I’ve lived in the same brownstone building in Park Slope, Brooklyn, since March of 1982. (Geological notes about the area here.)
When the lovely Nina and I first moved here, it was a sketchy neighborhood, having fallen into serious decline during the city’s general depression of the 1960’s and 1970’s. The neighborhood’s gracious architecture was in disrepair, and scarred with graffiti, and there were many Irish and Italian gangs. The day we moved in, I found a bullet in our area-way, and no car was safe on the street. (Our own car was broken into more times than I can remember, and was stolen twice.)
Things changed. The feckless Koch and Dinkins administrations gave way to the tough-on-crime Giuliani regime, which immediately instituted tougher policies — such things as “stop-and-frisk”, and the “broken windows” approach that cracks down on petty crimes on the idea that such low-level disorder has cascading, entropic effects.
Before long the neighborhood began to improve dramatically. Empty houses and storefronts found buyers and tenants, street crimes fell off sharply, property values began a decades-long rise (my neighbor Bob bought his three-story brownstone sometime in the 1970s at a very low price; its value has now increased sixtyfold.) Crack houses were gutted and renovated, and filled with young families. Old bars full of daytime drunks moved out; grocery stores, clothing stores, doctors, dentists, and good restaurants moved in.
Well, what goes up must come down. We have a new mayor now: a gangling Communist, a grievance-mongering social-justice warrior — and he has begun setting things in order (that is to say, dismantling hard-won order to pave the way for chaos). Many of the old, effective policing methods had to go — because, of course, they were racist — and as we noted in a recent post, in order to solidify this worldview as government policy for all time, there is now a movement afoot to extend the voting franchise to anyone who can find a place to live in the city, regardless of immigration status. Crime rates are tilting upward, and in yesterday’s news we learned of a new police detail assigned to look into an epidemic of slashings in the subways.
Yesterday afternoon my next-door neighbor, a woman in her nineties whom we have known for thirty-four years, was followed into her entryway, choked, and robbed at gunpoint. The story is here.
I realize that this is hardly Aleppo. But in high civilizations, decline is centripetal. That we are already seeing it here is not encouraging.