The New York renaissance that began with the election of Rudy Giuliani in 1993 and continued through the end of Michael Bloomberg’s three-term mayoralty two decades later was literally that. When babies were born in New York City, parents stayed if they could afford to instead of fleeing because they had to. An aging city suddenly turned younger. Areas that had lain fallow were reborn. Despite, or perhaps because of, the 9/11 attacks and the surge of citizen pride that accompanied them, the 2000s saw still more people flowing into the five boroughs. Half a million souls, to be exact; the population rose to 8.5 million.
New York might have been the most expensive city in the country to live in, a bastion of income inequality and every other sin of wealth that the young people who flooded to hipster Brooklyn to eat food twice as expensive as they would have paid for it anywhere else found time to worry over on their blogs — but as their presence indicated, it was the place to be.
And what of the decade dominated by Bill de Blasio’s eight years as mayor? When he leaves office in January 2022, the population of New York City will likely be around 8.25 million. He will not only leave office with the city in far worse shape than it was when he became its chief executive in 2014; he is the key cause of its renewed depopulation.
By almost every conceivable benchmark, even his own, de Blasio has failed. Take crime. Critics predicted that under his leadership, crime would skyrocket, and for a while it looked like we would have to eat our words as the crime rate continued to fall. In July 2019, de Blasio announced with great fanfare that the city had booked 40,000 fewer miscreants into jails that year than in the year he took office.
“The safest big city in America is ending the era of mass incarceration,” he said proudly. “For decades, we’ve been told we can only arrest and imprison our way to a safer city. Under my administration, New York City has proven that’s not true. Instead, we can keep fathers at home and kids in school and get even safer.”
By the end of 2019, the murder rate had risen by 7 percent, with other violent crimes also increasing at a comparably modest rate. Then, in 2020, everything went south. Shootings increased by 97 percent (that is not a typo), the homicide rate by 44 percent, the burglary rate by 42 percent, and the number of car thefts by 67 percent.
A year into his mayoralty, the city found itself awash in street dwellers, many of the newer indigents apparent opioid addicts who had moved into the city because it was an easy place to panhandle and because word had gone out that vagrancy would be tolerated. De Blasio accused the everyday New Yorkers who complained about the piles of garbage on Broadway and elsewhere of “fearmongering,” even as he increased spending on homelessness.
As usual, when you subsidize something, you get more of it — and in 2020, nearly 21,000 individuals were sleeping nightly in public shelters, an all-time high. When the vagrants are not in the shelters, they’re on the streets, sleeping or raging or rampaging, degrading the daily life of the city’s working residents and their children.
Compare John Podhoretz’s article on the end of the de Blasio era with Kyle Smith’s “NYC, July 1993,” written a few months before it began, to understand how New York City has come full circle with its Death Wish-era past. Likely future mayor Eric Adams has his work cut out for him, but Giuliani and Bloomberg have shown that it’s possible to actually govern the city.