The story of how New York City underwent one of the greatest urban renewals in American history is one that offers many lessons for the present day. It is a story of how ideas matter, policies matter, and leadership is essential. The story is now told in detail in the film “Gotham: The Fall and Rise of New York”, which covers the saga of the city over the past 50 years, from mayors John Lindsay to Michael Bloomberg.
The film chronicles how the city nearly destroyed itself, but then managed to turn things around and become a world capital once again. It is a story of heroes and villains, doers and dopes, and it offers important lessons for those in positions of power today. “Gotham” is a timely intervention, as the city is once again suffering from rampant crime and an exodus of talent and taxpayers.
Lawmakers in the city and Albany would do well to watch the film, as they must play a role in reversing the current downhill slide. The film should also resonate in cities across America that are descending into violence and disorder.
The film was the brainchild of Larry Mone, who was president of the Manhattan Institute from 1995 until 2019. During his tenure, the institute served as a nursery for many of the ideas that would guide New York’s comeback, including the “broken windows” approach to policing that became key to dramatic decreases in crime and huge improvements in the quality of life.
The film shows how these improvements in crime, welfare, and education represent more than just statistical triumphs – they represent lives saved and ultimately reclaimed from failure and hopelessness. They were the basis of a booming city that drew about 1.6 million new residents from the 1970s low.
However, the film also offers a contrast to the present day, as the de Blasio era saw a decline in the quality of life due to the handcuffing of the police and the pursuit of a radical ideology that harmed education. The pandemic and criminal justice reforms in Albany have only exacerbated the situation, leading to a pervasive sense of disorder and fear.
The film offers an encouraging example of how New York City was saved once before, but whether the leadership exists to make it happen again remains an open question.