New York City fears return to 1970s

Tue Jan 27, 2009 3:48pm EST
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By Joan Gralla

NEW YORK (Reuters) - While many U.S. cities worry that their economies are deteriorating to the level of the 1930s Great Depression, New York City fears reliving a more recent decade that features strongly in city lore.

The 1970s were a low point in city history as a fiscal crisis almost pushed it into bankruptcy, crime rates soared, and homeless people crowded sidewalks as public services crumbled.

Almost a million people fled New York's Mean Streets during the decade for the safer, more stable suburbs, a population decline that took more than 20 years to reverse.

When discussing the current crisis, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, now seeking a third term, promises that he will not allow the city to return to the darkness of those days, although he stresses that it faces "giant financial problems."

"I know some are concerned that city services will erode," he recently told reporters. "Let me remind you that the city went down that road in the 1970s ... I can just tell you that we are not going to make that mistake again."

But behind the rhetoric, there are signs of a city under growing stress, including a rise in homelessness that's driving more families to shelters and last year's 57 percent spike in bank robberies.

There were 444 bank robberies in 2008 compared with 283 in 2007, according to the city Police Department.

A Bank of America branch in Manhattan near Rockefeller Center said it has posted a sign asking its customers to remove sunglasses, hoods and hats before entering, one of the anti-crime measures the police department recommended.   Continued...

<p>An aerial view of New York City, November 11, 2008. REUTERS/Jim Young</p>