A Few City of New York Thoughts

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Brownsville today. Clean & safe streets.

Be patient, in less than two weeks, I will be back on Dauntless and my blogs will revert to its focus on boats, cruising and travel.

But in the meantime, I find myself with a lot of time; maybe too much time, thinking and reflecting, reflecting and thinking and the continuous circle that entails.

Burned out cars and dilapidated buildings on sixth street, Sunset Park in the 1980's. Photo by ROBERT MADDEN/National Geographic Creative
Burned out cars and dilapidated buildings on sixth street, Sunset Park, Brooklyn in the 1980’s.
Photo by ROBERT MADDEN/National Geographic Creative

Meeting an old friend in the middle Brooklyn yesterday, driving from the Bronx; one is reminded that the transportation networks of NYC, roads and public transportation, as outstanding as they are, were never meant for doing what I was doing, going from the Bronx to Brooklyn and return.

New York City was put together in the “Consolidation of the City of Greater New York” in 1898.  Before 1898, NYC consisted of Manhattan and the Bronx.  The towns of the Bronx having been incorporated into NYC during the preceding 25 years.

So until 1898, the City of Brooklyn, (then one of the largest cities in the U.S.) was incorporated into the City of Greater New York.  At the same time, all the little villages/towns of Staten Island and Queens were included.  Thus even to this day, the addresses in Queens, refer to the village, e.g. Flushing, Long Island City, but Brooklyn is all Brooklyn, while Manhattan is of course New York.

So the “City”, “New York”, Manhattan to the rest of you, is where most of the commerce takes place and thus our transportation system, public and highways, was developed to get people from the boonies to New York.  But driving across the boroughs, let’s say from Bronx to Brooklyn, is a pain in the ass.

My Drive Clara Barton H.S.
My Drive Clara Barton H.S. From the Bronx, through Queens and Brooklyn

But it gives one time to see how the places I lived in Brooklyn, 16 years ago have changed or in some respects have stayed the same and that’s for the better.

Driving through Brownsville, the clean streets, single women walking alone, are all signs of the changes that took place in the last 30 years, as well as the dedication of Mayors Giuliani and Bloomberg.  Giuliani in particular gets no credit for making NYC clean and safe.  Before his time, Manhattan was difficult, but livable.  The ghettos of Brownsville, East New York, Bedford Stuyvesant were littered with burned out cars on every block, walking was impossible, driving was perilous.

A Walk though Prospect Park for the first time in 15 years.
A Walk though Prospect Park for the first time in 15 years.

Giuliani proceeded to make every NYC employee do their job.  Garbage was picked up, crooks were arrested, rules were enforced.

Thanks for listening.

A Walk in the Bronx & the New Squeegee Men

Or the Return of the Squeegee Men, Without the Squeegee.

Bronx Greenway Mosholu Pelham System
Bronx Greenway Mosholu Pelham System

So no Dauntless news in this post. No news is good news., just me on my soapbox.

Woke up this morning and realized that I needed some exercise.  In Waterford, I walk a few miles a day, up and down the hill to the butcher and the two bakeries, one for bread and the other for a cupcake or other tasty treat.

Living in Manhattan, I was able to park the car within a block or so of our apartment, now in the Bronx, a half mile away is becoming commonplace, but we don’t use the car as much.  So, I’m actually walking far less. I decided to walk the green space from the Bronx Zoo, past the Bronx Botanical Gardens, pass the Bronx River and up Mosholu Parkway towards Van Cortland Park.

My dear friend Samantha, a real Bronxite, had told me about this path and how it is possible to walk almost half way through the borough in this green space.  Very nice; a month earlier the fall foliage would have been much prettier.

The Bronx River
The Bronx River

So as I am ambling down the path, the first thing I notice is the guy with the pit bull letting his dog shit in the park and no way is he picking it up.  Then a few minutes later, in one of the places where I have to cross the street, with traffic backed up getting onto the Bronx River Parkway, who do I see, but the new squeegee men.  They don’t have squeegees anymore, they don’t need them, as they have figured out, panhandling is even more lucrative than the extortion of trying to clean someone’s windshield.  So by staking out some spot where cars are bumper to bumper they can make their hundred dollars a day with little effort.

The Squeegee Men, Without the Squeegee
The Squeegee Men, Without the Squeegee

Now they are far less annoying, than the panhandlers on the subway who have been multiplying like cockroaches the last couple years. Every train now seems have at least one or two. The new Mayor has made it clear by his actions that he doesn’t care about the quality of life issues that made this City livable again under Giuliani and Bloomberg.  The cop on the street is being put into a no win situation. We had a good 20 year run, but as someone who watched the decline in the late ‘50’s, ‘60’s and ‘70’s, I’ve seen this picture before and it doesn’t end well.

What most people don’t realize is that the City declined because at best 20% of all City workers were actually working (except the Firemen, who as always had a lot of work and who attract those men and women who actually wanted to keep busy. And if you doubt that, just look at the events of 9/11 and the 380 poor souls who gave their lives just doing the jobs they have always done).

A Police Station
A Police Station

No, the City was dirty, mentally and physically.  Burned out cars in the hundreds or more littered every poor neighborhood.  Every year crime got worse, and the politicians, wrung their hands, beat their breasts and lamented that there was nothing they could do.  In the mid 1980’s a woman was raped on 6Th ave in midtown.  Just a few feet from the sidewalk, in front of an office building in Midtown.  Not even late at night, but in the evening.  Unimaginable now, but it was commonplace then.  Murders, rapes, mayhem; that was the City by 1992.  Finally Giuliani comes along and changes the game.  He made everyone do their job.  Police started arresting folks, garbage men started picking up garbage and he actually took the City back from the Hoodlums and their ilk who terrorized everyone, most of all in poor neighborhoods.

But it starts and ends with small things.  In the past year, It has become impossible to ride on the subway, without someone with a voice of an opera star telling everyone how hungry they are and while they really want food, they will take cash, but no credit cards, yet.

So, on my little walk this morning these were the thoughts crossing my mind.  The saddest part, is the Mayor obviously cares about image more than results.  Stop and Frisk made our poor neighborhoods safe.  Safe for whom, the 95% of the good, hardworking people who live there.  Ask them if they want to stop it; not those blowhards who pretend to speak for them, but could care less.

Enough, thank you for listening.  It’s been on my mind for quite a while and while I feel powerless, I feel sometimes we just can’t give up without at least saying something.

The Bronx has turned out to be a really interesting and nice place.  My friend Samantha had made it clears how much this was a borough full of interesting, wonderful neighborhoods.  When she told me this, I never believed I’d be living here myself one day, but I am.  Full of many very diverse neighborhoods.  In our neighborhood alone, we have Albanians, Russians, Hispanics from all over South and Central America, Puerto Ricans and Dominicans, Bengalis, Pakistanis, Arabs, some southeast Asians, northwest Asians and southwest Asians. And of course, there are still the Italians, Irish and Jews who were the bulk of the Bronx for over a hundred years.

Mosholu Parkway
Mosholu Parkway

I walked 5 miles, it was a wonderful morning and the beginning of a great week.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

A Wallace Avenue Apt Building
A Wallace Avenue Apt Building
Lydig Avenue
Lydig Avenue