Rise and Fall

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.


  1. Whitewall says

    Malcolm, that sounds unnerving. Once this starts, especially with a “sympathetic mayor” in office, things get worse. Sounds like your property may have peaked in value….any chance you can sell and leave?

    Posted March 3, 2016 at 6:23 pm | Permalink
  2. pangur says

    In the linked story regarding your neighbor, I note that the robber used a gun. I thought that NYC had tough gun laws . . . didn’t the dindu read the statutes?

    Posted March 3, 2016 at 6:31 pm | Permalink
  3. Dave says

    As a resident of NYC since 1988, I feel your pain.
    Unfortunately, the huge swell in SWPL’s and trustafarian hipsters during Bloomberg’s reign don’t know what NYC used to be like and apparently don’t know how fast chaos can overtake us. More than 500 slashing/stabbings since January 1st. 500 !!!

    I know a few second gen Irish cops, and if the public thinks the NYPD is the problem, the bulk of the force is happy to take a big step back and let the chips fall where they may.
    And no more arrests for public urination or open containers.
    The good old days will be back in no time, at which point the whiners and complainers will blame the cops for lax policing or not caring enough.

    Posted March 3, 2016 at 8:30 pm | Permalink
  4. Malcolm says

    Right, Dave.

    Being a loquacious, inquisitive, and well-connected fellow, I went and had a chat today with two homicide/robbery detectives. They were reluctant to say the things you’ve just said, but I have my cheery little Jedi tricks in such circumstances, and before long they agreed (just entre nous of course) that things were suddenly very different now. (They also made it very clear that they were supremely dedicated to getting bad guys off the street, no matter what, which is some comfort.)

    Posted March 3, 2016 at 9:19 pm | Permalink
  5. Malcolm,

    I am sorry you have had such a problem thrust upon you. If early retirement (at 60) is financially feasible for you, I can highly recommend the lifestyle from personal experience. If it is financially feasible, perhaps selling your home and moving up to your place in Cape Cod could work for you and the lovely Nina. Perhaps do some online consulting if that is something that can be done in your field?

    F*cking Commies! Can’t live with ’em …

    Posted March 3, 2016 at 9:52 pm | Permalink
  6. Malcolm says

    We’ll see, Henry, thanks. I appreciate your suggestion, but the point here is not my personal arrangements. The lovely Nina and I have worked hard, and have been very fortunate. I’m sure we’ll be fine.

    Posted March 3, 2016 at 9:59 pm | Permalink
  7. Musey says

    I just love what the feisty old lady said about killing the guy. Let’s sort this problem out once and for all.

    Maybe crime is increasing everywhere. Here in our little pocket of NSW there was very little crime until just about the time we arrived when there was a sudden spike in house burglaries! We live on acreages so the neighbours are not close by, although we do have a lady opposite who watches our every move from a high vantage point so we feel very safe. I’ve heard that a large house on the adjacent road was being systematically emptied out when the six men discovered the lady of the house asleep. They fled with what they had already purloined. Just a couple of months ago some roadworks were in progress. The road crew held up the traffic to allow a large removal truck entry into a property, ditto when it came out again, fully loaded, an hour later. The owners arrived home after work to find anything worth taking had gone. These are not opportunistic thieves. They have done their homework.

    Drinking in public is not generally illegal here. Well, maybe on the streets, but certainly not in reserve areas where barbecues are provided, along with picnic tables…and people take wine and a few beers along if they wish. Urinating is obviously a different matter!

    I was a little surprised whilst visiting France a few years ago to see men relieving themselves right by the roadside. In the UK, most men would at least venture a few feet into the bushes. Women always have to hang on. As my husband said, after doing things the French way (well a bit further away) “It’s only another hundred Kilometers. You can wait”. He wasn’t even joking.

    I’m sure you all wanted to read that story.

    Posted March 3, 2016 at 11:28 pm | Permalink
  8. Whitewall says

    “I’m sure you all wanted to read that story.” Why Musey, I arose early, shaved close, made fresh coffee and nearly tore open my computer in anticipation! Sounds like you are a city girl turned country girl? I have always appreciated acreage. Hope crime doesn’t find you.

    Posted March 4, 2016 at 7:51 am | Permalink
  9. Musey says

    Whitewall, you are so lovely!

    I enjoy living here. Our grown up children live in the city so we often visit, and in fact, most of our neighbours commute daily. We’re lucky because my husband works from home for a UK company and I have a part time local job. It’s the best of both worlds.

    Crime is everywhere but not so much here despite what I wrote earlier. Anyway we have a very scary dog. Not really. He’s a big black labrador who would welcome burglars but they don’t know that. He has a loud bark.

    Posted March 4, 2016 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

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