“Given New York Today, Could Anyone Lead It?” So bemoaned a 1991 New York Times headline after decades of failure and futility.1 Crime was endemic, schools were failing, poverty was pervasive, and the economy had stagnated. From John Lindsay to David Dinkins, mayor after mayor had tried to tackle these problems. They had all failed.
After three decades of policy futility, New Yorkers were giving up. In 1991, surveys indicated that more than half of New Yorkers wanted to leave.2 Political leadership had come to regard the city’s ills as intractable pathologies. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, then New York senator, said at one public hearing on juvenile violence in 1993, “There is nothing you’ll do of any consequence, except start the process of change. Don’t expect it to take less than thirty years.”3
- Sam Roberts, “Given New York Today, Could Anyone Lead It?,” New York Times, December 29, 1991, https://www.nytimes.com/1991/12/29/weekinreview/the-region-given-new-york-today-could-anyone-lead-it.html.
- Fred Siegel, The Prince of the City: Giuliani, New York, and the Genius of American Life (San Francisco: Encounter Books, 2005), xv.
- Siegel, The Prince of the City, 103.