansions and luxury cars and eating at expensive restaurants with abandon, and it soon becomes obvious that New York City is bankrolled by Wall Street.” Commissioner Kelly told the City Council yesterday that it would be a real challenge to keep crime down. On the jump, a handy comparison of 1970 NYC and now.
New York Fears Return of Dark Days [The Guardian]
Photo by csamperezbedos.

• Price of a subway ride – 30 cents in 1970 to 80 cents by 1979
• Price of a hot dog in Coney Island $1
• Top TV shows – All in the Family, Happy Days, Laverne and Shirley
• Millions move out to the suburbs in the great urban flight
• Economy so bad that 3,000 are arrested for looting during a blackout

• Price of a subway ride $2
• Price of a hot dog at Nathan’s in Coney Island $3.20
• Top TV Shows – Dancing with the Stars, American Idol, Heroes
• Millions move back to old city neighborhoods left derelict for a generation
• Economy so bad that mayor Michael Bloomberg demands a third term.

0 Comment

  • im going to be flat out honest with you about this situation. 1.) im psychic (an aquarius) and 2.) im a slight anarchist.

    the only difference is now in this economic crisis is that there will be a ton more white people committing crime. especially kids under 25 who cannot for various reasons move back to where they came from. and me, 31. who has no where to move back to as well.

    so yeah,
    when the poop DOES hit the fan, sorry but your ipod is mine.


  • Very helpful article coming from the UK. Maybe I’ll write one about the Birmingham, Dewsbury and Windsor race riots of 2005 & 2006 or the Stoke-On-Trent, Oldham, Burnley, Bradford and Leeds race riots of 2001 and wonder weather there’ll be tension between Brit bags and Muslims over there for the same reasons. The article should be titled “UK Brit Bag Fears Return of Dark Days” because New Yorkers don’t.

  • dont worry dave. youre a cool guy, im sure you will fare well in bed-stuy :) the cool thing about crime this time around is that it’s not going to be so race-based, it really is going to be who needs what and when. don’t be shocked to see formerly homogenously raced gangs now accept members from all ethnicities 😉 ugh. i feel like im coming off as a troll today, but for real, im not. i truly believe in the stuff i say.


  • Doesn’t make too much sense. Crime peaked in the 80’s well after so-called ’70s crash, oilbust, etc. And ‘crack’ was the biggest culprit not economic conditions.
    Crime rates have been long-term trends unlike the stock markdet or dare I say housing market with booms and busts.
    NYC is very different now than 70s’ City had been on downward path with exodus of corporate headquarters, loss of population year after year after year. Very different social factors – racial tensions, whole sense of decline in neighborhoods, attitudes toward ‘authority’.
    Crime stats may go up – since very difficult to maintain the low numbers but very much sensationalism to speculate that city will return to another era just because you can find a couple of economic indicators that parellel.

  • You mean I can become a member of Vatos Locos or Ninos Malos after out hedge fund blows up (it hasn’t yet) and I can’t cover the mortgage on my brownstone?? KEWL.

  • Pete…it would have been nice if crack journalist Doran had mentioned a few of those similarities and differences but why should he have to think or research the story?

    The big question is will this thread garner 100 posts or more to fill the gap left by the inability of the What and derwood to post on the Forum???

  • Nov. 25 (Bloomberg) — U.S. consumer confidence unexpectedly rose in November from a record low as falling gasoline prices helped alleviate concerns about rising unemployment and tumbling financial markets.
    The Conference Board’s index of consumer confidence climbed to 44.9, the second-lowest reading since 1974, from 38.8 the prior month.

    Sorry for so many posts so early. Lots of coffee this morning and an upbeat Thanksgiving feeling here. Market up so far…three days in a row.

  • Don’t get me started on British (or Irish) journalism. My in-laws are constantly quoting American mistruths that they read in their newspapers.

    Pitbull, white people ARE committing more crime. They’re just ripping off the entire country so we as individuals don’t feel as victimized.

  • My predictions for today (I nailed it yesterday)
    – This post will indeed garner over 100 posts.
    – The ‘QOTD’ will come from one of them.

  • Crime and wealth are correlated but there is not a strict causal relationship.

    Most people with financial problems do not usually pursue street crime as their first option (and the people who *do* pursue street crime as their first option are already doing so).

    Also, the city is facing a shift from really fantastic levels of wealth and very high standards of living to reduced wealth levels but a standard of living that is likely to still be very comfortable. We are going to see fewer Hummers and $300 phones, not bread lines and tent communities.

    Unless there is widespread, long term unemployment and despair focused in specific neighborhoods, I do not see NYC falling apart like the 70s. Frankly, I think the city has a bit more self respect than that. I’ll be very sad if I’m proven wrong about that.

  • 1970s:
    • Economy so bad that 3,000 are arrested for looting during a blackout

    • Economy so bad that mayor Michael Bloomberg demands a third term.

    I like these comparisions. Some may equate Bloomberg’s demand for a 3rd term like looting during a blackout.

  • “I like these comparisions. Some may equate Bloomberg’s demand for a 3rd term like looting during a blackout.”

    As much as I don’t agree with it, it could be QOTD.

  • “…will the same crime wave surge again?”

    Absolutely and maybe worse.

  • When I wrote that, my tongue was in my cheek, DIBS.
    But thanks for the nomination for QOTD…so early and Montrose hasn’t even entered the room.

    • Top TV shows – All in the Family, Happy Days, Laverne and Shirley

    • Top TV Shows – Dancing with the Stars, American Idol, Heroes

    I also, think we need classic format sitcoms to be developed and on the air, as opposed to all this reality TV. There’s only a few sitcoms I deem worthy right now.
    Let’s bring laughter back in our lives.

  • the crime drop in nyc has been directly related to the number of cops on the street and their policing methods. People who lose their jobs generally don’t turn to street crime and people who are the biggest drivers of crime in this city are NOT the formerly employed they are the never employed.

  • so naive gkw. desperate people do desperate things like rob your pasty ass to feed themselves.

  • Let’s bring laughter back in our lives.

    Good call BRG. That is why I loves me some “30 Rock”

  • Speaking of ’70s sitcoms, I think during these rough times, Mr. B should consider enhancing the site with a laugh track that would automatically be set off for every post. It would give us instant gratification and smiles and make us feel like we’re the next Chris Rock. Just imagine the hilarity that’ll ensue when, after all the comments here about rising crime, SnarkSlope jumps in with one of his zingers involving the entrance of a hot cop to the left of the stage and we then all get to hear the Leave it to Beaver-esque canned laughter.

  • Pasty? Are you talking about a Cornish pasty?

  • “Pasty? Are you talking about a Cornish pasty?”

    *sounds of canned laughter*

  • Biff–that actually is beyond genius. Couldn’t be too hard. There would need to be some “mwahhh, mwahhh, mwahhhs” as well for posts that didn’t meet the standard.

  • Oh, wasder, despite the fact I’ll undoubtedly be the recipient of way more “mwahhh, mwahhh, mwahhhs” than any other poster, I would wholeheartedly agree to include that as well. Since a couple of people have commented recently about this blog jumping the shark, it might be appropriate to eventually go to the sounds of a live audience, like Happy Days did in the later seasons.

  • true, gkw.. if i lost my job today i’d have zero savings and wouldnt be able to afford january rent (i just paid december rent. woo woo). would i turn to ripping people off and stealing? absolutely not. people who generally resort to stealing and mugging are people who generally were never employed to begin with with an ingrained systemic belief system that is almost sociopathic. im almost certain that if worst came to worst i could survive without resorting to low level criminal behavior. i believe that nyc won’t become like it did in the 70s because of the internet. as weird as that sounds, i know.. but a lot of people KNOW about what is going on and there is much more talk about it. it doesnt just creep up on you like it must have back in the day.


  • “desperate people do desperate things like rob your pasty ass to feed themselves.”

    Honestly, if gangs of desperate unemployed investment bankers are going to start roaming the north slope trying to scrape up enough cash to order omakase at Nobu, I think we can take them.

    I’ll try not to hurt them too much, but if I find out one of them was responsible for the “$140 per barrel oil is cheap and I have a $250 price target for 2008” garbage, I may have to get in a few kicks to the ribs before the cops get there.

  • There should be a couple of hecklers in the background every time Biff writes corny post.

    BTW – Chris Rock, grew up in Crown Heights and also Bed Sty.
    Not sure about Chappelle – I don’t think so.
    BTW – two of my favorite living stand-up comics.

  • Was Happy Days shot to a live audience? Wonder how many people Mr B would have to hire to create a live laugh track for us.

  • rob–that is an interesting point about the role of the internet in the fabric of the city. Certainly people know alot more about the people and neighborhoods around them now because of the internet. I wonder though if that level of internet awareness filters down to all levels of the urban populace.

  • you’re the one who’s naive travy. People are loathe to admit that police work is actually the cause of the downturn in crime. there will be more crime because of less police not because laid off construction and mta workers are suddenly roving the streets robbing people.

  • Actually I believe crime – murder (the only truly reliable crime stat) in 1990, which is far far far away from the 70’s.

    I could be wrong but I doubt newly unemployed Bankers and Brokers are going to be shooting people for dinner $.

    The crime rate goes up if 1. we dedicate less resources to crime prevention and 2. If people begin to be less demanding on our officials regarding small offenses.

    Since in 1970’s the genuine consensus was that urban living was over and that the suburbs was where ‘growth’ was – I think people including a lot of city dwellers were willing to accept more crime. Given the huge numbers of people who are now trapped (unable to sell/move) in apartments with families it will take alot longer (if ever) to see people “intellectually” give up on an urban lifestyle.

    In short the demographic trends in NYC leading up to the 1970s just arent at play here. Obviously if 80% of the working people/families in NYC up and leave over the next decade and are replaced by undereducated, underemployed people (which is what happened from the 50’s-70’s in the outerboros) – THEN – you may be looking at a return to that type of crime, right now – relax – street crime is not the big problem.

  • Maybe we can get the Law and Order “dun dun” sound too for the posts about crime.

  • Less police presence will amount to more crime, but I don’t think that the white collar sector losing jobs will. The people that are committing probably 95% of the street crime are already unemployed and like it that way.

  • quote:
    I wonder though if that level of internet awareness filters down to all levels of the urban populace.

    it totally does. brownstoner, this blog and site, is a little bit upper crusty if you know what im saying. go on sites like city-data… lots of people on that message board post from the bronx and stuff and totally are very vested in their neighborhoods, etc. it’s totally weird visiting a site like this, curbed, then seeing people post on city-data where you have people from all over talking… you get posts like, talking about jobs for the department of sanitation, which areas of the bronx are relatively safe, just random stuff. believe me, people from every socioeconomic stratus are very hyper-aware of their neighborhoods these days… internet access is not just for the privileged few anymore.


  • fsrg–good points about people giving up on urban life. Hopefully some aspects of the new green consciousness will help the city from going to “seed” as it were. If people see the city as a cheaper, more environmentally sound place you may not see the money flight out of the city that we saw in the 60s and 70s. Who knows?

  • rob–that’s cool. I hope you are correct in your assessment. Would bode well for people being invested in their neighborhoods which is necessary for them to remain strong through down times.

  • I can’t believe this post has gotten so far with no “Warriors” reference.

  • And no “marauding teens” But I guess they’re confined to Ft. Greene & CH!!!!

  • The Guardian always likes to cover our inner cities like they were Mogadishu or Sarejevo during a war. I’m sure their intrepid correspondent has a camo hat, and darts from tree to tree to observe the natives and report back. I agree with Dave, look to your own problems, mate.

    This comparison is not like comparing Gala apples with McIntosh apples. Bed Stuy, the entire city, in the 70’s cannot be directly compared with now, no more than you can accurately compare the Great Depression with now. Too much history in between, too many changes in policy, law, and society to make that accurate. The past colors and shapes who we are now.

    The 81st precinct, cited in the piece, covers much of Bushwick’s Broadway shopping district, which burned down in riots. The photo they posted looks like somewhere over there. As horrible and self distructive as that was, it was not indicative of Bed Stuy. Then is not now. Heroin was king, returning drafted VietNam vets, with the horrors and addictions of war still running through their heads and veins, were tossed unappreciated back into their communities with no skills, no jobs, no compassion. The city was broke, our police department was riddled with corruption, and our national spirit was drained. While many parallels can be drawn, we are not those people, this is not that time.

    We learned something from what we went through then, we at least recognise PTSD, we’ve cleaned up the police department, heroin and crack are still with us, but not in the levels of the 70’s, and our neighborhoods, although still segregated in some ways, schools especially, are open to new residents, and greater mixtures of people and incomes. Gone are the days of the 70’s when a white face in Bed Stuy was either a cop, first responder, social worker, commerical landlord, or investigative reporter.

    While the trickle down of Wall Street wealth hardly ever reached the parched lips of someone in the projects, the converse is true now – the implosion does not have the direct effect on poorer communities, in the direct sense of lost jobs or wealth. We lose out because the city will lose out. The generation between my parents and myself, that owned homes in BS in the 70’s as young homeowners with city and other civil service jobs may be encouraged to retire, but their homes are paid for, their pensions as secure as anyone’s can be. We will be affected, as everyone is affected, and will have to tighten our belts, but we will not erupt in riots, or destroy what we all worked so hard to obtain.

    I think street crime will rise, but it will rise everywhere, and we must all be more alert and aware. Rob may be right. Street crime in Bed Stuy will still impact black residents more than white, it always has, as it is a crime of opportunity, and we are a majority in our neighborhoods. What’s in your pocket or purse is still green, or can be programmed or sold just as easily, whether black, white, yellow or brown.

    Because we’ve gone through this before, we should be able to more easily pass through again. This time, our economic woes bind us together as much as race and ethnicity. For those of us with the power to be aware, alert, and make changes, the challenges of doing more with less, inventing new ways of commerce and industry, and relying less on the new, and more on keeping up with what you have, should make for interesting times. We will recover, and we’ll grow.

  • I have seen a definite uptick in what I am calling thug on nerd. My sixth grader was jumped on his way home from school on Vanderbilt and Clermont. He was on his way to the G. I am not sure it was really a mugging since he didn’t have anything. Friends of my ninth grader were jumped leaving school on the Upper West Side and another of his friends was mugged in front of PS 32. From what I was told by the principal of my kid’s middle school, the younger middle schoolers are particularly vulnerable.

  • I spy QOTD ^^^^^^^

    Once again, Montrose is Poignant!!

  • QOTD…to Montrose, that is.

  • Thanks, BRG.

    Montrose is going out to chase some dollars, so won’t be around till later. Hope this thread stays as intelligent and thoughtful as it has been so far.

  • “the only difference is now in this economic crisis is that there will be a ton more white people committing crime. especially kids under 25….”


    Not all that different. I moved to the South Slope (Park block of 13th St.) in 1970. That was the demographic group responsible for most of the crime there at the time.

  • ‘Hope this thread stays as intelligent and thoughtful as it has been so far.’

    Montrose, that’s asking for alot. I’m predicting at some point there will be racist comments to be spewed from some posters.

    I personally won’t muck up this one too much, just for you :)

  • Maybe the issue is not crime. These million dollar brownstones were built in the 1920’s or earlier for only 10k. Why is it that everything depreciates except old brownstones. How can a house built 90 to 100+ years ago be so valuable. Maybe the asshat’s who purchased at a such an over inflated price will return to the cornfields where they came from. I doubt if anyone will be able to go back to where they came from so just deal with it, and stop asking what if…

  • momo284…”These million dollar brownstones were built in the 1920’s or earlier for only 10k. How can a house built 90 to 100+ years ago be so valuable” Maybe brownstoner.com isn’t for you!!!

  • gkw- some of these sociopaths of which you speak have gotten jobs over the years and have cut back on their robbin’ and stealin’. these low level jobs will be the first to go and then when desperation sets in they will do what they have to do to survive–not to mention judgment impaired teenagers whose parents have lost jobs and want a little change in their pockets are going to be acting out more.

    how you can argue that higher unemployment in working class neighborhoods (ones dotted with upper class gentrifiers no less) does not equal higher crime is beyond me.

    but whatever. there will be some amazing deals near the projects in the coming months. a buying opportunity for someone like you if i’ve ever seen one…

  • Rising unemployment might result in more shoplifting. But the notion that a heretofore law-abiding adult is going to start mugging people because he is out of work is ludicrous.

  • That article seems to take an almost pornographic interest in seeing more crime. God, the amount of time people spend wishing/dreaming about those years is unreal. Who’s the most envied class of person in New York? Not the Broadway star or corporate mogul, but the person who lived here all through the “gritty years.”

  • brownstone era was 1840-1910 +/-… Park Slope, Crown Heights and Bedford Stuyvesant brownstone came along the same time in the 1880s and 1890s. Many of the same builders and architects built both areas. Ft. Greene/Clinton Hill and most of downtown is from the generation before 1860s- 1870s. We all have seen antiques road show and how the prices are on there… buying these old houses is like buying one big antique.

  • Of FAR FAR bigger concern to those who actually know something about crime prevention is not that unemployment=higher crime BUT lower tax revenues=cuts in prison funding; resulting in early release/parole programs for violent felons.

    In fact the number of paroles have increased sharply under Spitzer/Patterson (probably not having to do with $) and with the budget shortfalls coming, expect to see some very large, violent and angry men return to the streets from which they came (which means more coming to Bed-Stuy then Brooklyn Heights)

    Again the societal factors that led to NYC in 1977 just arent present but if there is a risk of higher crime it comes from past felons – and even this is avoidable if people demand that the one thing that can’t be allowed is lawlessness.

  • let me add that i don’t think we will return to 70’s levels of crime unless some new drug epidemic hits. i mean, fort greene was a warzone not that long ago and i don’t think anyone thinks that’s coming back.

    further, i think the uptick in muggings and property crimes will occur in nicer neighborhoods as well as the recently gentrified because that’s where the money is, yo. :)

  • travy, a lot of people who used to just smoke weed and dabble in coke here and there have turned pretty hardcore onto meth in the last few years. it’s a ton cheaper and much easier to make and get. if you think the crack epidemic was bad, you would not even begin to want to see what a meth epidemic would cause. im actually pretty shocked this issue is put on the back burner and doesnt seem to be addressed much in the media. meth is not just for gays and hillbillies anymore. seriously.


  • easy, easy :)
    I do not see why people would not try to resolve this themselves and can create patrol groups on each street and on each block.
    I have no problem to join such group. We could have shifts and groups big enough that could simply scare off at least some part of the crime. Groups and members should be registered with local precinct and have to be in direct contact with police offices on duty during shift.

  • We have that already it is called old ladies in the window…

  • im sorry but i see the types of prissy people going in and out of all the new condos. (men and women) lol there’s no way they are going to mouth off to a criminal and not get their face rearranged.


  • Montrose

    Are you seriously trying to blame the crime wave of the 1970s on returning vietnam vets?

    And, last time I checked, the humble residents of NYCHA properties have pretty nice, spacious apartments with free air conditioning for the cheapest rent imaginable. The vast majority of the world’s citizens would love to live in such properties if they weren’t filled with social rejects.

    They told us we had to build housing projects in the 1960s because black social dysfunction was the result of their poor living conditions and years of racism. We built the projects, and crime just got worse. It wasn’t just crime. Out of wedlock births, literacy, everything got worse.

    Crime in the 1970s was the direct result of liberal social programs that destroyed black culture. They were turned into political pawns in a power grab, and it destroyed them.

    This is the danger we have today. We have a huge underclass – mostly the prominent “minorities” of the last liberal golden age – that has been manipulated into a culture of nihilism through endless bribery schemes of which NYCHA housing was just one. When the money runs out, they will run wild just as they did in the 1970s.

    And please, despite the fact many prominent black intellectuals have wrote on this very topic, don’t throw out the race card (this is not necessarily directed towards you MM). This same sociological phenomenon has happened everywhere government giveaways have been tried. From Glasgow to Panama City, Panama – “helping” the poor by giving them essentially free everything always creates a culture of weakness and dependence devoid of civilized ethics.

    I think you’re also not picking up on how rapidly things change. Bed-Stuy was still at least half white well into the 1950s. Demographic shifts can and do happen very rapidly. For the record, I do hope you are right – but these kinds of trends are very difficult to predict. When the money starts to run out, I don’t think any of us can make an informed prediction of what the future holds.

  • Rob, Brooklyn would turn into Fishtown in the 80’s. Which means mostly what it would cause would be a lot of explosions from bad labs. But I am not seeing that happening.

  • polemicist:

    A book you might like, on the topic of public housing and other issues like you were describing –


  • NYCHA started and developed many large projects well before the 1960s.
    Seems that middle income development was a product of the 60’s (MitchellLama).

  • Polemicist,
    You’re drinking the Republican kool-aid.

  • My predictions are off today :(

  • Travy you make the mistake that many do….Criminals GENERALLY do not go “where the money is” – they stay where they live and feel comfortable (it takes enough balls to rob someone w/o going to a neighborhood you are unfamiliar with). If Criminals were smart, did planning and actually thought out their actions, we’d never catch any.

    This is why crime is actually a much larger issue in poorer neighborhoods and areas like the projects – because the good people, who just want to learn, work and succeed are prayed upon by the misfits and society lumps em all together. Even in 1990 Brooklyn Heights was a relatively safe place – despite the fact that the “money” was only on the otherside of Court Street.

    Polemist -“Crime in the 1970s was the direct result of liberal social programs”

    Please – crime in the 70’s (and eighties when it really blossemed) has many causes and trying to wrap it all up under some simple -‘its the liberals fault’ is beneath your intellectual capacity.

    Ultimatley the problems of the underclass (which is what you are referring) is due to a defective culture within that segment of the population – a culture that devalues education, delayed gratification, and parenting and glorifies violence, cash and respect through fear. – Government policies certainly can support or hinder such cultures but please do not mistake contributing factors with the cause.

  • Hey Dave
    I live in Bed Stuy, near the 81st precinct, where my wife and me have been very happy lo these past four years.
    To research the story I joined the 81st precinct community council three years ago, then last week after I noticed the crime numbers creeping up in perhaps coincidental lockstep with the city’s budget crisis I thought it would be a good idea to interview the deputy comptroller for the city and a bunch of other experts whose views I reported in this story.
    Also – Aren’t you the “dave in bedstuy” who invited me round “for a cup of PG” about 3 years ago?
    Glad to see you are still wallowing in stereotypes.
    And Montrose I have lived in New York for ten years. I know thats probably not as long as you so I have to give you some sort of props but I think a decade is long enough to observe a city and report on it.
    And finally, I dont wear a camo hat, I wear a black fedora.
    thanks for all the comments, some of them were actually funny.
    I have to say though, this site is losing its balls. The comments I got after doing a piece on NPR about foreclosure in Brooklyn last year were mostly really offensive and filled with race hate.

  • Okay, but you really shouldn’t wear a black fedora. And it’s not about the black thing.

  • heather
    my wife says the same thing about the hat
    in fact she wont be seen in public with me when i wear it

  • Jamesdoran, I remember you! You bought a house in Bed Stuy a couple of years ago, wrote a piece on it that ended up on Brownstoner, and generated over 250 comments over three days, that in my mind, remains one of the best discussions on this blog. I was writing under another name then, and certainly contributed my share of opinions on that topic. It got pretty intense there for a while. If I remember correctly, you also had a fabulously detailed house with a very cool cast iron fireplace stove. Some things are more important than politics.

    OK, you get props for being here a while, so I retract my camo hat remark. We can argue the fine points later. I do think your audience in the UK has certain expectations of what we are up to here, and actually expects living here, especially in predominantly black neighborhoods, to be like living a Denzel action movie. You must admit, that is really not the case. I’m glad you took my remarks with a sense of humor.

  • Ohhhh, Polemicist, Polemicist. I most certainly did NOT state, or imply, that returning Vietnam vets were responsible for crime waves in the 70’s. I merely mentioned their existence as one of the examples of the differences between the 70’s and now. But if you want to get into that, a case can be made for returning vets being a factor in the inner cities.

    First of all, most of them were drafted, they didn’t volunteer, and they couldn’t get college deferments, or go to Canada, or buy their way out. Big difference over today’s volunteer army. (Even if one did enlist for economic reasons.) The poor always fight our wars, but that’s another topic. Secondly, the war was so horrible; many still don’t talk about what they went through. Thirdly, drugs were everywhere, and lots of people got addicted there and brought their habits back with them. Lastly, if they did make it back, there were no parades, no honor, no respect and love for the troops. They ended up back on the same streets they left, with no jobs in a broke ass city, no new skills, family and friends who couldn’t understand what was wrong with them, and some with a devil of an addiction, and some powerful anger. We are fortunate that most of them managed to get back into the mainstream, and lead normal, productive lives. A lot didn’t. I know (knew, some are dead) a few of them. Some, and I only mean SOME, turned to crime, adding to an already deteriorating social order. This went on everywhere; it was just exacerbated by the urban condition.

    More importantly, you continue to dump the baby with the bath water. The social programs instituted by the Great Society helped millions of people. To quote you, “Crime in the 1970s was the direct result of liberal social programs that destroyed black culture. They were turned into political pawns in a power grab, and it destroyed them.” This is a vast, vast overstatement. There is a shade of truth here, but it’s mostly crap. Our culture has not been destroyed, and most of us are no one’s pawns. We do have an underclass, unfortunately, we always will, and solving the problems of how to raise people up out of that pit is not easy or glibly thrown out there. Your distain of all of the programs and philosophies does no good either. To abandon them would lead to the greatest amount of nihilism and anarchy we have ever seen. There has to be a better solution. Many people have been given a hand up, not a hand out, to paraphrase many.

    Today’s programs have to do more of that, and stress personal responsibilities and a refrain from instant gratification and a glorification of material possessions. That is not easy in a culture that tells you on every single commercial break during a prime time show, that you MUST have the latest phone or car, not that you must have an education, or must save your money. We, as a society in toto, create our own monsters.

  • Polemicist at 2:12: Aha, so it’s cheap modern architecture and the lack of Victorian details that causes crime! I knew it!!!

    James Doran, I haven’t heard NPR since I stopped commuting via car in 1990. What did your story say?

  • Thank you so much, wonderful job, lots of context. I also live nearby in Bushwick, have been house hunting, nearly every block has a house or two for sale, they are all short sales.

    Not sure where things stand as of two weeks ago – whether they are getting bought and inventory is decreasing or it’s only getting worse and more properties are going into foreclosure and getting boarded up and vandalised.

    Might be worth revisiting. Could see if anything has been done about the fraudulent brokers. Could also see what other causes are. I’ve run across those who lost their jobs and had medical bills. Also those who were not informed the ARM would reset (in Calif where lawyers are not required).

    As you say, all these owners are people of color, working class, often non English speakers. Did they put down a down payment and lose it? Did they put down nothing? Was their an ARM and did they know it would reset? Brokers were preying on anyone with bad credit. Did the lawyers and inspectors collude?

    Curious what effect the foreclosures and boarded up buildings will have on prices, crime rates, and the community in general in Queens, Bed Stuy, and Bushwick. Have the boarded-up buildings gotten worse where you are or has it always been that way?