In “Here is New York,” a 1949 love letter to his adopted home, author E.B. White declared it a miracle that the city managed to exist at all.
“The whole thing is implausible,” he wrote. “Every time the residents brush their teeth, millions of gallons of water must be drawn from the Catskills and the hills of Westchester.”
He marveled at the “subterranean system of telephone cables, power lines, steam pipes, gas mains and sewer pipes” and noted that when “an incision is made in the pavement, the noisy surgeons expose ganglia that are tangled beyond belief.”
Of course, White knew it was people who made the city unique, especially those who came from someplace else in search of something, even if they didn’t always know what that something was.
“Commuters give the city its tidal restlessness; natives give it solidity and continuity; but the settlers give it passion,” he wrote.
Reading White’s elegant essay today is to be reminded that Gotham has always been a state of mind as much as an actual place. Yet 71 years later, the magic is slipping away, day after heartbreaking day.
The New York that survived 9/11 and bounced back stronger than ever is now being brought to its knees. The coronavirus, the economic shutdowns and the frequent street protests, mixed with pillaging and vandalism, are no ordinary hurdles, but they are surmountable — with courageous leadership.
Tragically, that’s exactly what New York doesn’t have. The crises pile up like dead leaves, but leadership is nowhere to be found.
Without it, the city is fast becoming unlivable. The slow exodus of recent years has quickened in recent months, with natives, long-timers and recent arrivals clogging the exits. They’re going to the suburbs, to Florida — anywhere but here.
Always before, the departed were replaced by new seekers. It is impossible to believe that swap will continue.
The problems are many, but the linchpin is Mayor Bill de Blasio, whose performance grows worse by the day. There is nothing endearing about his act, only a long list of examples of how little he cares.
And how little he does. New York has had its share of corrupt and incompetent mayors, but never has it had one who is both of those and also a lazy bum.
With restaurants wanting to know the rules for reopening, de Blasio diddled until the last minute. Their survival was at stake, but he couldn’t be bothered.
What’s the plan for schools in the fall? Good question, but don’t ask the mayor. He hasn’t gotten around to that yet.
Besides, the issue only involves a million students, their families, teachers, coaches, principals and administrators. They must wait for the chief political popinjay to bestir himself.
Crime is soaring — murder is up 25 percent — and de Blasio responds by vowing to cut the police budget.
The aim is not to do more with less. It is to get the cops to do less. This is a death wish.
For weeks, illegal fireworks have exploded through the night, and a 3-year-old Bronx boy is among the injured innocents. Thousands of complaints pour in, to which the mayor shrugs and says cops and firefighters “have many other things” to do.
Police are quitting in droves, and nobody should blame them. Would you risk your life to enforce the law under this mayor?
Friday produced a perfect contrast between what New York needs and what de Blasio does. The Post reported that a homeless man who calls himself Jesus turned the dry fountain at Washington Square Park into his crash pad, complete with six chairs, a box of clothes and a beach umbrella. He’s been there a week, and the city, having failed to coax him out, refuses to force him out.
Instead, the mayor went to Brooklyn for a photo op as he grabbed a brush to help paint “Black Lives Matter” on the street. He has promised to paint the same words on Fifth Avenue outside Trump Tower to antagonize the president from whom he seeks a bailout.
In ordinary times, such vacuousness would be infuriating. But these are extraordinary times and there is a real risk de Blasio is digging the city’s grave.
Worse, The Putz has another 18 months in office before he is mercifully term-limited, and the list of wannabe successors is disheartening.
They are dominated by the usual Democrat time-servers who believe it is their turn. Their common critique is that de Blasio is not progressive enough, and they promise to do twice as many (dumb) things, especially when it comes to raising taxes and handcuffing cops.
Perfect. Let’s destroy the middle class and watch emboldened criminals destroy everything else.
A brief history of the last 50 years illustrates the folly. Starting during the mayoralty of John V. Lindsay, who took office in 1966, a crime wave hit New York and lasted for nearly three decades.
Starting in 1994, Rudy Giuliani reversed the wave, a two-decade process that Mike Bloomberg completed.
De Blasio, though he had no love for the police, knew that crime could sink his career. So while he decriminalized quality-of-life offenses, he let the NYPD keep the pressure on violent criminals.
Until now. With mobs assaulting the foundations of our republic and terrifying otherwise-sensible people into silence or assent, the police are declared Public Enemy No. 1 — and de Blasio joins the Amen corner.
He no longer defends the NYPD, and one by one, the anti-crime programs that made New York miraculously safe are being thrown out with the trash.
E.B. White would be horrified. After cataloguing the racial, ethnic and religious stew that made up the metropolis of his day, he observed that “The citizens of New York are tolerant not only from disposition but from necessity.
“The city has to be tolerant, otherwise it would explode in a radioactive cloud of hate and rancor and bigotry. In New York smolders every race problem there is, but the noticeable thing is not the problem but the inviolate truce.”
So it always has been, more or less, but “the inviolate truce” is collapsing. It is no coincidence that the collapse is happening under the worst mayor ever.
Another Cuo foe
Expect Gov. Andrew Cuomo to add The Wall Street Journal’s editorial page to his enemies list. Saturday’s page, under the headline “Cuomo’s Covid Chutzpah,” included these words: “Mr. Cuomo is responsible for the single worst public-policy mistake of this pandemic: His administration’s order requiring nursing homes to accept Covid-19 patients from hospitals.”
NY’s ‘historic’ hypocrite pols
Reader Jack Ciotti has experience with political hypocrisy, writing: “When I was a teacher in New York, I was the recipient of awards for bringing American history to life for immigrant and minority students. One of these awards is signed by Rep. Nita Lowey, and another by Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins. Now, a few years later, these same politicians are happy to sit back and watch our history being destroyed.”