Click to viewAll those people—such as myself!—who complain about what New York City is like today? Too much anecdote, not enough fact. What really happened to New York City? I thought of one way to find out. Over the last month, I have read the Metro section from each issue of the New York Times—starting in mid-2000 and ending with today's paper. Here's what I learned.
AP: "Protesters rallying against police brutality march down Broadway toward New York's City Hall in a continuation of protest against the recent Diallo verdict Wednesday, April 5, 2000. Keeping the spotlight on police brutality, the Rev. Al Sharpton announced plans Wednesday for daily acts of civil disobedience around the city during Easter week. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)"
From 1950 to 2000, 800,000 homes and apartments were created—while the number of residents only increased by just fewer than 120,000 people. In 1950, only 7% of New Yorkers 25 and older had attended four years or more years of college.
By 2000, the fastest-growing group of jobs in New York City paid less than $25,000 a year. A man calling himself Christopher Rockefeller fleeced Hamptonites out of more than $900,000 over the summer. H&M began its New York invasion. Hillary Clinton "inadvertently" solicited donations from a White House visitors list. 15,000 people rallied for Ralph Nader's presidential campaign. Trump World Tower grew over the U.N.
From August to October, Silicon Alley dot-coms laid off 3000 workers. In November: "Many companies have been forced to devise generous benefits to lure the top candidates to the metropolitan region." Investment banks and insurance companies grab for office space while dot-coms disappear. On November 8th, Hillary Clinton was elected to the Senate. By November 25th, the Williamsburg Domino Sugar plant workers had been on strike for a year and a half.
"Deliverymen who often earn just $2 an hour lugging bags of groceries to apartments up and down Manhattan for the Food Emporium supermarket chain will receive $3 million in back pay under a settlement announced yesterday."
December 29: "A federal judge has upheld a Giuliani administration policy that allows police officers to arrest homeless people for sleeping in cardboard boxes in public." Boo.com wins the right in court to sell off their Silicon Alley lease.
AP: "Father Daniel Berrigan is handcuffed by a New York City Police officer in front of the Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum in New York, Friday, April 13, 2001, after he and others blocked an entrance to the venue. Berrigan was among a group engaging in civil disobedience after a Good Friday procession to the Intrepid, a museum the demonstrators say is dedicated to glorifying the instruments of death. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)"
25-year-old Battery Park City, tasked with building 60,000 units of affordable housing, has only provided a bit more than 1500. The Earth Liberation Front claims they have burned down several houses being built in Long Island on farmland. NewsCorp. lays off hundreds of online staff and closes its internet division offices. New York Times Digital lays off 70 employees. The Giuliani administration is forced to pay out at least $50-million for illegally strip-searching tens of thousands of people in 1996 and 1997.
It is found that the U.S. government had enough evidence to indict Osama bin Laden before the killings of Americans in Somalia in 1993. January 16, 2001: "Manhattan's skyrocketing apartment rental market has turned around and started drifting back toward earth." The U.S. Justice Department declined to file charges against the 4 cops who were acquitted in state court in the shooting of Amadou Diallo. February 7, 2001: "The number of homeless people lodging nightly in the New York City shelter system this winter has risen above 25,000, the most since the late 1980's, city figures show, with the largest increases coming among women and children over the last few years."
February 23, 2001: "The World Trade Center, which was derided as a 110-story, 10 million-square-foot example of government excess when it opened in the 1970's, is being handed over to a giant company in the largest real estate deal ever involving a single office complex." The Domino Sugar plant strike ended in a "complete loss" for the strikers.
Perhaps nothing epitomizes what the World Trade Center has become since the bombing more than the visitors desks in its lobbies. That is where 5,000 people wait in line each day to be entered into a computer, photographed and given the plastic ID card that will allow them to enter the elevators. Everyone must be considered a security risk, yet treated with concierge cool."
The "jobs picture remains relentlessly sunny." Billboard prices in Times Square plummet 25%. Chelsea is the New Los Angeles. Giuliani appoints his divorce lawyer to his "Art Decency Panel." St. Vincent's nurses began noticing 4 or 5 overdosed teenagers each weekend night being delivered to the emergency room in private ambulances from Twilo. The president of the New School acknowledged a role in the murder of women and children in Vietnam 25 years ago.
In the last four years, New York State had not spent more than half of the $1.9 billion allocated for antipoverty programs. May 7, 2001: Twilo shut down. Donna Hanover had her lawyers bar Judith Nathan, Mayor Giuliani's lover, from Gracie Mansion. Mike Bloomberg, a businessman thinking about becoming mayor, buys up nobloomberg.org and ihatebloomberg.com. In May, 2001, New York City began seeing a rise in hotel vacancies and signs of an economic downturn. Restaurants saw a decline in patrons when the Sopranos aired. Then Giuliani had his wife fired as first lady.
"Before the embassy bombings trial, Osama bin Laden loomed large in the American psyche, a villain of unimaginable evil and sophisticated reach. It was an image fed by destruction done and by American law enforcement eager to drive home the reality of his threat. In some ways, though, it was an image created because so little was known about how he worked.
But the trial, which left many of the details of the bombings uncontested, made clear that while Mr. bin Laden may be a global menace, his group, Al Qaeda, was at times slipshod, torn by inner strife, betrayal, greed and the banalities of life that one might find in any office."
A group would like to landmark the Meatpacking District, where "the streets, paved with nubby Belgian blocks, splay at awkward angles to the waterfront. The sidewalks run with rivulets of greasy blood, and prostitutes pick their way around discarded chunks of fat."
Jack Newfield, the most liberal voice at The New York Post, was fired today along with Stuart Marques and Marc Kalech, two of its three managing editors. Three other people were dismissed, including two of the five editors on the newspaper's city desk, according to The Post's spokesman, Howard J. Rubenstein. The firings come six weeks after the arrival of The Post's new editor, Col Allan.
A judge appoints a lawyer for Giuliani's children in his "rancorous" divorce. New York State and City forced to reimburse 20,000 families who were cut from Medicaid in 1997 by "errors." Rupert Murdoch granted another FCC exemption to own both newspapers and TV stations in New York market. Laid-off dotcommers have parties where people are sorted by armband; "laid-off workers wear glowing pink armbands, recruiters wear green armbands and all others wear blue armbands."
August 31, 2001: "The booming late 1990's appear to have left the middle class in the New York region and California no better off than it was a decade before, an analysis of Census Bureau data suggests. The poor got a little poorer, the rich got a lot richer and the large group in the middle emerged slightly worse off than when the decade began."
September 4, 2001: A huge slump seen in high-end restaurant business. Two commercial airliners were flown into the two towers of the World Trade Center. New York's secret CIA headquarters were destroyed. September 12, 2001: "Bush Vows to Avenge Attacks." September 14, 2001: "Some of Wall Street's biggest names are signing leases for new office space far from Lower Manhattan." September 15, 2001: "Bush Warns That Coming Conflict Will Not Be Short."
September 20, 2001: "While it was unlikely just two weeks ago that many people outside the five boroughs were terribly interested in glimpsing the soul of Rudolph W. Giuliani, it is now undeniable that the mayor has become an international celebrity."
Tom Brokaw's assistant tests positive for anthrax. The child of an ABC news producer tests positive for anthrax. Governor Pataki evacuates his midtown office after anthrax found. A CBS producer and a postal worker test positive for anthrax. 12 firefighters arrested in Ground Zero fight with police. November 21, 2001: a fifth woman has died of anthrax. Conrad Black and other backers plan launch of new daily paper, the Sun. 10 people murdered in New York in one weekend.
AP: "A couple, foreground right, rest with their heads together as New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg reads one of his newspapers during his subway ride to City Hall in this file photo taken Feb. 4, 2002. Bloomberg has said that he is energized by the city's tough fiscal times and in fact that he probably wouldn't even want to govern a prosperous city. (AP Photo/Richard Drew, File)"
Jim McGreevey becomes governor of New Jersey, issues "an inaugural address notable for its absence of specific program proposals." Crystal meth's invasion of New York begins in earnest. 7000 police turn out to handle maybe a few thousand anti-World Economic forum protestors. Buddhism becomes suddenly unfashionable. New York City has racked up $42 billion dollars in debt.
Despite predictions of a real estate recession in Manhattan after Sept. 11, co-op and condominium sales have rebounded strongly in the last two months, with the number of sales up and prices gradually rising — in some cases even surpassing those of a year ago, when the sales market was still hot.
Open houses are full to bursting, and the agents say they are awash with bids and bidding wars. Even the town house and luxury markets, hit hard by weak Wall Street bonuses at the end of 2001 and a general fear to commit, are starting to move, agents say.
April 29, 2002: "Starbucks shops have sprouted all over Manhattan, with 124 at last count and four more on the way." Is Times Square clean? "Packs of streetwalkers" still descend after dark! The grounds of the Statue of Liberty are equipped with face recognition software to recognize terrorists. Woody Allen sues producer; city mildly turns on him. Dee Dee O.D.s.
A family talking loudly in Malayalam and pointing out the window of an airplane at notable landmarks caused two fighter jets to be dispatched to accompany the plane into La Guardia. The Russian Tea Room closed.
The Citigroup Center begins making secret fortifications. 167 apartments are turned over to squatters. Lizzie Grubman pleaded guilty to charges stemming from having run down 16 people at a Hamptons nightclub. The test run of the AirTrain to JFK airport derails, killing one. Giuliani publishes his Miramax book "Leadership," says that New York City was "well-prepared" for 9/11.
Joel Klein, the new School Chancellor, begins to lay off 550 workers to save schools $200 million. The City Council raises property taxes 18%. Jim McGreevey apologizes for billing a $70,000 week-long trip to Ireland to New Jersey—including his $16,000 cellphone bill.
Radiation patients set off detectors on subways and at tunnels. December 13, 2002: "Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg yesterday offered his vision of the future of Lower Manhattan: a collection of neighborhoods stitched together by large parks and broad pedestrian walkways, with a direct mass transit link to Kennedy Airport via a new tunnel under the East River."
Less than a quarter of the federal government's financial aid promise to New York City and the region has been realized.
AP: "Former New York City police commissioner Bernard Kerik, hired by the Pentagon to advise Iraq's interior ministry, checks incoming traffic as he leaves after a press conference in Baghdad, Monday, May 26, 2003. Kerik spoke of the formidable task to rebuild, train and vet a new Baghdad police force, but said the situation was not as bad as he thought before his arrival a week ago. (AP Photo/Murad Sezer)"
A California group that pays drug addicts to get sterilized sets up shop in Brooklyn. The Greenwich Village Balducci's closes. Mayor Bloomberg plans to save the city by issuing another 1.7 million parking tickets a year. February 18, 2003: Blizzard!
Now the city has dozens of census tracts — clusters of just a few thousand people — in which the average household income in the top fifth of the income spectrum is at least 24 times the average in the bottom fifth, according to an analysis of census data done for The New York Times. In 15 of those tracts, the average at the top is at least 40 times that at the bottom.
Rich people begin endowing city services—in 13 months, Bloomberg solicits $14 million to pay for a counterterrorism center and more.
May 13, 2003: The New York City Rent Guidelines Board allows rent increases of 8.5% on two-year leases and 5.5% for one-year leases for the city's one million rent-stabilized apartments. (The city has around three million housing units; two million of them are rentals; 350,000 are rent-controlled. The remaining 650,000 are subject to no guidelines.) More than 100,000 apartments have been removed from rent limitations between 1994 and 2002.
Albany passes a bill that will allow market rents in New York City for as many as 300,000 formerly regulated apartments in the decade to come. 38,000 people live in homeless shelters in New York City—16,500 children—with a new surge coming.
More than a third of the emergency grant money intended to help small businesses in Lower Manhattan survive after the Sept. 11 terrorist attack went to investment firms, financial traders and lawyers.
AP: "Protestors line Broadway from Wall Street to 31st Street for the 18-minute pink slip line in New York on Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2004. Thousands of protesters, waving pink slips, formed a symbolic unemployment line stretching three miles from Wall Street to the site of the Republican National Convention on Wednesday, a day after police arrested nearly 1,000 anti-GOP demonstrators. (AP Photo/Dean Cox)"
"Dr. Howard Grossman, one of the city's best-known AIDS specialists, said more than half the men who test positive in his private practice blamed methamphetamine." The Time Warner Center opened. Larry Silverstein took to the courts to decide the question: are two planes crashing into two buildings one incident or two? (The difference is $7 billion.)
The 57,000 Satmar Hasidic Jews living in Williamsburg are alarmed that their neighborhood is being invaded by artists who will drive up rent costs.
April 15, 2004: Average Manhattan apartment prices are 32% higher than a year ago; average price,$1,001,000. Bloomberg, once the most-disliked mayor, makes major gains in approval ratings. An independent federal commission announces that 9/11 rescue work was "undermined by poor planning, inadequate equipment, faulty communication and generations-old interagency rivalries." Giuliani testified that "some terrible mistakes were made." New York City proposes a ban on photography and film on the subways.
"The Police Department," said the commissioner, Raymond W. Kelly, "practically alone, is defending New York's people, its corporate assets and its infrastructure from another terrorist attack."
An analysis of tax income for the city finds that, unlike many other cities that receive the majority of their revenue from property taxes, New York has shifted more and more to depending on corporate and income taxes. Milk hits $4 a gallon. Gas stations in Manhattan dwindle to 207.
He also talked to us about his great uncle, BEN MARDEN, who he said ran with MEYER LANSKY.
"They were beyond the mob,'' David Blaine said admiringly. "They were the brains behind it.''
But didn't they do some unsavory things?
"They were doing what Rubenstein is doing now, but illegally,'' Mr. Blaine said. "Rubenstein controls everything legally.''
Ooops. We'd better trot over to Mr. Rubenstein's mouthpiece, for a rebuttal.
"Ach,'' Howard Rubenstein said slowly, a little put off. Then he laughed. "O.K.,'' he said. "I don't know what he means, but O.K. At least I'm treading on the right side of the street.''
"Now Howard Will Make The Magician Disappear" was the headline on that.
"[K]araoke is suddenly enjoying a second wave of popularity." New Jersey real estate developer and Jim McGreevey supporter Charles Kushner was charged with "obstructing a federal investigation into his business dealings and political contributions by hiring prostitutes to try to seduce two men he believed were cooperating with federal prosecutors in the case. One of the prostitutes succeeded in the seduction plan and the result was a videotape, which federal investigators said Mr. Kushner and his co-conspirators secretly made, then mailed to the man's wife—Mr. Kushner's sister Esther."
July 2004: Martha Stewart sentenced to five months in prison. A Williamsburg hipster fell in love and rented out his loft. August 30, 2004: "A roaring two-mile river of demonstrators surged through the canyons of Manhattan yesterday in the city's largest political protest in decades, a raucous but peaceful spectacle that pilloried George W. Bush and demanded regime change in Washington." Home Depot opened on 23rd Street. The Bush administration proposes to put the Section 8 rent cap for 110,000 New York City families at $1,286 a month.
Rupert Murdoch sets records by purchasing a $44-million penthouse, the most expensive private residence in New York. More than 25,000 housing units had been built in New York City in 2004. A wheaten terrier was given a "bark mitvah."
In the three years since Michael R. Bloomberg succeeded Mr. Giuliani, the city has spent close to $2 million to settle lawsuits brought by residents and city workers who accused the Giuliani administration of retaliating against them for exercising free speech or other constitutional rights.
33% of residential sales over the year were for prices over $500,000. In 2000, just 10% of sales were that high.
AP: "Graduating students Emily Kidder, left, and Mark Davis, right, cover their mouths with red bandanas and ribbons in protest as former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani speaks during Middlebury College graduation ceremonies in Middlebury, Vt., Sunday, May 22, 2005. (AP Photo/Alden Pellett)"
New York's recession could be declared over; unemployment was at its lowest since 2000, tourism was beginning to rise again—but it wasn't because of Wall Street, though big '04 bonuses were good for the city's tax income. Of the 60,000 jobs lost in finance from early 2001 through mid-2003, only 500 have been recovered.
George Pataki's new budget proposal would cut $1 billion in health spending, which means "reducing benefits" for 340,000 working poor; George Bush's new budget proposal would slash daycare, literacy programs, elderly services, housing.
HIP, which provides insurance to 1.1 million New York City metro area people, begins a transition from non-profit to for-profit. Unemployment drops to 5.1%—but strong gains are in the unstable retail workforce. The financial district becomes residential. The city has a $3.6 billion surplus; Bloomberg's approval ratings have doubled since 2001, and he personally gives $20 million to non-profits, his largest donation yet.
"In the fiscal year ended July 1, New York City took in $2.2 billion in real estate transfer taxes, generated in large part from the sale of existing real estate but also from new homes. By comparison, in the 2000 fiscal year, the city took in a $875 million."
Foreign citizens who change planes at airports in the United States can legally be seized, detained without charges, deprived of access to a lawyer or the courts, and even denied basic necessities like food, lawyers for the government said in Brooklyn federal court yesterday.
The city sells off its last remaining 248 vacant lots to developers.
The top fifth of earners in Manhattan now make 52 times what the lowest fifth make - $365,826 compared with $7,047 - which is roughly comparable to the income disparity in Namibia.... In 1980, the top fifth of earners made 21 times what the bottom fifth made in Manhattan, which ranked 17th among the nation's counties in income disparity.
By 1990, Manhattan ranked second behind Kalawao County, Hawaii, a former leper colony.... The rich in Manhattan made 32 times the average of the poor then, or $174,486 versus $5,435.
The maples syrup smell came and went. The low-income housing and office jobs disappeared from the Forest City Ratner plan for Brooklyn's Atlantic Yards. 240 Park and Essex House were bought by the royal family of Dubai for more than $1.1 billion. In the first six months of 2005, permits were given for 15,870 housing units; "A large proportion of the newest units are being marketed as 'luxury' apartments."
MTA workers go on strike—the workers balked at a pension proposal that would have saved the MTA less than $20 million over three years. The NYPD has been secretly infiltrating anti-war demonstrations.
AP: "A couple of pedestrians walk under New York City Police Department wireless video recorders attached to a lamp post on the corner of Knickerbocker Ave and Starr St., Thursday, April 13, 2006 in the Brooklyn borough of New York. The cameras along a stretch of Knickerbocker Ave. are the first installment of a high-tech surveillance program to place 500 cameras throughout the city at a cost of $9 million. Hundreds of additional cameras could follow if the city receives $81.5 million in federal grants it has requested to safeguard Lower Manhattan and parts of midtown with a surveillance "ring of steel" modeled after security measures in London's financial district. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)"
"A former cabdriver who struck it rich in Russian oil and went on to invest in Manhattan real estate has signed a contract to buy a Fifth Avenue mansion for $40 million." Bloomberg has ditched his Boston accent.
More than half of the tax cuts and rebates in Governor Pataki's proposed budget were geared to benefit New Yorkers who earn more than $100,000, about 10% of the population. "In Manhattan, real wages—earnings adjusted for inflation—rose 5.4 percent between the first quarters of 2002 and 2005... but in the rest of the city, those wages fell at least 2.9 percent." The last heavy-machinery dealer departed from downtown. "Officials no longer put any stock in a 2008 completion date for the 'Freedom Tower' of the World Trade Center."
Larry Silverstein gets out of the way so rebuilding can perhaps begin at Ground Zero. New York State property takes have grown 60% in the last ten years. 3/4s of all households in Manhattan are renters; the apartment vacancy rate was 3.8% in 2002, 1.5% in 2005, and .075 percent in March of 2006. June 16, 2006:
The number of New York City apartments considered affordable to hundreds of thousands of moderate-income households... plunged by 17 percent between 2002 and 2005.... [T]he median rent for unsubsidized apartments jumped to $900 from $750 — a 20 percent increase in three years — the median household income in the city shrank to $40,000 from $42,700.
The one million rent-stabilized apartments in New York will have rent increases of up to 8.5% over the next two years. "[A]verage sales prices of Manhattan apartments were up to $1.39 million" for the second quarter of 2006. "Some have questioned why an urban police department might need a car that reaches 150 miles per hour."
The 110-building, 11,200 unit, 25,000-resident Stuytown/Peter Cooper complex went on the market and sold in October, in the largest American real estate deal to date; 3/4s of its apartments had been rent-regulated. The concrete and metal barriers that went up all over New York a few years back mostly get dismantled, as they are useless or worse. Several thousand people line up for candy store jobs that pay $10.75 an hour. Half a million people are stopped and searched on the street over the year, half of them black.
"The 280,000 workers in the finance industry collect more than half of all the wages paid in Manhattan..... For all of the 1.8 million jobs in Manhattan, the average weekly salary in the first quarter of this year was slightly more than $2,500."
The 46 towers—containing 14,000 residents in 5881 subsidized apartments—of Starrett City go on the market. Brownstone owners in Park Slope and Carroll Gardens have the lowest property tax rate in the city; two reports put "the average sale price for all apartments," in a slight slump, "at more than $1.2 million," while rents go up 10%.
AP: "The World Trade Center site is shown in this aerial view of lower Manhattan, Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2007, in New York. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)"
Buoyed almost entirely by real estate transfer taxes, the city is projected to have a $3.9 billion surplus. Bloomberg's homelessness plan fails, with more than 35,000 people in shelters and family homelessness at a record high since 1978—though home ownership is at 33%, a record high. The NYPD had infiltrated groups all around the country before the 2004 Republican convention.
The Department of Health become circumcision advocates. The sex ratio in Lower Manhattan "increased to 126 men per 100 women in 2005, from 101 men per 100 women in 2000. In the rest of Manhattan, and in the city over all, there were only 90 men for every 100 women."
JP Morgan Chase will build a 42-story tower near Ground Zero—in exchange for $100 million in corporate welfare. Bloomberg ditches the Republican party—and is driven to the subway for his daily commute.
August 29, 2007: "The wealthiest 20 percent of Manhattanites made nearly 40 times more than the poorest 20 percent — $351,333, on average, compared with $8,855, a bigger gap than in any other county." 9/11 memorial fatigue sets in, even as lawsuits against airlines finally go forward and the area around Ground Zero fills with baby carriages. The Canadian dollar catches up with the American one.
"So far this year, 324 buyers purchased Manhattan apartments worth more than $5 million." 42,404 jobs at financial services were eliminated from January to October, nearly as many as were eliminated in 2001. But if everything goes well today, New York this year will have had fewer than 100 people murdered by strangers, so happy New Year.